Sunday, December 30, 2007

Baring Their Fangs

Yeah, the Huskies should have won by ten. They held off the scrappy UCF team and again a player put together a career day against UConn. Taylor and O’Donnell combined for 10 for 23 from three point range. After a few days at the beach, the young pups found themselves in a scrum and they came out bloody but on top. Sure the Maine game was impressive, but a win like this builds more for a team.

The back court put together a great outside shooting night, going 8 for 14 from three. During the first half Dyson was jogging and trailing his defender but in the second half he turned his game up a notch and ran the break well and drove to the basket. He has the knack for getting to the line and hitting 11 for 13 is fantastic. On the other hand A.J. clanked his only two shots that would have sealed the game. That’s when Austrie told Calhoun to send him in and put the ball in his hands . He got to the line and sank them. Clutch. It is the only thing missing from A.J.’s game. He’s scored points, dished the ball and played solid defense but he hasn’t carried the team over the finish line.

UConn has yet to rebound well against three point shooting teams. Out of all the starters for UCF, the player second to last in rebounds was the center, Stanley Billings. With the long ball, the big men are letting the ball bounce over them and get into the clutches of the guards and small forwards. Either Uconn’s smalls are retreating to soon or they are getting beat to the ball. A.J. and Austrie combined for only 1 rebound.

In the second half the referees tried to even out the discrepancy in the free throws and not foul out the whole starting lineup for UCF. Several blatant calls, the shoe tackle and Dyson’s fast break bump, were missed and lighter fouls called on the other end. In the end it was Uconn’s free throw shooting that won this game. 27 for 38 is a huge improvement. A combination of strength and free throw shooting will win ball games.

There is more parody within The Big East then in prior years. Teams like Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Marquette and West Virginia all have solid clubs but still have their weaknesses. Uconn could put things together and be competitive with these top tier teams.

This game let the pups sharpen their teeth and sneak out of their first hostile environment, against a good team, with a victory. Its not a statement game but a boost of confidence before heading into conference play. Now they must get ready for a very talented back court in Seton Hall. The smalls are going to have their hands full.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

UConn Box Set Play

Friday, December 28, 2007

Big East Power Rankings

1.Pittsburgh. They proved that they are for real with the win against Duke. It is the signature win so far for The Big East. They play solid defense, ranking 3rd, and consistent offense. They attack the boards and are led by the effort of freshman DeJuan Blair, who leads the league in offensive rebounds. Junior, Levance Fields has become a solid point guard. This team has balance and plays hard every game. Though Sam Young is a great scorer, the only knock against this team is their offensive output, only ranking 8th.

2. Marquette. This team is only going to go where Dominic James carries them to. Jerel Mcneal and James make a nasty defensive combo. Together they average 4.80 steals a game. They are in the top 6 in both offensive and defensive scoring but they are horrendous on the glass which could be their downfall.

3. Georgetown. Their poor offense finally cost them a game but this team is still not clicking on all cylinders. They still hold the best defense in the league but when you combine that with a 12th ranked defense, then your bound to lose some close games. They weren’t able to slow down Memphis and with The Big East full of fast back courts, it could pose a problem for this team. They are lacking a legitimate point guard.

4. West Virginia. They hold the top spot in offense and second in defense. The only reason why they sit behind Georgetown is their easy schedule. Their last 8 games where against, New Mexico State, MD Eastern Shore, Winthrop, Auburn, Duquesne, UMBC, Radford, and Canisius. They make up for their lack of athletic ability inside with pin point outside shooting and a smothering perimeter defense. Their assists to turnover margin is at an insane +7.73. Juniors, Alex Ruoff and Joe Alexander, combine for 31.5 points a game and play a great inside-outside game.

5. Villanova. This team is still trying to figure things out. They’ve played a relatively easy schedule so far and their problems are evident. They need to shore up the defense or they are prime to plummet down the standings. They have a great perimeter game and Scottie Reynolds is the real deal but they are going to need more from the rest of the crew.

6. Connecticut. 1st in defense field goal percentage and 4th in scoring has shown that the Huskies are improved over last year. They rank 1st in offensive rebounding and block shots a game and have a well balance mix of front and back court players. A.J. Price leads the league in assists to turnovers and assists a game. They lack a perimeter game and a legitimate scorer and they need to beat a team with comparable talent.

