Monday, November 30, 2009

Villanueva with block, Breaks Nose and Allen Interview

Cleveland Melvin Dunk

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thabeet denies Aldridge

Litmus Test

It was plain ugly for the Huskies. There was no outside or mid-ranged shots, free throws clanked, easy buckets rolled off the rim for most of the game and at times it looked like they were playing with carnival rims. They played well enough on the defense end to stay in this game but with the offense sputtering, the referees calling an inconsistent game and the rebounding taking step back, UConn had no chance. The object of the season is to play your best by the end of the year and this team knows it’s flaws, outside shooting and rebounding. This was a good litmus test for UConn and if they can clean up some of these imperfections then they can play with the elites.

Dyson had a day to forget. There is no questioning his heart and toughness out there, but nothing was dropping for him. He showed more emotion when he missed one of his many free throws down the stretch then he has shown in his four years at Storrs. His outside shot wasn’t there and he started attacking the basket with no regard to his body. He was the only scoring threat out there and if he hit his free throws, then this game would’ve been a nail biter down the stretch, because Duke wasn’t exactly lights out on the offensive end.

Walker was a little up and down in this game. He was solid defensively and created havoc with steals, but he struggled controlling the dribble and made some poor decisions in traffic. He needs to be the reliable jump shooter for the starters, with Dyson and Robinson more driving oriented. The elbow jumper will be there every time for him with his speed.

Robinson had one of those frustrating performances. He disappeared from the game when he couldn’t get to the rim. When he isn’t getting boards or sticking his nose into the paint, then the whole team suffers. He is demanding the ball in the post but his dribble drive and jumpers aren’t falling. He needs to focus on attacking the glass on every shot. UConn needs all hands on deck in that department.

Edwards showed some range but then he took two poor jumpers right after that. He is more of a threat at the post and has shown a reliable turn around hook. His major issue is that he is bobbling the ball while rebounding. It is as if his hands are to small for the ball. He needs to secure the ball and not have teams swat it out of his hands.

UConn looked to Oriakhi early and he produced, but that was about it for the game. He is getting caught with the ball under the backboard and resorting to stretching around the rim for a shot. He is still getting knocked off the block for offensive boards. For his size, he should be able to hold his own. He is still a freshman and has tremendous upside.

It was good to see Okwandu with some real emotion on the put-back dunk and he showed some post moves. He is really showing some major improvement with his transition into the starting lineup. Beverly had a sloppy game and was caught ball watching and allowed an offensive board and took a bad jumper. Smith showed some of his speed but made some poor decisions in transition. Trice and Coombs-McDaniel were needed for some outside shooting and they didn’t show up.

While it was a tough game to watch, UConn will rarely have a shooting performance of this magnitude. What they need to figure out and fast is how to secure a miss, make free throws, and find someone to hit an outside shot. If they can’t find this then this team will be losing close games all year, because their defense will keep them in games. With several games under their belt, they only rebounded well in one and that has to be giving Calhoun fits.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Doctor is in

UConn fans didn’t know what to expect from their Huskies in this game. Their team was sick with some type of rebounding N1H1 and this was the medicine that UConn needed. The passing was crisp, the defense was stout, the press caused havoc, and most importantly the rebounding was solid. With LSU a one-dimensional team with no outside shooters, UConn was able to stay in front of their man and play the drive. They cut down on the sloppy perimeter passes and found the right combination to group rebound and also be able to display their transition game. Another amazing aspect to this team is their ability to block shots at an incredible clip. This game was a major confidence builder for this squad and should pay dividends no matter the outcome of Friday's game.

Dyson was outstanding. He attacked the basket and was able to sink several and-ones. He demonstrated the ability to hit the open three, which will allow him the room for the dribble drive. He also was making a concerted effort to help out on rebounding, especially on the weak side. It is amazing to see his transformation into the leader on this team.

Walker did a great job of creating tempo. He turned on the jets in transition and was able to go anywhere he wanted. He was spectacular on defense, getting into the passing lanes and controlling the point guard off ball screens. His day was only marred by a few poor passes and a couple of bad decisions while in traffic, but overall he was solid. He is also settling into the two-guard position when Dyson comes off the court and is making plays there.

