Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Picking Up The Pieces


It was a must win for UConn. They had to have a full forty minutes of solid play, had to come out with a sense of urgency, and needed everyone to step up to beat a Providence team that sits near the bottom of the Big East cellar and they could not do it. They had everything going their way, gaining a 14 point lead, because they fed their big men down low and scored high percentage shots, but then came the bad UConn team that has shown up in each and every game this season. They fouled on defense and sent Coleman to the line, Giffey, Napier, and Boatright started to shoot three pointers (Message to UConn: You sit dead last in three point percentage), they let Providence get 4 offensive rebounds, and they once again let wide open shooters drain three after three after three. This team just can’t hold leads, doesn’t understand their strengths and weaknesses, and just played themselves out of the NCAA tournament.

Lamb reverted back into the black sheep. He took way too many 3-pointers, 7, didn’t get to the line once, and didn’t demand the ball early and often. He did make two vital 3-pointers late, but it was in that crucial Providence rally that he disappeared. He did rebound the ball better with 6, but it wasn’t enough and this team needed more leadership from him and he didn’t provide it.

For some reason, Napier is not taking shots, and it feels like he is doing so to prove a point. He struggled mightily down the stretch of this game, turning the ball over, taking poor 3-pointers, and couldn’t stop Providence’s outside shooters. He did get to the line late and sink them, but it was too little too late and fingers have to point to his decisions late in these past couple of games that have hurt this team. Boatright played well off the bench and did a better job of not relying on the 3-pointer, taking only 4 out of his 9 shots from deep. He also had 5 rebounds and 6 assists, but he also was nowhere down the stretch of this ball game when UConn desperately needed someone to step up.

This team lives and dies by their rebounding and they lost the battle again. Fingers have to be pointed at Oriakhi for just not showing up in the rebounding department. He ended his night with only 3. Napier, Lamb,and Boatright had more then that and it is hurting this team badly. His poor play had him riding the pine late in this ballgame. With Oriakhi struggling Drummond picked up the slack and had 12 boards and several dunks early. The only problem is that the team got away from feeding him inside and let the game get away from them. They started to panic and try to match three pointers instead of going to what got them the lead, Drummond and the inside game. There was also that poor called technical foul at the worst time that gave Providence a ton of momentum, but no one can point a finger at Andre for this loss.

Smith continued his good play offensively, hitting 4 of 6 from the field, but struggled to rebound the basketball with only one rebound and was caught not blocking out, giving up several offensive rebounds in that monster Providence comeback. This team needed him on the boards and he wasn’t there. Giffey got more minutes and was effective, but had a costly turnover on a bad pass that led to a Council lay-up. Olander had a nice jumper on the wing, but didn’t contribute on the boards in his limited minutes. Daniels played only 3 minutes and had a board and a block.

Where does this team go from here? They are a fatally flawed team. They can’t rebound, are getting slaughtered from deep, are guaranteed to have a 5 to 7 minute offensive drought sometime in a game, and foul too much on defense. They don’t deserve a tournament berth, not with the way this team is playing and it is a shame. These are good kids and the effort is there, but it is all about execution and it is severely lacking on all facets of their game. For now they need to pick up the pieces, find a way to glue them back together, and pray for some of those dark clouds that are hovering over this team to dissipate, because things are pretty bleak right about now.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Josh Boone Sighting in CBA





Jim Calhoun's Surgery a Success

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Through Their Fingers


It is all about the rebounding with UConn. When Syracuse went on their run in the first half, they out rebounded UConn by ten. The Orange were able to get second and third opportunities in which they converted. They also were able to get to the rim too easily throughout the game with little to no help to seal up the lane for charges. But UConn was able to turn the tables on Syracuse by giving them a taste of their own medicine. They attacked the glass with the help of Drummond, Smith, and Oriakhi. Credit has to go to Syracuse who was the better team. They played well in what had to be one of the best crowds ever at Gampel and made the plays down the stretch. UConn just couldn’t put together the stops down the stretch or get a good shot in the closing seconds, but they played hard, showed heart, and played together. UConn fans have to be proud of that.

Lamb had a good game. His energy and effort was all over the court from following up a missed floater to battling in that zone for two offensive rebounds. He did struggle defensively in the first half and wasn’t rotating back on defense or running hard. He did end up with 19 points and 7 boards but could’ve done more in the zone instead of settling for the three pointer, taking 8 and only making 2. They need to find ways of getting him into the middle of the zone without the basketball because he is one of the best in the country on the mid-ranged game. He only got to the line three times, because he had a hard time penetrating the zone. It was a good sign to see him more decisive with the ball though and the team needs him to take more of a leadership role in the offense.