7. Notre Dame. Luke Harangody and Kyle Mcalarney lead the Fighting Irish in a great inside-outside threat. Notre Dame leads the league in assists and battle hard on the boards. Ryan Ayers is a player that teams need to stay close to. He can shoot from anywhere on the court. The jury is still out as to if Notre Dame is for real. Their easy schedule has produced favorable numbers.

8. Louisville. This is by far the most disappointing team. They have not shown up at all on the offensive side of the ball, only breaking 80 points once in the last 9 games. They bring it defensively but with the 13th ranked offense, it leaves Louisville in tight ball games and they have had a hard time closing them out. They are average or worse in most of the leagues stats except outside shooting. They have little room for error left with a long season still to go.

9. Syracuse. With a young team, the hardest thing to teach is to play hard every possession on defense. They rank 14th in that department. They make up for it with the 2nd ranked offense but they rely to heavily on the perimeter game. Freshmen Donte Greene and Jonny Flynn average 33.6 points a game combined. Greene and Rick Jackson are also in the top 11 in block shots a game and help secure the zone but teams are still able to get to many easy buckets.

10. Seton Hall. It will be amazing if Brian Laing and Eugene Harvey keep up their torrent pace while playing every minute of every game. They pose the greatest scoring threat in the league with a combined 38.3 points a game. With all their effort on the offensive side, their defense is terrible, coming in dead last. Its amazing that they can put up the numbers on offense without a great perimeter game. They have to many deficiencies that they are not a legitimate threat to the top tier of Big East teams.

11. Providence. They are a middle of the row team right now and haven’t taken advantage of their size like many experts thought they would. Coming in at 10th in rebounding margin is disappointing for this promising team. They are dead last in defensive rebounds and are giving up to many second chance points. Brian Mckenzie and Jeff Xavier are great outside shooters and Weyinmi Efejuku is turning into a solid player but this team needs more from Geoff McDermott to turn this season around.

12. USF. After a lousy start, Southern Florida has righted the ship but they still have an ocean to travel before making a splash into the upper echelon. They sit in the middle or lower end of every statistic and Dominique Jones can’t do it all himself. He needs Chris Howard and Kentrell Gransberry to score more before they take that next step.

13. Rutgers. Being dead last in offense and middle of the pack in defense isn’t a good recipe for success. They are last in 3-point percentage, assists and assists to turnovers. Hamady Ndiaye is turning into a great enforcer down low but they lack any offensive threat and are in desperate need of a point guard.

14. St. John’s. D.J. Kennedy and Eugene Lawrence are playing well but this team is lacking in every department. Larry Wright has a great outside shot but freshman Justin Burrell hasn’t produced yet and the team just hasn’t gelled.

15. Cincinnati. This historic school has taken quite a slide. They rank near to last in both offense and defense. They can’t make an outside shot and are getting killed on the glass. Nothing is going right. Deonta Vaughn is playing well but he can’t do it all by himself. John Williamson needs to step up.

16. DePaul. Having a league worst -4.5 point scoring margin a game is all you need to know. They can’t score and can’t stop the opposing team. Draelon Burns and Dar Tucker are playing well but not good enough to bring DePaul out of the Big East cellar. Mac Koshwal and Cliff Clinkscales need to contribute more. They are counting to much on freshmen to pull the load.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Gift Giving

While we are all still in the gift giving spirit, I would like to give some of the Huskies a few presents.

Jerome Dyson. A mid-range shooting gallery. I’d like to see him up-fake his man and take the 12-footer. It would be a potent weapon in his already lethal game.

Jeff Adrien. A trampoline. If Adrien had great leaping ability, he would be a first round draft pick. It is the only hole in his game. Imagine the rebounding numbers he would put up if he played above the rim.

Hasheem Thabeet. A hook. At seven feet three inches and even taller when he raises his arm, a hook shot would be unstoppable. Two dribbles into the lane and a quick hook and Thabeet would be a legitimate offensive threat.

A.J. Price. A drivers license. If he would drive into the lane and collapse defenses more, the offense would run fluidly. He has been doing a great job but at times he dishes the ball before making a move on his defender. Take the ball and make the defense react.

