Friday, November 30, 2007

Denham Brown Sends Down a Dunk in Bologna

kevin ollie beats buzzer

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Top Ten UConn NBA Players

1. Caron Butler. The Lakers must be kicking themselves for giving up on Butler. He has emerged into a superstar and is ranked 11th in scoring. He attacks the glass and is now deadly from three point range, 27th in the league.

2. Ray Allen. Not only is he clutch right now, besides the two missed free throws late in the loss to Cleveland. His game has flourished with one on one coverage. It is surprising to see him ranked only 79th in three point shooting but he makes them when he needs to.

3. Emeka Okafor. He doesn’t dominate offensively but he still effects the other side of the ball. He ranks 5th in the league in rebounding at 12.2 a game with 58 out of his 113 being offensive. He is also ranked 13th in blocked shots at 2.84 a game.

4. Rudy Gay. If this ranking depended on highlight reels then Rudy would be first. He has supplied spectacular finishes. He has upped his offensive output, averaging 17.8 a game.

5. Ben Gordon. He is averaging more points then Rudy, at 18.1 a game, but he is in the game twice as long. He is in a bit of a scoring slump but his shot is coming back to him.

6. Rip Hamilton. Rip has been in a funk going 5 for 11, 4 for 16 and 6 for 16 in his last three games. He is still a great player, averaging 17.2 a game.

7. Charlie Villanueva. He’s been playing limited minutes and his production isn’t there yet, scoring 9.8 a game but Charlie is still a double-double threat.

8. Hilton Armstrong. He just can’t get off the bench, playing about 8 minutes a game.

9. Josh Boone. Same problem as Armstrong. He is barely on the court to record any significant stats.

10. Marcus Williams. He’s been in street clothes for most of the season and Kid is having an All-Star season. Marcus will get his minutes in slivers.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Solid Step In The Right Direction

This wasn’t even a real game. Florida A&M had shot so many holes in their feet that it took 8 minutes for them to score a bucket. UConn ran up and down the court, scoring easy buckets and racking up points in sporadic spurts. Other than a little lull halfway through the first half, UConn kept the tempo high and pushed the ball. They ruthlessly attacked the glass and dominated the paint. Keeping in mind the talent they played against tonight, there are a few positives to take home.

Thabeet has never played two solid games like he has in these past two contests. He is dunking with power, his lay ups are going in and he attacked the glass. Florida A&M couldn’t hit a hula hoop and had to make their way into the paint for points. The big men feasted, blocking shots and grabbing defensive rebounds. Thabeet had his most dominating game of the season.

Stanley Robinson is here. This is four games in a row that he has made a contribution on both sides of the ball. He works hard underneath the basket and gets rewarded when running the break. His spectacular dunk, a Fathead in the making, capped off his night. He also popped some outside shots which is encouraging.

Wiggins looks like a different player. He is stronger and has total control of the ball. I didn’t know he had those kind of hops, gliding to the basket on a breakaway. His shot came towards the tail end of the game.

Its funny how the threes started falling in the closing minutes of a blowout. Maybe they are still nervous and playing tight at the beginning of the game. Whatever it is, UConn has come out of the gate cold from outside but has made up the difference with aggressive play and fast break points.

Dyson passed up several open threes for 15 footers. To be an NBA lottery pick, he needs to show consistent range and take those threes. He played solid though and didn’t need to push the issue, picking his spots in the offense.

A.J. was almost invisible on the court. He didn’t need to do much and the point guard's role is to make everyone else better and he did that. The half court offense again played solid and ran their sets. His and Austrie’s numbers might not reflect their night, but the break was well oiled and the offense played well.

UConn also played pressure defense and trapped. Thabeet blocked everything near him and Adrien grabbed every miss. Florida A&M still had to many open threes that clanked and getting over screens are still a problem but its hard to find a flaw in this dominating performance.

