Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Uconn vs. DePaul 9:00 pm

DePaul isn’t a walk over, having several substantial victories under their belt, including wins against Kansas, Wake Forest and Villanova. The key to this game is to stop Wilson Chandler, a potential double-double guy. He averages 14.6 points a game and 6.2 rebounds a game. Sammy Mejia is the other star on the team, a guard from the Bronx, averaging 13.8 points a game. They have a legitimate 7-footer in Keith Butler but he only averages 8.2 minutes a game. DePaul plays a small line-up most of the time, playing their center, Wesley Green, 6-9, only 11 minutes a game and he averages 3.4 points a game with 2.6 rebounds a game.

The key to victory: It lies in Uconn’s perimeter defense and taking advantage of a smaller line up on the glass. If there is an abundant amount of second chance points than look for a easy victory.

Match up to watch: Jeff Adrien taking on Wilson Chandler. Look for who has more rebounds in this match up, not who scores more. Stopping Wilson Chandler from rebounding the ball will determine the game.

No three point threat: DePaul, much like Uconn, has struggled from three, only attempting a handful per game. That means they will be lights out from downtown. Uconn needs rotate well and fight through screens and Thabeet needs to dominate on the boards. There is no one on DePaul’s roster to match up with his athletic frame. He should get four or more offensive rebounds and double figures in defensive boards.

Don’t fall asleep: DePaul is a second half team, scoring a hundred points better in the second half than the first.

Final Score: Uconn 62 DePaul 54

Monday, January 29, 2007

This Is Still A Talented Team

No one has lost more experience in college basketball than Uconn and if you look at the start of the season, where they destroyed lesser talent everyone turned giddy. Here is an athletic team, two high flyers in Johnson and Robinson. They had a legitimate big man anchoring the defense in Thabeet, a fundamentally sound power forward in Adrien, two young talented slashers in Dyson and Price, a pair of pure shooters in Austrie and Wiggins and role players in Kelly and Mandeldove.

Fast forward to the last seven games. These kids look confused, the shots stop falling for everyone at once. Guards miss jump shots, the big men can’t get second chance points and become one and done. Then the frustration feeds off the stagnate offense onto the defense. The guards don’t get back and become overly aggressive, getting into foul trouble.

Calhoun needs to employ the zone during these droughts. Let Thabeet help out down low, instead of manning him up on a single defender. Teams are pulling him away from the basket by giving the ball to their big man on the top of the post. Uconn has always been a man to man defense but desperate times call for desperate measures. Zone. And pray someone can make a jump shot or offensive rebound.

These games are tough to watch but Uconn has critical pieces to compete in the Big East. They just need to adjust and claw through the tough stretches. That means going to the line and scoring until jump shots are made and playing consistent defense.

The Iron Man Award

Mandeldove deserves the iron man award. He doesn’t have the athletic ability of the starters and reminds me of an early Hilton Armstrong but he works hard. It was obvious that he was in pain, due to a sprained ankle, but he played through it. He even drained a bucket on the top of the key, showing some range.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Player Of The Game

One has to go above and beyond to get player of the game while pinned on the free throw wall of shame and Adrien has done that going 8 for 13 from the field with 10 boards, 5 assists, one block and one steal.

The Drought

Providence 84 Connecticut 72

We’ve seen this before. Nothing new here and from the fan’s perspective, its becoming frustrating. They’ve worked so hard to be in the game and to only go out in the second half and lose. The dreaded seven minute drought hit the cubs again. Balls clanked from rims, sloppy turnovers happened, bad calls occurred, whistles were swallowed, blue shirts couldn’t block out, forced passes banged off of hands, no developing plays led to last second desperate shots and Uconn showed overall sloppy play.

Uconn’s lack of penetration into the zone caused them to rely on the jump shot and it worked to perfection in the first half but that monsoon soon became a drip and they couldn’t change their game. Another contribution to the drought was the inconsistency with the foul calls, though the Friars didn’t need it.

The most frustrating thing about the loss is that they had cured the turnover mess, faulty free throw shooting and shot the ball with regularity and still found a way to lose the game. The culprit this time became their transition defense. Plain and simple, Uconn was out-Uconned. Never this season has Uconn given up so many 0 on 5’s or 0 on 3’s. It seems sad that the only thing that these cubs have been consistent on is the thing to fail them.

This team needs teeth, needs to knock someone around. They need to wield the offensive foul like a weapon because they are getting muscled around. Dump the ball down low, turn with the shoulder and hit the defender. The second half droughts have these cubs dragging their tongues across the floor, tails between their legs. Someone refill the Gatorade because it’s a desert out here.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Putting Uconn Under the Microscope

It is apparent that Uconn needs to improve and has to do it now but you can’t argue that these cubs are not trying. Fans can’t point at their defense as the culprit for this recent downslide. They rank third in points allowed in The Big East at 59.9 ppg and rank number one in field goal percentage on defense holding opponents to a .359 percentage. Syracuse is a distant second in .370 per game.