Jim Calhoun. A longer leash. He needs to let his starters make some mistakes without pulling them from the game. In the games that they have struggled in, the young pups are thinking to much and not using their instinct. At times they look like they aren’t having fun.

Doug Wiggins. A dagger. He needs to be the man who drains the three when open. I just don’t feel like it is going to go in when it leaves his hands. If he gets a consistent outside shot then he will be a dominating player.

Craig Austrie. Some high octane fuel. He needs some jet fuel and turn up the tempo of his game. He is a great floor general and a good outside shooter but doesn’t run the break well and that’s not going to get you much playing time at UConn.

Stanley Robinson. Charity work. Robinson has turned his game around so far in this short season but the one flaw that has carried over is his poor free throw shooting. He has been doing much better but his numbers are still is horrendous and for a person who plays aggressive, he will be getting plenty of opportunities at the charity stripe.

Curtis Kelly. A smaller basketball. The ball seems to roll around the rim without dropping in for Kelly. If he finished off strong around the rim, then he would have supplanted himself as the second off the bench.

Gavin Edwards. Boxing gloves. Gavin needs to get more involved in boxing out and rebounding more. He has shown flourishes of post play but isn’t putting up the numbers in the rebounding department.

Jonathan Mandeldove. A watch. He needs more minutes. Its tough when you put effort into practice but get to ride the pine during games. He has talent but there are just to many bodies in front of him.

Donnell Beverly. A rifle. He has seen more minutes lately but hasn’t shown his shooting ability. I’d like to see his range more. He hasn’t caused any needless turnovers or put any off balance shots up but he needs to take the shot when left open.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Maine Event

This was a clinic and is a great early Christmas present but remember last year Uconn won 105 to 55 against Texas Southern before collapsing down the stretch. There were plenty of good signs. The outside shots were falling, they scored without their leader in points and they executed good inside sets against the zone. And they got to the line 38 times and got 27 points from that.

The guards did well. A.J. had a great game keeping the offense flowing. And with Dyson out, he asserted himself more into the offense. Not only did he shoot more but his 9 assists to 1 turnover were spectacular. He is now leading The Big East in assists to turnovers and assists a game. Wiggins could be a possible Rajon Rondo. Unlike last year, he has been able to maintain his dribbling while flying up the court. He has also been able to control his turnovers and increase his assists. If he continues his improvement then he could make it to the next level. Donnell Beverly did another good job of keeping the offense rolling. Though he didn’t look for his shot, he played solid defense.

What can you say about Stanley Robinson? Its great to see him have some feistiness to his game. As soon as he got that technical foul, he went into attack mode. He smothered rebounds, battled loose balls, gave up his body, sank jumpers, sent a double clutch dunk down, and played the most dominating game of ball UConn has seen in two years. Even if you take Stanley’s 32 points from the game, Uconn still would have won by 13 points. That’s a sign of great defense and he played that too, getting 3 blocks and 2 steals.

Adrien also played spirited, ending his day with 17 points and 13 boards. Is the double-double man back for good? We'll see. The only thing that he lacks is athleticism. He is tenacious on the boards but he doesn’t have an above the rim game.

Thabeet is a totally different player than the player who started the season. Brian Andre threw his huge frame against Thabeet all game and he stood in there and took it. Last year meatier players were able to push Thabeet out of position. So far this year, Thabeet has been able to take the pounding and get to the stripe while converting at a point guard like, 10 of 13.

Its great to see this team put together an effort like this but they had scored 105 points last year and I’m not going to get excited until they beat a team with comparable talent. For now they have their annual free vacation/trip to Florida and then the real challenge of conference play. Until then it’s a step in the right direction but not the leap needed to take them to where they want to go.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Marcus Williams & Josh Boone Dish Out Some Toys In Brooklyn

Ray Allen's reverse dunk vs Pistons

Two of UConn's Best Clash

From The Detroit News:

Ray Allen and Richard Hamilton actually do like each other -- but you would never know it the way they go after each other on the court.

"It's a lot of fun," said Hamilton, who started at UConn the year after Allen left.