Napier did his best Rajon Rondo impersonation, not looking for his shot and made it a determination to get assists. He did get 7 assists, but this team needed more then 3 field goal attempts from Napier. He had several open shots, some ten feet and out, and didn’t take it. He also didn’t get to the line, where with his speed and dribbling skills, he should have had several trips. His poor decision on a three point attempt late in the ballgame took away a vital possession and he needed to make a better play. Boatright’s outside shooting was key to keeping UConn in this game, but like Lamb he settled for too many, taking 8 attempts from beyond the arc. He only had one field goal that wasn’t from deep and he also needs to find ways to getting into the lane to find trips to the line. He didn’t take one free throw attempt. Without Napier’s scoring, his points were vital. He struggled to keep his defender in front of him throughout the game and several of his defenders found easy lanes directly to the basket.

Drummond was a beast. He had several dunks against the zone and attacked the glass for seven offensive rebounds. He did a good job of staying out of foul trouble and played 29 minutes and UConn needed every minute, because he was the only big man rebounding out there. Oriakhi’s game came in spurts. At times he was losing rebounds out of his hands, took his quick off balanced shots, and lost his man on defense, but then he would have monster put-backs and be aggressive on the glass. He just needs to be consistent.

Roscoe Smith had his best game of the year. He backed up a his solid performance against Villanova with a great outing against the Syracuse zone. His energy and efficiency in the center of the zone was vital to UConn’s comeback and he nearly got the winning basket in the final seconds. He also played great defense. Daniels had a freshman-like game. He took two bad three pointers, when he is one of UConn’s worst shooters. He also didn’t rebound the ball and needs to contribute more there. Giffey passed up some open looks to take the ball to the basket but they didn’t fall. Olander only played a sprinkling of minutes because Oriakhi and Drummond stayed out of foul trouble. He did have two rebounds and two blocks in his five minutes.

UConn let a great opportunity slip through their fingers and are now in tournament mode. They can not lose these next two game against Providence and Pittsburgh, but if they play with the same tenacity and heart, they should be able to win the next two games. They just need to clean up the defense in some areas, especially walling off that dribble penetration, rebound like they did in the second half of this game, and attack the rim on offense then they should be in good position heading into selection Sunday, but one thing we know about this team is that there is no telling which team is going to show up not only in the game but in which half. Time has run out and the sense of urgency from this team has to be palpable or they’ll be on the outside looking in.




Saturday, February 25, 2012

Five Keys to Beating Syracuse


1. Rebounding: It feels like whenever UConn out rebounds their opponents, they get the victory. That has to do with stopping teams from second and third chances at the basket and creating scoring opportunities for the front court off of put-backs, because they have struggled to find consistency in the half court sets. It also means that Syracuse will be missing shots, especially from the perimeter. UConn has had a hard time corralling those long rebounds off missed 3-pointers and they need the wings to contribute more in that department. If they can out rebound Syracuse then they will more then likely get the win.

2. Defend without fouling: They’ve had a hard time as of late to defend with their body and not with their hands. They’ve been in the bonus early and often in both halves and have put undo pressure on their offense to keep up while their opponents stand at the line and extend the lead. When was the last time that UConn had a charge called against an opponent? The back court has had a hard time of staying in front of their man and has put unnecessary fouls on the big men helping out.

3. Get to the line: This team has had a hard time of getting their best free throw shooters to the line, but when they do the offense is playing at their best, because it is a sign that the back court is being aggressive. If Lamb, Napier, and Boatright are creating plays while heading towards the rim, instead of settling for perimeter shots off the dribble, then there seems to be more fluidity in the offense. Free throws from Drummond are almost a turnover and Oriakhi is having problems sinking that first attempt. Most UConn fans are used to their team making more free throws then their opponents take but that hasn't happened this season.

4. Avoid turnovers: While it is obvious that this is a key to any victory, it is the type of turnovers that they need to avoid. It is the ones that feed Syracuse’s deadly fast break that they want to avoid. Blaney can live with the offensive fouls or aggressive plays that gives Syracuse the ball out of bounds, but lazy passes and sloppy ball handling are a sure way of getting beat. You need to limit Syracuse to the half court sets and not give this team undo momentum.