Robinson had his whole arsenal on display. He demonstrated his strong rebounding that UConn needs and which fuels his game. But what makes Robinson so tough to handle is when he is hitting the outside shot. It only gives him the confidence he needs to remain aggresive. It was great to see him demand the isolation play and create off the dribble. He is really taking his game into another stratosphere.

Calhoun lit a fire under Edwards by sending him to the bench and he got the message. He came out and displayed a hook shot, blocked shots, played solid defense, and most importantly rebounded. The only problem is that Calhoun might keep him on the bench due to his strong play there. One game does not make a season and Edwards needs to carry this effort over into the next one.

Okwandu started for the first time and showed major improvement. He had a beautiful transition block, rebounded well, and played good defense. Even though he fouled out, most of the fouls where either helping out other defenders or poor whistles. He looks better with each and every game. Calhoun has shown a great deal of patience with him and it is paying off.

Oriakhi had a tough evening and didn’t even touch the ball on offense until seven minutes had passed. He was pushed out of position on a free throw rebound and clanked them when he got there. He did stay active and had two massive put-back dunks, but he needs to be more demanding of the basketball in the post and more physical in the paint. For UConn to take the next step then they need Oriakhi to be an offensive threat.

Beverly is playing well as the first guard off the bench. He ran the break well, had a sensational off the glass dribble drive, and ran the point with Kemba in the game. He has solidified that backup position which was what Calhoun was searching for. He did have a few poor decisions with the ball in traffic, but he has been a pleasant surprise. Smith, Trice, and Coombs-McDaniels played a limited role. The first player to demonstrate solid defense and a jumper will eat up the minutes most of the bench minutes.

UConn had the transition game clicking and it was fed with hard defense and blocked shots. They need to carry this defensive performance into the next game. Even though two of their big men fouled out, they all did a great job of securing the ball off a miss and not letting players slip in for offensive boards. It doesn’t get any easier for the Huskies, but as long as they don’t give up second chance opportunities, then they have a talent to play against anyone. One thing they don’t need is another case of the rebounding flu.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Alumni Profile: Rudy Gay

Name: Rudy Gay

Team: Memphis Grizzlies

Position: Small Forward

Looking Back: Rudy Gay was entering his third year on a young team and had to adjust to an incoming superstar in O.J. Mayo that plays a similar style of ball, though at a different position. It wasn’t easy for the high flyer and he didn’t show much improvement statistically throughout the year with only his three point percentage rising a hair. His team had trouble finding the chemistry to compete in the West and floundered at the bottom of the league.

The Good:
Rudy is UConn’s most athletic alumni in the NBA and is at his best in the open court and slashing to the rim. He has slowly worked on his jumper and has improved, but it isn’t a reliable weapon yet. He is a scorer though, ranking 16th in the NBA in field goal attempts and 18th in field goals made.

The Bad: Defense isn’t Rudy’s best attribute. While he does get his hands on the ball, ranking 22nd in steals, he isn’t known for his ability to shut down an opposing player. He also has issues with ball security and is ranked 22nd in turnovers a game at 2.57. With the leaping ability that Gay possesses, he doesn’t block shots, ranking a horrible 41st in the NBA at .75 a game.

Looking Ahead:
Rudy and the Grizzlies look like they have a team that could compete for a bottom of the echelon playoff spot, but they need to find that team chemistry that they lacked last year. Entering his fourth year, Rudy should have the maturity and focus on becoming a leader that he needs to be.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

UConn versus Hofstra Press Conference



Anatomy of an Upset

It was all there, offensive rebounding, wide open three point shooters, sloppy possessions, and a one dimensional offense. Hofstra had it all there for the taking but fell short on some last second heroics from Jerome Dyson. There are some very serious concerns for UConn and it starts with securing the ball after a miss. While the referees let a lot of contact go down low, UConn’s frontcourt had trouble containing the ball, letting it bounce around until the smaller Hofstra players snagged it. This has been an ongoing concern from game one in the preseason. Edwards and Oriakhi are jumping when the ball hits the rim and not putting a body against their opponent. Hofstra had wide open looks throughout the game but had many bounce out. Against a more talented squad, UConn would’ve been down by twenty. There is a lot of work to be done with little time to do it.