"I love it. It's an old Connecticut thing. He was the stepping stone for me at the school. It's always a great challenge."

Allen scored 24 points to Hamilton's 21. Combined, the two former Huskies made 17 of 24 shots -- pretty good marksmanship considering how aggressively they guarded each other.

They hacked and whacked on one another most of the game. It was not unlike watching Hamilton battle Kirk Hinrich of the Bulls.

"Nah, it's a little different," Hamilton said, smiling. "With Ray it's in good nature."

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Please Calhoun, No Moore.

The Huskies finally put together a solid performance on all phases of the game. The defense was stout and switching on screens seemed to work well, though it could cause match up problems down the line. The offense, especially the fast break, was working on all cylinders. The guards moved the ball around, tossing it to the bigs and then out for open jumpers. They finished plays around the basket and battled on the boards, totaling 42 boards with 13 of them being offensive.

It was good to see the three ball being utilized. Teams are going to play zone until they show that they can make shots. Wiggins and Robinson had a great game from behind the arch, going a combined 3 for 7. When the three wasn’t working they took a few steps inside the soft zone and hit open jumpers. Dyson had a solid offensive effort going 9 for 17 for 23 points and a powerful slam. His most promising stat is zero turnovers. Robinson was all over the place, doing all the little things. He went 6 for 10, 15 points, 2 for 2 from the stripe, 3 offensive boards, 2 blocks and a steal. It’s amazing at where he is now and where he was at this point last year. Price also had a great game managing the team and ended with 9 assists to 2 turnovers, though he needs to get to the line.

The big men opposed their will. Adrien put together a performance we are used to seeing. His 14 boards and 12 points gave him a double-double he has been lacking and he finished strong when going to the basket. Hasheem rebounded well, finished plays with dunks and blocked 4 shots. Gavin quietly had a good game, going 2 for 2, but only had 1 rebound.

With Austrie out Beverly filled the role of back up point guard and did a solid job. He didn’t force the issue and took a few shots and took down 3 boards but his 2 assists to 2 turnovers isn’t point guard like. He’s a shifty player and will do nicely in Calhoun’s system.

The team is settling into their respective roles and are getting primed for Big East action. They have a couple of sub par teams left and then its time for the Huskies to step up and knock off a legitimate team. Until then its just more of the same.

Recent Highlights from Rudy Gay

Friday, December 14, 2007

Caron Butler with a spectacular reverse

Report Card

Since the Huskies are taking some time off from basketball to prepare for final exams, I thought it was time to give the young pups their report cards.

Jerome Dyson. B. He leads the team in points with 14.5. Dyson also rebounds, contributing with 5.1 a game. He is Uconn’s most consistent scorer but his assists, 23, to turnovers, 21, are lack luster. He needs to find his outside shot. He is ranked only 19th in Big East in scoring.

A.J. Price. B+. A.J. is ranked 3rd in assists to turnovers, 6th in assists, 7th in steals, and 27th in scoring and Calhoun is still riding his ass. He has the potential to be a special player. He needs to drive into lanes and dish the ball out more.

Jeff Adrien. C-. Adrien has not been playing like we are normally accustom to. He is tied for 17th with Casiem Drummond of Villanova at 7.9 rebounds a game. He leads the team in turnovers at 24 and Stanley Robinson has more blocks. He is also shooting only .613 from the free throw line.

Hasheem Thabeet. A-. He has taken a lot of negativity for his shaky start but he has shown drastic improvement. He dunks, makes free throws and battles on the boards. He ranks 8th in rebounding, 2nd in field goal percentage, 2nd in block shots behind Hamady Ndiaye of Rutgers, 6th in offensive rebounds, and 11th in defensive rebounds. He still has a ways to go but he is close to averaging a double-double.

Stanley Robinson. B+. He has been the most productive turnaround on the team. He is averaging 9.8 points a game, doubling his previous average and attacks the glass. He is ranked 8th in the league in blocked shots, which is amazing. The only thing that stopped Robinson from getting an A is his absolutely and ugly free throw percentage, .375. That’s repulsive.

Doug Wiggins. C+. There are games that he just disappears. His 6.1 average is below last years. His assists, 16, to turnovers, 6, are a major improvement. He uses his speed well but gets into trouble when fighting through screens. He also needs to be a more consistent outside shooter.