5. Transition defense: They can not have the type of effort on the transition defense that they have had throughout this past month and expect a victory. Lamb, Napier, and Boatright need to be running back after each and every shot goes up, depending the play. If they want to win this game, they need to keep the Orange in the half court. It is those fast break plays off of misses or in-bounding the ball that cost UConn in their last game against Syracuse.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

On the Brink


It was a rollercoaster of a game from what started out as a Villanova blowout, to a back and forth affair, then UConn had complete control of the game, to them blowing the lead and not sealing the game because of poor free throw shooting, and then in the closing seconds UConn did what they haven’t done all season, they made a play to win a game. Sure there were still signs that this team is far from putting their troubles behind them, from getting out rebounded again, to fouling too much on defense, to taking way too many 3-pointers, and to not making free throws, but it has been those final five minutes of ballgames that have plagued this team all season and they did what they had to do to pull out a victory.

It was Lamb’s night and he took control of this team and carried them to this victory. He started out settling for the outside shot and they weren’t falling, but then he decided to head towards the basket and his whole night turned around. He had the mid-ranged game working from the floater, to creating off the dribble, and to coming off screens. UConn fans were waiting for this performance from him and he finally took the reins of the offense. He did miss a crucial one-and-one late in the game that would’ve sealed the game but other then that he had his best game of his career. Hopefully this is the new and improved Lamb because this team can't have him revert.

Napier had a strange game. He didn’t start. They said that it was because of an injury, but with him playing 30 minutes, it seems more like a message to keep his chatter about the team in-house. He struggled from the field and had some costly turnovers for most of the night. But there he was sitting on the bench throughout most of the overtime and then he came in the closing minutes to hit an epic shot in the final seconds of the ballgame. He still needs to put together a better performance in the last five minutes of the ballgame though which was why Blaney sat him in overtime. Boatright had another poor shooting game, but contributed in key stretches. He also did a great job of taking care of the ball, only having 1 turnover, but it was his inability to play under control that got him into most of his troubles.

Oriakhi once again got into early foul trouble and found himself sitting on the bench. He struggled to rebound the basketball, only having 4 rebounds, but he found ways to get involved including a major put-back in the waning seconds of regulation. Drummond had a great rebounding performance with 11 and protected the rim with 4 blocks. He also did a good job to not foul on defense, ending the game without a foul. Olander had another rough game having only one rebound and making one shot. He also took two three pointers when he shouldn’t be shooting anything farther then 15 feet.

Smith had his best game all season. He was active throughout the night, rebounding the ball, hitting his jumpers, and playing solid defense. This is a great confidence boost for him. Daniels also did a good job, hitting a 3-pointer and playing with more conviction, but needs to contribute more in the rebounding department. It was a great sign to see the wings contribute in positive ways in this game and hopefully it continues moving forward.

While this game does little to cure all UConn’s ills, it showed a Husky team with a little heart and maybe a leader in Lamb who finally stepped up and made play after play, especially late in the ballgame. The defense needs to do a better job of not fouling, they need the front court to rebound the basketball better, and Napier needs to find a happy medium to where he gets his shot but also runs the offense through Lamb, because right now their chemistry has put this season on the brink. They need these two to figure it out because they both have the future of this team in their hands and right now it can go anywhere they decide it to.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Second Gear


Nothing new here. It was another game where a team hits shot after shot from deep, they get easy opportunities off of poor UConn transition defense, and UConn’s offense lacked any type of consistency to overcome double digit leads. This team that has all the talent in the world at every position to match up with with any other team in the country, but unlike those this teams, this one isn't playing for each other but instead is playing for themselves. They point fingers at each other, jump up and down when they don’t get the ball, and hijack the offense when they feel determined that it is their turn to take a shot. It is unfortunate especially for the juniors who might not get a chance to make the tournament next year.

Lamb was on fire to start the game, banking in a floater, knocking down a step back jumper, hitting another off the screen, and sinking one more. He couldn’t contain the pace that Marquette’s hot shooters were dropping, but he carried UConn with his 19 points. He had a few bad turnovers in the second half and some poor shooting decisions with quick three point attempts, but he also had a sweet dunk and two 3-pointers. It was a much better performance because he wasn't settling for the three pointer as much and tried desperately to create off the dribble.