The only thing Uconn did poorly was shoot free throws. They only made 9 of 20. They can’t revert after having a couple of solid games from the charity stripe and need to bounce back with a better performance

Overall, this is a great confidence builder before they go into a great showdown versus a talented Gonzaga game this Saturday.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Giving Thanks

After gorging ourselves on second and third helpings, it is time to look back on this early season and give our thanks. Here is my list:

1. The emergence of A.J. Price. All Uconn fans should be breathing a sigh of relief that A.J. looks to have turned the corner on his game. At the beginning of the season, Calhoun proclaimed Dyson the best point guard on the team and benched Price. But since then, A.J. has solidified his spot at the point and has shot well while limiting his turnovers.

2. Half-court offense. Uconn has, so far, ran their half-court offense with fluidness. Though the outside shots are still clanking, last years dribbling out the shot-clock offense is behind them and now they are executing passes into and out of the post and rotating opposing defenses.

3. Dyson. He hasn’t shown his ‘A’ game yet but has put his stamp on each contest with his flashes to the basket and incredible dunks.

4. The fast break is back. They are looking to push the basketball up and are taking shots before the defense can settle which is staple Uconn basketball. It is a shame that Marcus Johnson left because he was a fantastic finisher on the break.

5. Thabeet’s free throw shooting. We know he will bring it on the defensive side but the question this year would be what he could do offensively and it hasn’t looked that pretty for the most part but with the emergence of a consistent free throw shooting, he should get points that way, while remaining in tight ball games down the stretch.

6. Wiggins role. Rashad Anderson‘s role of being an offensive threat off the bench has fallen onto Wiggins shoulders and he has flourished. He looks under control when pushing up the ball and has made shots when open.

7. Stanley Robinson’s effort. Sticks has attacked the offensive glass and has played stellar defense. He hasn’t shied away from his shot even when his shots weren’t falling. His willingness to fly after every loose ball is contagious. And he has put back to back to back solid performances.

8. Aggressive play. They have gone to the line an enormous amount so far this year and that is because of their relentless attack towards the rim. Teams that play up close defense are being called for bumps because Uconn is flying by them.

9. Early Schedule. The early games, though Kentucky never showed up, pits Uconn against equal or better talent early on. It is enjoyable as a fan and also a great meter to where the team is truly and fans should be excited.

10. Calhoun’s coaching. He has always put together solid squads and this roster is no different. They have a great balance of front court and back court talent. His teams always get better as the year goes on and with the Memphis game showing that Uconn is competitive against elite talent, this team will be interesting down the stretch.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Might As Well Take Their Lunch Money Too

One could look at this game two ways that Uconn has turned the corner and the big men are dominating and the guards are pushing the tempo or Gardner-Webb was a very tired, worn out and over matched team. The answer lays somewhere in the middle of both. Gardner-Webb’s legs were tired and it affected their jump shooting, which is their only attack against the Huskies. Uconn didn’t rest on their laurels though and played Uconn basketball for 40 minutes. Their half court game flourished, they finished fast breaks and the big men took advantage down low.

Thabeet had his break out game and for the first time all year, he put himself in great position to receive an entry pass. Gardner-Webb fronted the big men and the guards finally grew confident enough to pass over them to get the ball in Thabeet’s hands. He finished off plays, battled on the boards and made free throws. This is a great sign but will this carry over to a team that has legitimate size? We’ll wait and see.

The fast break looked fantastic. They pushed the tempo and were rewarded with easy buckets. They limited costly turnovers and finished plays around the basket. The guards deserve credit for the effort they displayed on the court. The four guard rotation is beginning to form a rhythm.

Even against this team, Uconn still showed some of its warts. They aren’t a good team from the outside and the free throw shooting still looks below par. It will cost them against superior talent. But for now, Uconn fans must be happy that the team looks better, plays the game with speed and is running consistent half-court offense. But take this game for what it was, a team far superior against another that was undermanned and worn out.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Look To The Future: Jamaal Coombs and Alex Oriakhi

Jamal Coombs is an early solid verbal commitment to Uconn. He’s only a sophomore from The Winchendon School in Winchendon, Mass. He’s 6-6, 185 pounds and plays the small forward position. Recruiting sophomores and even freshmen are now common practice in college recruiting. There are cases where coaches have scouted middle school players.