Craig Austrie. C. Coming into the season, Calhoun praised Austrie with his improvement but he hasn’t been much of a factor when on the court. His usually great three point shot is off, only shooting .294 from the arc. He has a great assists to turnover ratio, 13 to 6. He needs to push the ball up and be that three point threat.

Jim Calhoun. B. You can’t say that the old man has lost his passion. He is teetering over the coaching line and getting ejected from games. He is doing everything he can possibly do and hasn’t slowed down a bit. The only knock against him is that he never lets his team settle into the game.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Big East Power Rankings

1. Georgetown. They need to do better in scoring, just 15th in the league, but their defense tops the conference. They’ve played Michigan and Alabama and won both convincingly. We will see if this team is ready to dominate when they face Memphis on December 22nd. Will they be able to slow down the fast running Tigers?

2. Marquette. They destroyed Oklahoma State and lost to Duke but this team is 6th in the league in scoring and 9th in defense. They have a great field goal percentage of .493 a game. Their only weakness is their rebounding, ranking a lousy 13th.

3. Pittsburgh. They have played an easy schedule so far this season and it has skewed their stats but we will see if they are for real on December 20th when they play Duke. Pittsburg ranks 4th in scoring, 3rd in defense and 1st in rebounding margin. An encouraging sign for Pittsburg to take into legitimate competition is their 1st ranking in free throw shooting.

4. West Virginia. The only team of note that West Virginia has played is Tennessee and they lost by 2. They are possibly the most surprising team in the league but that seems to happen every year. They rank 1st in offense, 2nd in defense and 1st in field goal percentage.

5. Villanova. Losing to NC State isn’t a huge knock against this promising team. They are only 8th in scoring and 11th in defense but rebound very well with +8.1 a game.

6. Connecticut. They played the toughest schedule so far but lost against the two toughest opponents. They rank 7th in scoring but an uncharacteristic 12th in defense. They are only 11th in free throw percentage and 9th in field goal percentage a game.

7. Notre Dame. Notre Dame’s losses to Baylor and Georgia Tech put them slightly behind the Huskies but they rank 5th in offense and 6th in defense, coming in first in three point shooting and second in rebounding margin. This team will scare anyone if they have their shot going.

8. Syracuse. This team has to much talent to lose to the likes of UMass and Rhode Island but they did. Its not their offense that is the problem, ranking 3rd, but their zone is Swiss cheese at the moment coming in dead last. They need to sure up this part of their game or they are prime to plummet.

9. Louisville. Where is the Final Four contender? Louisville has already lost to many games against far lesser talent. Who thought this team would lack offense, coming in at 11th? They bring it defensively ranking 4th. Their back court needs to get going coming in 14th in assists. Losing David Padgett for the season doesn’t help.

10. Seton Hall. Playing three overtime games already, winning two, has given Seton Hall fans near heart attacks but they have a way to score points, 83.7 a game but give up 78.6 a game. They need to find a way to play solid defense and cherish every possession.

11. Providence. They beat BC in overtime to then come out with back to back losses. This team is a mystery. They are middle of the pack in both offense and defense but are not attacking the boards like expected, coming in 11th in rebounding margin.

12. Rutgers. Smile Rutgers you're 6 and 2 and most likely peeked at 12th in the power rankings but they deserve credit even if they play below par teams. They are terrible on offense but bring it every game in defense, ranking 7th. They do house the best home court advantage in the league.

13. USF. After starting the season on a three game losing streak, they have turned it around winning the last seven. They are an average offensive and defensive team but rank 5th in the league in assists and can hit the three, ranking 2nd.

14. St. John’s. They have only played 5 games and rank 5th in defense but 13th in offense. They need to find a way to make outside shots.

15. Cincinnati. Losing 4 games already is terrible and having those come to the likes of Bowling Green and Belmont doesn’t help. They are dead last in offense and 10th in defense. They are also dead last in rebounding margin and steals.

16. DePaul. They are 12th in offense and 14th in defense, coming in last in scoring margin a -3.4. They can’t even make free throws only hitting .604 and letting teams shoot a league worst .456 a game. They can hit threes making .405 a game though but that won’t get you far.