Napier had a point guard like performance and did a great job taking care of the basketball. It was unacceptable though to let your frustrations with your teammates spill over so much where he was seen heading to the bench ignoring his teammates and sulking. He did step up his play after that though and helped UConn get back into this game, but he couldn’t sustain the momentum. Boatright had a freshman-like game, hitting a couple of 3-pointers but also having a momentum stealing technical foul. He also led the team in turnovers again and needs to do a better job of taking care of the ball. He is going a bit too fast right now and needs to slow down a bit.

Oriakhi had a hard time dealing with the smaller Marquette team. He had two early turnovers and got his second foul early on in the first half. He did do a better job in the second half with a lay-up, two dunks, and got to the line, but to only have three rebounds in a game where you needed to dominate is unacceptable. Drummond had a sweet reverse, a steal, and an offensive rebound & put-back in the first half. His play dropped off in the second with two bad shots while in the post, he had a dunk, but played bad defense fouling a three pointer and gave up a free throw rebound. He too only had 4 rebounds and that is a major reason why UConn lost this game. Some of the problem was not their fault. They found themselves in foul trouble because of poor defense from the back court that sent opponents into the lane where they had to help out and the referees had a bad game, but that doesn't excuse the rebounding.

Olander had a rough game, giving up two transition scores because of not running back, ran into Napier after setting a screen, had a bad pass, and missed a wide open lay-up. He did have a lay-up and got to the line. He also had one rebound less then what Oriakhi could muster and did it in half the minutes. With all the fouls occurring to UConn’s big men, Ensoch Wolf got some playing time and had a block, an offensive rebound, and showed some energy out there. He deserves more of a look.

Smith had an offensive rebound and put-back & 1, sank a jumper, but also had a major offensive foul that killed what would have been a Boatright 3-pointer. Daniels struggled against the pressure and was trapped several times. He also struggled with his shot. Giffey struggled defensively and didn’t get much action. This should have been a great opportunity for the wing position to get minutes because of the match-ups but they didn't produce.

No perimeter defense, Individual offensive mindsets, and Transition defense ineptitude leads to one thing: N.I.T. It is a shame and with the soft bubble that makes up the NCAA landscape this year, UConn only has itself to blame. UConn fans are used to their teams improving throughout the season, but this team seems stuck in second gear and just can’t find the clutch. There are some glaring problems and little to no time to turn this around. All you can do is support and even that is waning.



Thursday, February 16, 2012

No Wiggle Room


It wasn’t perfect but it was a victory and UConn needed it in the worst way. They got out to a fast start, dropping a couple of jumpers and 3-pointers, but it was a blessing in disguise because they began to settle for jumpers instead of attacking DePaul inside where they had a major advantage. Once again the jumpers dried up and DePaul was able to capitalize on UConn’s lackluster transition defense. It was in the second half that UConn began to pound their way inside with easy and high percentage baskets. They also dominated on the boards out rebounding DePaul by 23 and they had 20 offensive rebounds. When was the last time UConn had that big of an advantage on the boards? It was also great to see a team struggle from deep for once, though DePaul was missing their best perimeter player. It was a much needed confidence booster for the struggling Huskies and they have a glimmer of hope heading into their final stretch.

Jeremy Lamb finally had a good shooting game and he didn’t settle for three pointers. Only 4 of his 13 attempts were from deep. He also helped out on the boards and even had an offensive rebound. This team needs this type of performance from him for the rest of the season. The offense plays much better when it flows through Lamb and he is moving towards the basket with the ball.

All you need to know about Napier’s night was his 11 assists. He was making great decisions with the ball and making plays while in the lane. Like Lamb, he didn’t take a ton of 3-pointers, only 4 of his 12 shots, but he managed the game and showed some maturity. All great signs. He also took care of the basketball and hopefully the he is finding the right pace to play at to utilize his speed without losing the basketball. Boatright had a rough game. He couldn’t finish plays and had way too many turnovers. But he did do a good job of getting to the line, help out on the weak side rebounding, and find his teammates in positions to score, but his turnovers fueled runs for the DePaul and helped their first half lull in their offense.

Oriakhi had his best game of the season. He finally made plays with his back to the basket, got offensive put-backs, rebounded the ball better, showed a nice baseline jumper and didn’t turn the ball over. He still needs to be stronger with the ball while rebounding, but this should give him the confidence going forward, but his major problem is being able to string together good games. Drummond hasn’t had a problem doing that. He again showed his above the rim game in transition, kept Cleveland Melvin in check, and made play after play on the offensive glass. It was a thorough annihilation by the front court and that is a great sign.