Dyson saved the day. While most of the game he struggled to find his game, he came up clutch with attacking the rim when they were in the bonus and knocking down key free throws. He still is a little wild with some of his shots around the rim, but there is little to criticize about his performance, since he took over the game down the stretch.

Walker did a little of everything, except show his outside shot. He had a wicked crossover, attacked the basket in transition, and showed the mid-ranged jumper. He did try to dribble through a double team and had a turnover, but overall, he had a solid evening.

Robinson had a tough act to follow up and his shot was way off. His athletic ability will always have him create easy buckets, but he wasn't his usual self in the rebounding department, which UConn dearly missed. He was sloppy with his passes and had some defensive lapses that had Calhoun in his grill. The Huskies need him to be consistent and he hasn’t been.

Edwards had an up and down game. He has definitely shown a more athletic aspect to his game, with several blocks and a massive transition dunk, but he is having a hard time holding onto the ball in traffic and has let smaller players swipe the ball out of his hands for offensive boards.

Oriakhi showed some tough rebounding again, especially late in the game, but he is still making poor decisions in traffic. Most of his shots were rolling around the rim and he began to get frustrated and not demand the ball.

Coombs-McDaniels didn’t have his outside shot but did look good driving through contact. He has already surpassed Smith and Trice off the bench. He is going to be a really good player by the end of the year. Beverly must have shown Calhoun something, because he got a ton of minutes in the first half and he didn’t disappoint. He played the point to free up Walker, drove to the rim, rebounded, and handled the press well. Trice and Smith had another limited role. Okwandu showed a little athleticism with a leaping block.

Everything was there for the upset but Dyson wouldn’t let it happen. What was impressive was that he was playing his third game in five days. But if UConn continues to play uphill, they are going to be a middle of the pack Big East team. They need to sure up the rebounding, close out on shooters and find a way to stretch the defense with outside shooting. If they can’t then it is going to be a long season.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pulling Teeth

The first half of the game was like sitting in a dentist chair. UConn couldn’t figure out the zone, settling for outside shots that clanked off the rim and not getting a sniff of a transition basket, but the huskies settled down and finally found a sembalance of a half court offense. They set picks at the top of the key to let the guards slip into the lanes to create havoc. The full court pressure also created chaos that tired out the undermanned Colgate team and allowed UConn to pull away through second chance points and clutch shooting.

Stanley Robinson was fabulous. He was skying early for boards and olly-oops. What was most impressive about his game and a great sign, was his outside shot and his mid-ranged game where he loves using the glass. The only thing that wasn’t going right was his free throws, missing an one and one. Even though he had his whole game on display, Calhoun was in his face on numerous occasions. It shows his maturity that it didn’t effect his game.

Kemba was more aggressive against the zone, attacking the rim and showed a nasty crossover. His jump shot has come a long way, showing a mid-ranged game and a reliable corner three. He was also causing trouble with pressure defense and key steals.

It wasn’t Dyson’s best performance and with his outside shot not there, he was a one-dimensional player. His shot looked flat, which could be due to only two days between games. He looked to be settling for shots and was throwing up some wild shots around the rim. It will be interesting to see how he bounces back from his performance and how hesitant he will be from deep.

Edwards had his best performance of the year and had something to prove with his coach calling him out. He was aggressive, finding the ball and battling for put backs. He showed a floater and more of his athletic leaping ability on several blocks. He still is having trouble with securing the ball, having it bounce off of him and out of bounds.

Oriakhi was solid in the rebounding department and flared those elbows. He is still having problems in traffic and making poor decisions. The game is still a little too fast for him and he is rushing it a bit. He still shows flashes of his mix of power and athleticism. He just needs to settle down.

Coombs-McDaniel stepped up. He showed a great stroke from deep, a deceptive first step, and a controlled game that was anything but freshman-like. He made an impact off the bench and didn’t mind the scattered minutes that Calhoun was throwing at him.

Okwandu had his best performance of the year so far. He played solid defense, fought for loose balls, and showed the elbow jumper again. He was a bit flat footed out there and needs to use his length to block shots.