UConn, Doubling the Post

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Garbage Night

Just when you thought UConn has solved most of its offensive woes, they put together an abysmal performance like this. The blame goes right down the line. The guards didn’t rotate the ball, shoot well, drive to the basket, or distribute the ball. The big men let easy passes slip through their hands, allow smaller men to wiggle inside for rebounding position and did not create easy second chance opportunities. Stanley Robinson shouldn’t be allowed to pass the basketball and Calhoun should allow his players to form some type of rhythm before yanking them from the game every three minutes.

It all boiled down to a hard to watch 69 to 60 UConn victory. A definite step backwards from their steady progression they had garnered from their past four games. It also seemed that the referees lost their whistles for most of this game, finding it just in time to eject Calhoun.

The perimeter defense is still a liability for this team and will eventually hurt them if they don’t defend the high screens and get a hand up to bother shots. For most of the night Northeastern had a better fast break than UConn. Dyson did have a spectacular block on a two on one break but overall the transition defense was not up to par.

Gavin had a good game and showed some grit and finesse to his game with a spin move in the paint. His progression has come a long way. Thabeet did a little of everything and finished off a play with a thunderous dunk. Kelly had a below average game, causing to many turnovers but finished with 8 points and 3 boards. There was a Mandeldove sighting but if you blinked then you missed him, logging in 1 minute. Adrien came through in the end and helped pull the Huskies ahead for good but only finished with 4 boards. Where is the double-double man?

The guards decided to take the day off ending the day 6 for 20. It was U-G-L-Y. Price wasn’t assertive and only shot the ball 4 times. Dyson did all he could posting 10 boards and 16 points. Wiggins only had 1 rebound in 12 minutes. Beverly played a little and didn’t seem overwhelmed. Austrie played solid minutes but wasn’t overly impressive though he did score one of UConn’s rare three pointers.

There is really nothing to take from this game but a thank the lord they didn’t blow it. They can go into the extended break, regroup and hopefully put together a team effort in their next showing, for this one can get tossed into the garbage with last nights leftovers.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Shaq Blocked by Emeka Okafor

Just Out Of Reach

It was another close and hard fought game that slipped through UConn’s fingers. They came out of the gates with their best shooting performance of the year and gave Husky fans a glimpse of their potential. They played great, rotating the ball, finding open jump shots and converting. The one knock on the team is their play against high screens, going underneath and Gonzaga had an outstanding three point shooting night, 12-27 or 36 of their 85 points and another 21 coming from the stripe. Uconn did well at the line too, going 23 for 32 and made all their one and one situations, an encouraging sign.

One could say that the Huskies fell in love with the outside shooting and they came up cold in the second half and it is slightly true but they only scored 6 less points in the second half as they did in the first. They knew their shot wasn’t falling and didn’t shy away but also took it to the tin and was rewarded by fouls.

In UConn’s two losses there seems to be one player on the opposing team that steps up and single handedly carries their team. In the Memphis game Douglas-Roberts had a career night and in this game Jeremy Pargo went 7 for 13, 4 for 7 from 3-point range, 23 points and 5 assists.

The reason why UConn lost this game was not their second half outside shooting woes but because no one made a play when they needed it. They had the opportunities and didn’t convert. Elbow jumpers bounced, threes clanked and loose balls went the other way. The referees had questionable calls but that is to be expected and not a crutch UConn can use. But Uconn needs someone to step up.

Their two losses could have gone both ways and UConn could be sitting pretty with a few ranked victories on their resume. They are close and know it. If a few outside shots fall, loose balls bounce their way and obvious fouls get called, then they can beat anyone.

It seems Calhoun is tinkering with his backup power forwards, switching Edwards and Kelly’s roles of being second off the bench. Both contributed in their limited roll. The fast break wasn’t there today but that didn’t slow down the offense and they produced throughout the game. Its nice to see the dreaded five minute drought is a thing of the past.

Its obvious that they aren’t there yet but they have improved. They need to find the killer instinct and put a team away. They eventually need to knock a ranked team off and get some respectable road wins under their belt but there are signs in these games to be optimistic. They just need to find a go to player down the stretch.