His running mate, Alex Oriakhi or The A-Train, a 6-8 220 pounder center has also committed. They both should already come to Uconn with the chemistry of playing together.

Watch the drive by #32, Coombs and the put back by #35, Alex Oriakhi.

#32 Jaamal Coombs & #35 A-Train

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Jerome Dyson's Monster Slam

When A Loss Is A Win

The Uconn Huskies knew they had an insurmountable task when they took on 3rd ranked Memphis Tigers and after falling behind early by 15 points, they showed heart, tenacity and effort to work their way back. This loss does little to hurt the Huskies and should help them when the next rankings come out. Holding their own against a stacked Memphis team on a somewhat neutral ground is impressive and should give the young pups plenty of confidence moving on.

A.J. Price played an outstanding game with 23 points, on 8 for 14 shooting, 5 boards and 2 steals. His drives into the lane and dishes out fueled Uconn’s comeback and his outstanding free throw shooting, 7 for 9, kept the droughts away.

Thabeet doesn’t have a post game yet but he has found a way to score by getting to the line, going 7 for 7. That will be a huge asset down the stretch. He doesn’t have great hands and losses the grip on the ball when making his initial move towards the hoop. Great post players have patience, dribbling the ball and working themselves into a comfortable position to make a hook shot or jumper and Thabeet doesn’t have that yet. Emeka had this problem in his first year and relied on put backs for his points. He does need to dunk the ball. What’s with the lay ups?

Is it me or does Dicky V use the same commentary in the tournament at The Garden. Does he not know that people are going to see all the games? How many cupcake references was he going to use?

What happened to Adrien down the stretch? Gavin Edwards took over and that was when Memphis pulled away. He had an off game, only coming down with 1 rebound, 6 turnovers, 0 for 4 from the stripe, ending with only 6 points. If Uconn had his average game this would have been an upset in the making.

The only constant through the first five games is that Uconn is getting fouled at an exorbitant rate and they are an improved team in converting those opportunities into points. 27 of 38 attempts were splashed in the Memphis game with most of those calls coming in the first half. The referees started keeping their whistles from their mouths in the second half on blatant fouls.

Calhoun should be happy with the effort of Stanley Robinson, who had back to back great games, finishing with 9 points, 2 offensive rebounds, two blocks and a stout defensive game. He had to defend the faster guards of Rose and Douglas-Roberts and did a great job hustling for loose balls and playing an aggressive game.

Uconn fans need to realize that it took a career game from Douglas-Roberts to pull this game out. Some of those shots he made were simply impossible to defend.

Uconn’s next two games, Gardner-Webb on Thursday and Florida A&M on Monday, will be get right games before they head into a big game against Gonzaga. They don’t need a lapse in effort or loss of confidence that they gained by hanging with a national championship contender. They need to take this loss as a win and know that the hard work is paying off.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Moving On

Even though Gardner-Webb played their butts off, Uconn had the talent. They both traded jabs early on but when Thabeet’s blocks transitioned into easy fast break points, the Huskies laid a haymaker that sent Gardner-Webb to the canvas. It didn’t help Gardner-Webb that the referees played the game tight in the first half. The Runnin’ Bulldogs had to go so deep down their bench that they had to wake up a bleached haired kid, Matt French, and to send him in and he played well.

The Huskies offense looked a bit erratic at times but they limited their bad passing. They moved the ball around, dumped it into the post, kicked it back out and looked for the open man. Gardner-Webb doubled on any post player and the guards needed to make them pay and they did. Thabeet put his stamp on the game defensively and grabbed 10 boards but wasn’t aggressive offensively only attempting one shot, and making 4 for 6 from the line is a great sign.

Stanley Robinson is the key to this team and with the departure of Marcus a lot falls on his shoulders. His outside shot wasn’t going early, so he worked inside grabbing boards, finishing with 10, 5 offensive and found points that way. He never shied away from his shot though and eventually made a couple to sustain a run. He needs to make his free throws going 0 for 3, missing key one and one situations.

The most impressive player so far this season is Curtis Kelly. He looks slender, quicker and in shape. He didn’t light it up in his starting debut only scoring 1 point but he has all the tangibles to be a great player.