The defense is fueled by Thabeet and Adrien anchoring a great shot blocking duo, ranked first in blocks at 8.74 a game and in rebounding margin at +10 per game. The guards are also getting into passing lanes tied for sixth in The Big East at 8.47 a game.

So don’t get frustrated with the way the defense has been all year. The offense is a different story. You can’t look at the points per game because they are distorted due to the lack of quality opponents in the first eleven games of the season but obvious signs of stagnation are obvious. Uconn is dead last in three pointers a game 4.53 a game and second to last in assist to turnover ratio at .85, averaging 15.6 turnovers per game with only 13.3 assists. Ouch! But an encouraging sign is that A.J. Price ranks 5th in the league in assists to turnovers at 1.76.

While watching Uconn’s pummeling through The Big East Conference, it is amazing that they aren’t near the bottom in field goal percentage but they sit in the middle of the pack, ranked 9th at .456 a game, a result of easy buckets around the hoop and transition points. The lack of consistency lies in the a 20 points a game threat. Uconn’s leading scorer, Jeff Adrien, is 23rd in The Big East at 13 ppg. Dyson is ranked 29th at 12 ppg.

If you don’t have that constant threat than you need to convert at the line and here is where it gets ugly. Uconn ranks second to last at .636 a game with DePaul last at .630. But Uconn has attempted 522 shots a game, first in the conference making only 332. Do you think that Uconn could have used those 190 points this season.

Uconn can hang its hat on defense but has an insurmountable task on offense. You can’t develop confidence in practice or with moral victories. They only come with victories and Providence would be a great start.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Breaking News: Pitino Is A Robot

Uconn fans can at least rest easy Calhoun hasn't lost his coaching touch. It was the superior robot coach Pitino that has foiled Uconn's plans for victory.

Three Straight Losses

Not Since the 2001 season has Uconn lost three in a row, which is the season that Uconn last missed the NCAA Tournament. You could also see that during that poor season they had talent but could not put together the right combination, but the building blocks were in place.

Take what happened last year with the departure of all that talent and critical parts. The Husky house had its roof blown off, walls torn apart, plumbing removed and electricity cut. All that was left was the foundation, Coach Calhoun.

Now look at the three youngsters in the picture above. The start of the critical parts towards that most recent championship. You can't build a house in a day.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Player of the Game

Jeff Adrien deserves the award because he only missed one free throw, scored, rebounded, played some defense and did what you expected he would give you which is more than you can say from everyone else.


Louisville 68 Connecticut 54

Was it the lack of field goals or could it have been the poor free throw shooting? Maybe it was the inability to adjust to the way the referees called the two halves from a physical first half to a ticky-tacky second. But the real culprit for this horrible performance was the turnovers.

The dreaded seven minute draught loomed large over the struggling Huskies' offense and was driven by turnover after turnover, leading to open or easy buckets for Louisville.

This problem isn't going to vanish because Calhoun now knows that he lacks a point guard. Wiggins can't dribble through defenders but remains the purist shooter for Uconn. Price either doesn't trust himself or he refuses to dish down low which resorts to him driving off of screens. Dyson has the ugliest jumper and never passes. He gives up open shots for drives that lead to off balance shots. Austrie doesn't push the ball up but has a calming presence over the offense which seems to be: Pass it along the arch and drive off screens and try to convert on second chance points.

All this boils down to a 2-4 Big East record.

The NCAA Tournament ship has sank and all the huskies are huddled in the life boat of having to remain above the bottom feeders and sweep the Big East Tournament. A long shot but their only.

To do this feat they are going to have to develop roles. Whose coming off screens for pop shots? Wiggin or Dyson? Who is running the show? Austrie or Price? Who is going to score on the small forward spot? Johnson or Robinson?

They need to find this out in the next three games and need to do it while winning. It's not all doom and gloom but that life boat is awfully crowded.

Calhoun on Louisville

"I watched the game against DePaul (a 59-50 Louisville win) and they shot 21 threes in the first half," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "In the second half, I just thought they were really, really good. They pressed, which we'll have to be ready for. And then they played mostly zone, so we'll have to prepare to play against zone and we have to break pressure and traps out of the zone. It'll be a lot different than the Indiana game.

First, we've got to continue to run the ball, that will eliminate (scoring) droughts," the coach said. "And we have to continue to rebound like we did Saturday. And we have to shore up our defense - Indiana made their first five threes and you can't let a team do that, especially when they are at home (Louisville). It really gets the crowd into it.

For them and us and a couple of other teams in the league, these games become more and more important," Calhoun said. "They become close to critical. Maybe you'll win six in a row at the end, and that's just fine, but you don't want that margin of error be so finite that you have to win games. I don't think we have to win this game, but it's becoming more and more important. We're down to 12 games to go."