Beverly was steady out there and has a smooth aspect to his game. He also showed a baseline jumper. Smith and Trice didn’t have much of an impact on the game, especially with the seniors in the game because it was close.

Hopefully UConn can keep the second half momentum that it showed in the half court offense. They finally showed that it could handle the zone without settling for threes. They know that they are deadly in transition and if it can have a reliable half court offense, then this team can be dangerous. It is all a work in progress. The freshmen of Trice, Smith, and Coombs-McDaniel are feeling out their roles and the seniors are figuring out how to share the scoring burden.

Jim Calhoun Colgate postgame press conference


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Arms Length

While most fans would want to see UConn up by forty points by halftime, the huskies will benefit more from a game like this then from a blowout. Though the most disconcerting aspect of the game was in the rebounding department, where UConn’s bigger frontcourt let their smaller opponent wander right up to the rim with no resistance. The only way that William and Mary would be able to stay in this game would be with the three and they had it. Without a true shot blocker behind them, UConn played off their man and left their opponent's shooting hand open. The transition game worked well but they settled on some wild shots that had no shot of going in. They need to play with more patience and be able to pull back into the half court set if they don't have the numbers.

Dyson had a solid outing, though he settled on some circus shots, but the offense performed the best when it flowed through him. He has his speed and leaping ability back which is a great sight. His outside shot wasn’t there but he needs to keep shooting because he is the only true threat right now. He is playing great on defense and is sneaking into the passing lanes for steals.

Walker also played well. He attacked the rim relentlessly and had a few wow moments. He has also demonstrated the ability to hit the outside shot, which will help teams from playing off him. Kemba needs to do a better job of attacking the zone. It has stifled the half court sets. He needs to get into the lane and draw defenders in more.

Robinson was doing what he does best, focusing on rebounding. He was leaping out of the gym for boards and attacked the weak side of the rim for olley-oops and easy buckets. He needs to demand the ball more and show a post game. His leaping ability gives him a chance to shoot over anybody. Sometimes he leaves his feet too early and doesn't put a body on his defender.

Oriakhi had a freshman-like game. He showed some of his fantastic athletic ability on the offensive end and an ability to block shots on the defensive end, but he also ball watched too much and didn’t block out, letting smaller players have free runs at rebounds. He needs to concentrate on finding his man with the ball in the air.

Edwards had a disappointing game. He wasn’t aggressive out there and played a passive game. He needs to become a solid rebounder and if he can’t contribute in that department, then his minutes will drop. He also was getting killed with backdoor cuts. He has shown a baby hook on the offensive end, but he wasn't overpowering his smaller defender.

Smith has become the best defensive freshman on the team. He plays his man tight and has shown that extra burst that is needed to attack the rim. He has also shown the ability to hit the outside shot. He has become the first backcourt player off the bench.

Trice and Beverly had quiet games and never settled into a role. With the game close, Calhoun had to give more minutes then he wanted to his starters. Okwandu played sparingly, but better. He didn’t have the defensive lapses that he had in the previous games. Coombs-McDaniel came in and protected the weak-side. He was getting used to the game speed and didn’t force anything.

The half court continues to cause trouble for the huskies and they relied heavily on the transition game. They attacked the rim with wild shots and didn’t get good possessions out of them. It allowed a hot three point shooting team with more opportunities and they converted. The front court is also a work in progress and they need to work on blocking out. Given that, UConn is going to have growing pains but as long as they win these games and grow through them, they should be alright.

UConn versus William and Mary Highlights

Monday, November 9, 2009

Rust Proof

Even though UConn’s half court offense worked about as well as the new Gampel scoreboards, they more then made up for it with a blazing transition game. The huskies also cleaned up the sloppy perimeter passing that plagued them in their last outing. A major factor in that turnaround had to do with Dyson playing in his first game. It helped solidify the perimeter and the backcourt attacked the basket with authority and nearly brought the rim down. There was still some growing pains from the freshmen and Calhoun will have plenty of ammunition in practice.

Dyson was simply amazing. He was shaking off the rust of a major knee injury, played with a injured toe, and a used a mystery inhaler. It all didn’t matter because Jerome had his whole arsenal on display today. He showed his stealing ability and athletic finishing skills. What was most impressive and a fantastic sign for UConn was his outside shooting. All of his threes were rhythm shot and could possibly solve the outside shot that Calhoun has been looking for. Dyson was also a monster on defense, fighting through screens and playing the passing lanes.