The guards played well and Wiggins had a great game. He needs to be our gunner, the next Rashad Anderson, and he took a step forward tonight going 4 for 8 and 13 points. He shot the three well and stretched the defense. But the line of the night goes to A.J. Price, 6 for 11, 18 points, and 6 boards Dyson’s night didn’t go as well but just when you think he’s disappeared, he finishes a break with a thunderous slam, slamming the door shut and turning out the lights. Austrie filled in reserve well and wasn’t looking for his shot.

Thabeet had an average game, considering that he was doubled every time he touched it in the post. Gardner-Webb fronted Thabeet and the guards didn’t attempt the risky pass to the 7 foot 3 big man. He did what he does best and that is to rebound and put back, intimidate in the paint and make free throws. He needs to move more when the ball is in the air, sliding into position for the rebound.

Overall Uconn played well, giving up a little defensively down the stretch but offensively put up points and limited turnovers. Time to put this game behind them and move on to Memphis.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Parody Should Help UConn

This year’s early schedule gives Uconn two strong teams to match up against and should tell Calhoun what his young team needs to work on. It also gives them the opportunity to get a few quality wins early on to put on their resume. The winner of the Oklahoma/Memphis game, which should be a good one, will play the Uconn/Gardner-Webb winner on Friday.

After that Uconn faces Gardner-Webb again and Florida A&M before taking on 14th ranked Gonzaga but after that its Northeastern, Quinnipiac, Maine, Central Florida before heading into Big East Play in early January. Uconn has a chance to knock out a top 3 seeded Memphis, if they win or Gonzaga. Any win against one of those opponents should catapult them into a solid mid-teens ranking.

Watching the first couple of games around the country, it looks like parody has struck the top 25. Syracuse played a close one, USC looked like a Mayo only sandwich and Davidson played North Carolina tough.

For Uconn’s sake, they would like to play Memphis instead of Oklahoma because the loss wouldn’t hurt them as much and an upset would give them a huge leap towards postseason play. In the AP poll, Gardner-Webb is ranked higher than Oklahoma.

Memphis is a guard stacked team, rotating six. The stars of the show are Derrick Rose, a stunning freshman, who scored 38 points in his first two games and Chris Douglas-Roberts, a 6-6 junior, a scoring machine totaling 47 points in his two games. If Uconn and Memphis wins their respected games, it should be a great game to watch. These next two games, if Uconn wins the first one, should tell us more about what this team’s identity is. Hopefully Uconn comes out to play.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Double Trouble

Uconn’s next opponent is Gardner-Web and the second one after that? Yep, Gardner-Web. This little team that could took out a ranked team and did it convincingly, only trailing by 7 points, before taking out the Wild Cats, 84 to 68. They did it with a combination of three-point shooting, 8 for 17, rebounding 37 boards and free throw shooting, 24 for 31. They have a duo in Thomas Sanders, a 6-3 forward and a crafty guard in Grayson Flittner. They combined for 13-25 for 43 points, 13 of those from the line and 4-8 from three.

Uconn should have their way inside against Gardner’s smaller front court. Auryn McMillan, a 6-8 235 center, is not a threat to score but attacks the boards and makes free throws. The major task falls on the Robinson, the lone small forward on the team. He’ll have to stay with Sanders and keep near his shooting hand. That kid can light it up.

Gardner-Webb uses a three guard rotation with Flittner getting most of the time, while Linn and Siddle share the other spot. Uconn is using a much deeper bench with a four guard rotation and should have the upper hand.

Good things never happen when you play a team twice. That second go around usually falls in favor of the loser. They have seen their mistakes and know what to correct. Uconn needs to focus on the positives from the Buffalo game and come out confident. They have the superior talent and should leave with two victories instead of a meeting with a ranked Kentucky team.