Olander was coming off his best game in nearly a month and while he didn’t score much, he did a great job in rebounding. He is probably UConn’s best position rebounder on the team. Hopefully he can find his jumper again because teams unlike DePaul will be playing a majority of zone against them and his jumper will come in handy. DeAndre Daniels had a great opportunity with Roscoe Smith out with an Achilles injury. He got off to a fast start, hitting two 3-pointers but then began to settle for the outside shot which young players tend to do. He did get to the line and had an offensive rebound, but it was a shaky game for him. Giffey played five minutes and wasn’t much of a factor. There was a Enosch Wolf sighting for about 1 minute.

It was a great win and much needed. They now have a great opportunity against a scrappy Marquette squad. While this game was never in doubt, UConn still needs to play better, clean up the transition defense, take better care of the basketball and not settle for the outside shot so much. They’ll need a sense of urgency from here on out because there is no wiggle room. They need victories and they have only a handful of games to get them from. This next game is going to be a great indicator of what this team is made out of, because if they can overcome the adversity that they were given in this past month and a half, and make it into postseason play, then this team has already won in most of the eyes of the fans.

UConn vs. DePaul Pre-Game

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Black Clouds


It is hard to figure out why this team collapses in the final five minutes of halves. They’ve done it all season, against all kinds of talents, at home or away, and it reared its ugly head again, marring what had been a pretty good thirty minutes of basketball. UConn’s offense was much better, they attacked the rim, settled for threes only after the ball was penetrated, and made jump shots and free throws. They played well on defense too and credit Syracuse for knocking down three pointers from five feet and beyond the arch or banking them in. This should’ve been at least a confidence booster for this squad but instead it leaves this team shaking their head, pointing fingers, and wallowing in what has to be one of UConn’s worst weeks from news of losing next season’s post season to more than likely not getting into this one.

Lamb had a much better game. He was creating more plays while heading towards the basket, sinking floaters, had a dunk, and got to the line a bunch. He also found his range again, knocking down two 3-pointers. He does need to do better on the defensive end. He's getting hung up on screens, losing his man in transition, and not getting a hand up on a shooter, but overall it was a better showing and much needed, though he disappeared down the stretches of both halves. It needs to be noted that it was after Lamb’s last dunk, where he came up limping, that Syracuse made their monster run and buried UConn.

It wasn’t perfect for Napier, but it was improved. He at least found his jumper, sinking two 3-pointers and made a variety of plays in the lane. Like Lamb, he needs to be a better defender and wasn’t stopping the ball early in transition. His job is to get back on defense and protect the back end from easy transition points and he isn't doing that. Boatright had a great game and carried the offense early with three 3-pointers in the first half, but he also gave up some easy baskets on the other end to let Syracuse create runs. But without his performance, the game would’ve been over ten minutes in. While the three guard line-up is UConn's best, it hasn't gelled yet and time is running out.

Drummond was a beast and while it took him awhile to get going, once he did he was a force in the paint, outplaying Melo. He had three dunks, a jumper, a spinning lay-up, and multiple offensive rebounds. But once he twisted his ankle and was out for a bit so were UConn’s chances at winning this game, because it was obvious that he wasn’t the same when he came back and that momentum that they had quickly disappeared. Oriakhi had two early fouls and didn’t do much in the first half except a dunk. He couldn’t get anything going in the second either and had trouble blocking out and he rushed plays when he had the ball, creating sloppy low percentage shots at the rim. This team needed him badly with Drummond injured and he just couldn't make plays.

Olander looked much improved and had an off-balanced lay-up & 1, and had a sweet flying dunk & 1. He moved much better and rebounded the ball with some nice position block outs. He still needs to find that 15-footer, especially against the zone. Smith had a bad game. He did have a reverse, but then had two horrible passes, a travel and fouled a jump shooter on a pump fake. Giffey had a block but is missing his three pointers.