Kemba was a silent assassin and didn’t force his game except in transition. His seven assists to one turnover was outstanding and he ran the offense fluidly. While he didn’t shoot the jump shot, he attacked the basket and was looking for contact.

Robinson had a quiet game, which is a bit disconcerting, especially after his strong performance in the last game. He was more focused on rebounding, but only taking five shots with a game high thirty-five minutes is unacceptable. He needs to be near or over double-digits in shots. And on top of those five shots, many were off-balanced shots that he settled for.

Edwards had a much better game, though he started out sloppy. He was more active around the basket and was able to block a few shots and attack the boards more. He must be feeling the pressure from Oriakhi who is playing about as well as anyone could expect. The freshman showed some good footwork in the post and was a man on the boards, pulling down fourteen. He is still rushing his passes and turning the ball over on unforced errors.

Trice was more active in this game, but was marred by some freshmen lapses. He forced passes through double teams, drove into a charge, and missed a bunny in transition. He was much better on the weak side and kept getting his nose dirty in the paint. Smith also played much better. He displayed a mid-ranged game, was fantastic on defense, fighting through screens, and closing out on perimeter shooters. He also wasn’t shy about rebounding and finished off plays in transition.

Okwandu showed improvement, even though it was minimal. He displayed an elbow jumper, ran hard in transition, and was rewarded with a dunk. His footwork needs to get better and he found himself out of position a few times on the defensive end. It will be interesting to see how Calhoun uses his minutes when the games are competitive. Like Dyson, Beverly was playing in his first game of the year and didn’t force anything. He even gave up an easy bucket for a pass to Dyson. And Hornat got a rebound!

This game was a drastic improvement over the helter-skelter perimeter play they showed in the last game. While it was good to see Dyson emerge as a superstar, Robinson and Walker need to be more of a focus on the offense. The freshmen look to be defining their roles and settling the nerves. It is a shame that Coombs-McDaniels couldn’t get into the game. It is going to be tough for him to catch up with the other freshmen, especially with game speed. But fans should be happy with the questions UConn has answered in the first two games. They can hit the outside shot, are running with abandonment, and playing solid defense. Not bad at all.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

UConn Eligibility

No Bailout for AIC

A game like this can give you fools gold. AIC had nothing for UConn’s athleticism and length in the front court and the big men feasted on easy boards and put backs. But even with an opponent with one hand tied behind his back, UConn managed to show some good and bad things. They were very sloppy with lackadaisical passes along the perimeter which led to a gluttony of turnovers. The huskies looked to run early and often and found no resistance to the rim and shot well from behind the arc. Without Dyson, this game showed the depth of the backcourt at Calhoun’s disposal.

Robinson played like a man possessed. He did a little of everything from hitting off-balanced jumpers, blocking shots, attacking the rim, posting up, and hitting from deep. If he contributes half of what he did in this game then UConn will be making some noise come March. But again these games can fool you. It was great to see Robinson aggressive with the ball in his hand and he used the glass to perfection.

Kemba had a solid game and was looking for his offense, especially without Dyson. He showed his improved range from hitting threes in transition and dribbling around screens. He also played a great isolation game, taking his man off the dribble and effectively attacking the rim. One thing that you can take away from this game is jump shots and it is encouraging to see Walker consistently knock them down.

The freshman Oriakhi lived up to the hype and pounded the undersized AIC squad. While he didn’t play solid man-to-man early and was yanked, he came back with a vengeance, controlling the boards offensively and defensively. He had some beautiful moves around the basket and showed a more fluid game then what we saw in Jeff Adrien. But again this team had no answer for his size.

Edwards showed a little with hitting an elbow jumper, blocking a shot, and showing a baby hook. He also was solid from the line hitting 5 of 7. He logged in the most minutes of all the huskies but needs to become a more solid rebounder. Five rebounds in thirty-three minutes isn’t expectable, not against this type of competition.