Uconn is floating around 28th in the polls, an early Kentucky loss would have put them further back but with the slipping of Kentucky and USC, Uconn stands to sneak into the top 25. If they take care of business.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Fool Me Once

It’s been Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for the first two games of the season. Uconn stumbled out of the gates in the first game and then came out like gang busters in the second one. From what we learned during last year’s early schedule and the subsequent plummet into mediocrity shortly after, we can only take these games with a grain of salt. It’s to early to anoint Robinson yet, say that A.J.’s back and that the defense is fixed.

It was great to see A.J. take charge, initiate the offense and score 24 points. The 10 for 12 from the line was stellar. It was a drastic improvement from the Morgan State game. He still needs to look more for his teammates. Adrien had more assists with 5.

Robinson had an Indiana type game, scrapping his way inside for 13 boards. He’s shied away from three point range, only shooting 1, but blocked 6 shots. He needs to reproduce this impact into the next game.

There are only a few stats that can be carried over into Big East play, three point shooting, free throws and three point defense. Any other stat gets distorted because of playing inferior talent. On those three stats, Uconn is 28.75 in 3-point shooting, 70.15 shooting free throws and 32.15 in 3-point defense. There’s room for improvement.

It’s way to early to judge this team and with watching a few ranked teams falter at the start, Uconn’s sputtering start still produced wins and with this year’s schedule, Uconn will be tested early.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

More Of The Same

Uconn 69 Morgan State 65

The first game of the season looked like UConn’s last game of the year. They had worked hard earning a marginal lead and watched as the offense sputtered for 5 points in 7 and a half minutes. From the 16:48 to 9:14 mark of the second half, they couldn’t finish fast breaks, stop the opposing team from getting 5 offensive boards, missed 6 shots, and gave up 3 threes.

Morgan State, projected to finish 5th in their conference, attempted 71 shots compared to Uconn’s 49. UConn’s big men couldn’t rebound, the guards didn’t defend the perimeter and the team couldn’t find a jump shot.

Curtis Kelly was a bright spot. He deserves an applause for the work from the line, going 7 for 7, pulling down 7 boards and making 3 for 6 from the field. While Thabeet struggled with 3 points and only 7 boards, never being a factor in the game. Adrien had a solid night with 12 points and 7 boards but was dominated inside by Coly, who had 15 boards with 8 being offensive.

Dyson shot well but played sloppy defense, committing 4 personal fouls but made his free throws and some clutch shots down the stretch. Price had a lackluster night with 5 points, 9 dishes, 3 turnovers and 3 steals. He needs to be more assertive, 4 field goals in the game is not going to cut it, and he needs to make a play during these droughts. Doug Wiggins did well in reserve, making a crucial three, his only, to pull away. He didn’t turn the ball over and made free throw shots to seal the game. Austrie had a good line with 8 points on 3 for 5 shooting, 5 boards, 1 dish, 1 turnover and 1 steal.

Stanley Robinson didn’t make a shot and had 5 turnovers. Calhoun should give Robinson an offensive foul get out to jail card. Let him drive to the hoop without fear. Once he feels his shot isn’t there, he starts turning the ball over. His offense feels out of rhythm and needs to let the game come to him.

This game, which should have been a confidence booster, has now put a seedling of doubt into Husky Nation. Are they the same team as last year? A team that shot the ball poorly, couldn’t make free throws and turned the ball over way to much or are they more experienced and ready to take the next step. Let’s cross our fingers.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Marcus Johnson Leaves

Wow. This is an utter surprise. Marcus Johnson has asked permission to talk to other schools. His time here at Uconn has been anything but frustrating for him. He could never find his role on the team. He shined when on the fast break but never found the confidence in his jumper and never felt comfortable in the offense.

With his departure, Uconn is stuck with only one small forward which is a big problem. This forces Calhoun to either go big or go small when Robinson is on the bench. Shutting down teams that have two or more small forwards on a team, like Louisville, are now going to give Uconn a tougher time matching up.

Johnson had sat out the Bryant game with an elbow injury and was scheduled to undergo an MRI. Marcus will finish out the fall semester at Uconn but will no longer be a member of the team. There must be more to this story. If he had trepidations about his willingness to be a member of this squad, then he would have pulled the trigger earlier in the summer. Something happened in October practice or the elbow injury is more severe then imagined.