There seems to be a black cloud over this team. Where do you go from here? They played better, but it still led to a blowout. They certainly had a shot at this game, but unlike other games where it was UConn's self-inflicted wounds that caused the loss, credit goes to Syracuse for knocking down shot after shot. Sometimes it just isn’t your season. Teams that aren’t good three point shooting teams knock down sixty percent on them, big men who never had a jumper knock down four or five, and teams that aren’t known for rebounding crash the boards for second and third chance opportunities. It is frustrating and you have to feel bad for these kids, because they are playing hard and it just isn’t going their way. Hopefully some of these clouds part and a bit of sunshine can come out, because right now it just isn't looking good.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Shellacked


It was an utter collapse. Sure Louisville was knocking down threes, but to let all those easy baskets off simple defensive rebounds is unacceptable. It was a lack of effort and that isn’t UConn basketball. The offense is the same ole dribbling around and taking low percentage shots. They needed to do two things, win the rebounding battle and not turn the ball over and they were slaughtered on both, giving up 14 offensive boards and turning the ball over 15 times for a grand total of 29 extra looks at the basket, a sure recipe for a butt whipping. The defense, which was the only redeeming quality throughout UConn’s horrible stretch, was atrocious. They over helped, leaving wide open shooters on the perimeter and Louisville, not a good three point shooting team, knocked down jumper after jumper, but it was the transition defense that was severely lacking, creating what should have been a ten point lead into a thirty point blowout.

Lamb needed to be aggressive but after an offensive foul in the first half, he reverted back to jacking up three pointers, not taking a single free throw all game. Five of his nine field goals were from deep and that is unacceptable. He needs to have at least four mid-ranged shots either off double screens or off pump fakes, he needs to take one or more floaters, about four or less three point attempts, and three drives to the basket. That is about thirteen to fourteen attempts a game. Instead he sees one three pointer go in and he starts settling.

Napier needs to stop taking three pointers. It isn’t working and it is hurting the team. Instead he needs to drive to the basket and dish out to the wings more, he needs to use screens without the basketball to take mid ranged shots, and he needs to stop dribbling the ball so much, getting caught up in the air, or making poor passes in traffic. He is playing the game too fast. Slow down, make the simple pass, and trust in the offensive set. It is all mental right now for him and his lack of confidence and poor body language is rubbing off on the team.

Boatright looked good early on, but fell off when he forced the issue too much. He still had more points then Lamb and Napier combined, had more rebounds then Drummond, and doubled the assists then everyone on the team combined. He needed help and everyone folded up with ten minutes to go in the game. He needs to be the primary ball handler now while this team is in crisis mode.

Drummond continues to play outside himself. He needs to play with his back to the basket and use a quick hook shot or turn and face the rim then take his man off the dribble, but until he improves his free throw shooting, he should never shoot a 15-footer anymore. He also wasn’t running hard in transition or going up strong for boards, instead waiting for the ball. Go after the ball. It was a shame that a good showing by Oriakhi was wasted on this embarrassing game. He again came a few rebounds away from a double-double. But with all that, he still is rebounding weakly, letting others get inside position or rip the ball away from him. He also needs to do more in that open space in the zone, run more, and attack the glass offensively for second chance points. Olander had a bad outing and was destroyed rebounding, letting Louisville have easy baskets on offensive rebounds. He also played poor defense.

Smith did a good job. He knocked down a few shots, rebounded well, and got to the line, but he was a major culprit in not running back on defense. No more three point attempts for Daniels. He needs to pump fake and take the mid-ranged shot. He had some poor defensive and rebounding plays. Like Smith, the wings are responsible for getting back and they didn’t. Giffey played late in the game and didn’t do much.

Every time you think things can’t get worse they do. Every flaw this team had was on display, out rebounded, destroyed from deep, sloppy turnovers, poor half court offense, lack of leadership, lazy transition defense, silly passes and poor shooting. And now they face Syracuse. Not good, but this team is going to have to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and show some pride. They might not be heading to the NCAA tournament but this team has too much pride and work ethic then what is being shown on the court right now. Time to decide how this team is going to be defined, either as one that collapsed or persevered, but the end of this story is up to them.



Monday, February 6, 2012

January


It was a January to forget for UConn. It started out with a blow out by Seton hall for their worst loss of year, they struggled against an inferior Rutgers team, then got a win against a gritty West Virginia squad, they put together their best game of the month in a win against Notre Dame, then lost a heartbreaker at home versus Cincinnati, they went out of conference and struggled against Tennessee, and finished it up with a horrible offensive performance against Notre Dame. It doesn’t look good and they are reeling with their season on the brink. The backcourt has been the only offensive threat all month, but remained inconsistent in the half court sets. The frontcourt has remained non-existent and has struggled rebounding the basketball. The wings haven’t played a lot of minutes to contribute much and aren’t helping out in the one department that they need to, rebounding. It has all added up to mediocrity and that can’t be settling well with Calhoun, considering the talent on this team.