Okwandu looked uncomfortable and forced up shots. Patience will be a necessity when dealing with Charles. His game is raw and like Thabeet’s first season, as long as there is progression then he will be fine. Darius Smith had a solid first outing. He brought the ball up at times, hit shots, kept running and got his nose dirty for rebounds. Jamaal Trice had a quiet game. He didn’t hit the three ball well and was careless with the ball.

This game was exactly what was expected. AIC poised no threat the UConn, but it gave the huskies a chance to get their freshmen game time experience and see where they are at. The starters played well, though Calhoun will have plenty of motivation for the next practice, which is what he wants. It was a good game to knock the rust off and get into the routine of the long season.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Alumni Profile: Rip Hamilton

Name: Richard Hamilton

Team: Detroit Pistons

NBA Ranking: 62

Looking Back: Rip had a rough season. He lost his point guard and received Allen Iverson which plays Hamilton’s position. One of them had to take the backseat and Rip was demoted to the bench, which he did grudgingly. The Pistons faltered with the new transition and soon Rip regained his starting status and it resulted in a late season push to the playoffs. He never had a chance and they lost in a horrible series versus the Cavaliers.

The Good: It starts with an impeccable motor. Rip will run his defender through double or triple screens for quick released jumpers. It is impossible to defend and he has it down to a science. He is also a solid defender. Even for his small stature, he doesn’t mind tough man-to-man contact. Even though he is unorthodox in his free throw shooting, he is clutch.

The Bad: Rip is dependant on his jumper and if it isn’t there then his game suffers. He isn’t as prolific a three point threat as he should be. Not very athletic, Rip doesn’t have an above the rim aspect to his game. He’s also not very good at taking his man off the dribble and needs to have specific plays designed for him.

Looking Ahead: He’ll need to adjust to the new look Pistons. Rip will need to become a leader on this team, which is something he hadn’t needed to do with the Billups and Wallace on the team. This is a playoff quality squad but they’ll need to find their defensive identity to become a real contender in the East.

Emeka knows how to finish

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Around the League: Syracuse

This is the first installment of Around the League, a look at what other bloggers think about their teams. We start with Sean Keeley from the excellent website

How do you feel about the exodus of your key players?

The not-so-dirty secret is that Syracuse fans were actually kinda okay with losing Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris. Both brought a lot to the table with their abilities to score and make plays but both were prone for defensive lapses and brought a lot of off-the-court issues with them, especially Devo. We wouldn't have minded if they stuck around, but we're not crying about them leaving anymore.

We ARE crying about Jonny Flynn leaving. As evident from his debut in the NBA, he was ready to move on. Still, imagine what he could have done this year had he stayed in college. He would have dominated. He would have been the preseason Big East player of the year (imo). He would have been an All-American. And Syracuse would have been a preseason top ten team. That's how good he was.

How are the freshmen looking and who needs to step up?

We got a nice surprise in the first preseason game out of freshman James Sutherland. Sure it was against Cal State-LA but he showed up for 19 points and a game worthy of a "here I am" declaration. No one had him tabbed for much PT this year but that might change in a hurry. He's already drawing comparisons to solid former Orange, Preston Shumpert.

Brandon Triche is on schedule to be the heir apparent to Jonny. He's not quite the pure talent that Jonny was at his age but he's got a chip on his shoulder and the motivation of junior Scoop Jardine muscling for playing time. We expect him to step up and be a leader quickly.

For the upper-classmen, we're looking for Andy Rautins to be even more of a scorer and outside threat. We have huge expectations that transfer Wes Johnson is The Next Big Thing, Boeheim has already gone on record saying he could be a one-and-done player. And if Arinze Onuaku can get his free-throw shooting under control, he'll be one of the most feared big men in the nation.

Predictions on the upcoming Syracuse season?

I can see this team struggling with a lot of the top tier teams that have been together for a few years now. It's going to take some time for these guys to come together cohesively. The OOC schedule isn't too brutal other than the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic so they've got a chance to really work out the kinks before January. The Big East will be the Big East...every win will be hard to come by and valuable.

If I had to venture a guess, I'll put the Orange around 4th or 5th in the Big East when it's all said and done and a 6-seed in the NCAA Tournament.'s October...what the hell do I know?