Calhoun’s response to Marcus’s departure, “Marcus came to see me today and told me that he felt it was in his best interests to find another school to attend and to play basketball. I know he has a desire to maximize his playing time and also to get closer to home, so he felt this was the best decision for him at this time. I wish him nothing but the best as a person and as a basketball player.”

Marcus will do better without being under the microscope and the ire of Calhoun. Its hard to produce and be effective when you get your minutes in crumbs. He’ll find a place closer to home and contribute more to a team then he will this year or next. We wish him the best of luck.

Ray Allen Game Winner!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

WD 40 Anyone?

It wasn’t pretty and it was still some of the same as last year. They couldn’t stop the high screen, didn’t make their free throws, shot the ball poorly, didn’t block out and had more turnovers than assists. The lessons learned from last year can be applied here that it is hard to judge what this team is when playing inferior talent. We know that they won’t get 27 offensive boards versus Big East teams.

The one glaring statistic is the field goal percentage. The guards shot 17 for 40. Not good, in fact horrible. Lets hope that this is just rust because if the guards can’t shoot then this is going to be a rough season. The big men did well but that stat is inflated because of the numerous put backs from the offensive glass that won’t happen with big boy competition.

Free throws, free throws, free throws. What is it about this team that makes them poor from the line? Marcus Johnson needs to step it up going 1 for 5. That’s worse than his .500 year long average last year. Adrien went 2 for 5, Robinson 0 for 1 and Hasheem went 1 for 3. But the most striking is Dyson’s 1 for 2. Its not the fact that he missed one but that he only went to the line once. He needs to drive and initiate contact. He should get to the stripe at least six to ten times a game.

The Swiss cheese defense let the Assumption get anything they wanted, shooting 40% from the field and 39% from the arch. Not good at all. The help defense needs improvement and the they haven’t solved the basic pick play yet, which gave them trouble last year.

A.J. showed up and saved this team, coming off the bench and demonstrated his overall game going 6 for 11 shooting, 9 boards, 22 points, 7 dishes, 1 turnover, 3 steals and a perfect 9 for 9 from the stripe. That’s a line and all that while coming off the bench for only 25 minutes. Contrast that to Dyson’s, ‘the best point guard on the team’, 7 for 15 shooting, 4 boards, 18 points, 2 dishes, 5 turnovers, 2 blocks, 5 steals and 1 for 2 from the stripe. Let’s put this mad point guard experiment to rest, A.J. is the point guard for this team.

Let’s hope this is just rust and that they will show another side of their game in the next couple of games because if they don’t shoot better and play a team defense then they better have their life jackets on. It’s a long way down the Big East standings. I don’t know what was worse, Uconn’s game or having to pay for it and watching it on my computer. It’s a wash.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Point Is Priceless

Where did A.J. Price go? If you know, please tell us. After glancing over the starting lineup for tonight’s game there was one glaring omission, Price. Craig Austrie, Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson and Hasheem Thabeet. Is it because A.J. is still hampered by an injury or has Austrie supplanted the point guard role? But then Calhoun says that Jerome is the best point guard on the team and Craig Austrie is a multi-purpose guard. Austrie has the knack of putting players in comfortable positions and seems more suited to run the point and Dyson’s slashing and shooting skills lend more to having the offense go through him. I hope this experiment works.

A.J. must have had a horrible October. Here is a kid whose season has been riddled with a near death illness, a robbery and a gigantic lack of confidence. Calhoun praised him, saying in that 2005 season where 5 players went in the first two rounds, that A.J. was probably the most talented on the squad.

Austrie did well last year. He shot the ball well and ran the point with efficiency but lacked the speed. Maybe Calhoun noticed a little bounce in his step during practice and is rewarding him with a look see but A.J. needs to be part of this team if they are going to take the next step.

So here comes the opening game of the new season. Get your popcorn, beer and head to the office where you can watch your favorite team on the computer. It just doesn’t suite sports on a small screen and by yourself. Not only that but they want you to pay for it. They’re making the exhibition games, pay-per-view. Great! Please put the games back on the television.