Wiggins speaks out

"Everything is going to be all right," point guard Doug Wiggins said. "Our best is right around the corner. We're practicing hard and it's showing in the games. We're getting better. We're just not coming out with the wins. That's going to come, though. We look at Louisville as our game to turn the corner."

Uconn's coming out guns ablazing

This is the moment for this young upstart team to show the fans that they can compete in the Big East. And to do that they are going to need to play composed, pass the ball crisply and convert from the line. As evident in the Indiana game, this team can score without relying on the jumpshot or three pointers. But to score, they need to attack the glass, convert the easy layups and off balance shots around the rim. Three guys in the paint at all times clawing for the ball. They need this game to be at a fast and chaotic pace. Lace up them shoes tight boys because there's going to be nothing left of those soles when the whistle blows.

Connecticut At Louisville

If there is a must win for the young huskies, it is this one. The tip off is at 7:00 and features two middle of the pack teams fighting for respectability. The huskies must keep forward Terrence Williams under control, he is their leader on the court and they must also watch out for the streaky three point assassin in Jerry Smith.

Uconn needs to do all the things that they did in the Indiana game with the exception of missed free throws, especially the front end of one and ones. They need a signature road win and to tread water in the volatile seas that is the Big East Conference.

Look for big days from Wiggins and Marcus Johnson. They both look primed to turn the corner and we need an Alpha Male in this pack of cubs.

Hopefully the injuries to Dyson and Price won't hurt their maturation. Look to see limited minutes until they are healed though.

This will be a slug fest, in which Uconn should pull out a five point squeaker. Uconn 69 Louisville 64.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Calhoun On The Game

"I want to congratulate Kelvin and his team. They certainly came out and jumped on us and executed exceptionally well. Then they withstood a terrific comeback by our kids.

I’m very proud of our team. But, unfortunately, they made foul shots and we didn’t. When you look at most every other stat, when we couldn’t make shots, we banged the boards – Jeff Adrien had more offensive rebounds than they did as a team. It wasn’t like one of those games where there was lopsided shooting, we both shot 48 percent.

We missed a ton of foul shots at crucial times, didn’t make a couple of big stops, they had a couple of easy hoops in the last two minutes, and that was the game.

I’m very proud of the way we played. I don’t know if we made steps forward or backwards or sideways, but they played their butts off and gave us every bit of effort we needed, they just now have to give us a little better basketball and make foul shots.

Indiana is a legit team.

We got the ball up the floor finally, at the speed that we wanted to, which, hopefully, is going to be contagious for everybody.

I thought, at times were were very gutty. I didn’t think we were great, but we were very gutty. I hope that it continues.

Bottom line, it’s a loss.

I told the kids they can’t play any harder, they just have to come tomorrow at 9:30 for practice to get ready for Louisville, at Louisville, where it’s not going to be quite as easy if you do fall down, like we did today. Because the fans really helped us come back into it. The fans were terrific today."

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Baby Huskies learn to walk

Indiana 77 Connecticut 73

While the Huskies showed heart in this game, the second in a row, they again could not close out when they had the chance. Down the stretch, the Huskies did not convert from the stripe and handed the insane three point shooting Hoosiers the game.

These young players showed promise, improving their shooting and gobbled up the second chance points but the chances of advancing to the real post season are dwindling. They need to hold serve at home from here on out and need to get on track in conference play that means beating Louisville on the road and taking care of Providence at home. Winning cures everything.

I'd like to see Stanley Robinson and Marcus Johnson on the floor together. When they were in they created offense. Thabeet needs to be more assertive getting rebounds. We all know that his offense is not there yet but he only had 3 rebounds, not enough. Poor A.J., who lost his starting job to Wiggins and only had 3 points but he got lost in the offense at times. Wiggins had a good game, setting tempo and getting into the flow of the game with rebounds, jump shots and defense.

The Huskies offense still had to much dribbling but stopped the over-abundance of turnovers that had plagued them for the past seven games. They made key jump shots, ran crisp half court sets and attacked the glass.

The Defense had problems running through double screens which Indiana ran several times in a row and Wilmont hit three after three. When Uconn made their comeback they played tough perimeter defense without fouling and stopped second chance opportunities. Jerome Dyson made several steals and had an overall good game.

Maybe we all have to realize that it is hard to win in a competitive sport that is college basketball. We have been on an incredible run for the last six years and this is to big of a task that the great Calhoun can overcome. This team is improving and that is all we need to concentrate on at this point. Maybe we are headed to the NIT but this team has promise, has talent and has Calhoun.

Player of the Game

It wasn't his 7 for 10 shooting nor his 21 points that made Stanley Robinson the player of the game. It was his effort and tenacity that he displayed on the floor and he hit another three ball, which has become an anomaly for Uconn since playing the big boys.

Stanley also grabbed nine boards but the real reason why he is the player of the game: Six for Six at the free throw line.