It all boils down to leadership with Lamb. All the talent is on display for him from a soft jumper, consistent floater, and an above the rim game, but he settles too much for jumpers and doesn’t get to the line, which is creating long stretches in games where he doesn’t contribute offensively. He also is turning the ball over too much and needs to be more decisive with the ball. With only two true scorers on this team, there is a ton of pressure on Lamb to produce and he’s been reluctant to take the team on his shoulders.

Where would this team be without Napier? He’s been the best player throughout the month. He’s had the burden of trying to make others better and still have to put up near twenty points a game. There were two games where he single handedly almost brought UConn back to steal games, but its obvious that he can’t do it alone. Without much help from the big men, Napier has been limited to making plays with ten seconds to go on the shot clock.

Boatright had a tough month. He’s had to sit out much of the month with the NCAA following up on an investigation into his eligibility because his mother’s ex-boyfriend tipped off the NCAA on some infractions. But before his hiatus, he was struggling to find his offense and he tended to be less aggressive in the three guard line-up.

Drummond had his ups and downs but remained UConn’s best option for offense in the paint. He still lacks a post game and is horrible at the line, but he makes up for that with his blocking and rebounding. It will be interesting to see how he finishes up this season and if he can take that next step in his progression, but if the season ended right now, he isn’t ready for the next level and could possibly lose millions of dollars.

It is amazing that Oriakhi continues to have the season that he is having. There are grumblings that he just can’t co-exist in Drummond’s shadow, but that is non-sense. His problem is that he isn’t utilizing his strength inside to get rebounds. He needs that Jeff Adrien style, throw them elbows and go get the ball. He also is lackadaisical with his rebounding and tends to let guards swipe the ball away.

Ever since Olander hurt his heel, he hasn’t been the same. His jumper looks off, he isn’t rebounding, and isn’t playing good defense. It went unnoticed how much he made an impact off the bench, like Gavin Edwards had done. Hopefully he gets healed up and finishes strong.

Giffey had a solid month. For a lanky body that isn’t athletic, he has great footwork on defense, and he is finally getting confidence in his perimeter game. He just needs to do some of the little things, like weak side rebounding and developing a mid-ranged shot.

Smith has had an inconsistent month. He’s not going to give Calhoun fifteen points a game, but he doesn’t need to. What this team needs out of him is rebounding and defense. While he does do that, there are stretches that he disappears in.

It’s been a frustrating season for Daniels. He showed a lot of promise in the pre-season, but he hasn’t been able to find the bucket on his jumpers and it doesn’t help that he plays only a sprinkling of minutes a game. He’ll have time to develop but if he doesn’t rebound better then the minutes will flow to Smith.

UConn now sits waist deep in a hole that they have just dug and February won’t get any easier. They need to win games and do so in a hurry, because it doesn’t look good. They just aren’t a good team and when they are losing home games and in the fashion that they are, then you know something is fundamentally wrong. There is a lot of blame to go around. You can throw out words like leadership, selfishness, or underachieving, but the bottom line is they aren’t getting multiple stops and get consistent offense. It is in these situations where you find what a true character of a team is. Will they fold or will they pick themselves off the mat and turn this around?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Finally!


This was exactly what this team needed. With Calhoun out with a major back injury, a four game losing streak, and their season teetering on the brink of an NIT abyss, UConn put together a solid, but still flawed, effort against a Seton Hall team, minus their best player and in the midst of their own losing streak. The offense still struggled for consistency and had a few draughts throughout the game, but unlike the other games, UConn didn’t rely on the three pointer to get their points and instead was aggressive and took it to the basket and was awarded with 26 trips to the line. They also got contributions from the bench in a multitude ways from rebounding, defense, to scoring. Their heads are now above water, but they still have a ton of work to get done from limiting their sloppy play, poor shooting decisions, and lack of consistent half court offense. But the one thing that no one can blame during the four game losing streak was the defense and they put together another gem.

The only thing you need to know about Jeremy Lamb’s game was that he got to the line 12 times. That shows an aggressiveness that is vital to his game. He needs to hover around that amount in every game. It takes the pressure off his jumper, stops droughts, and doesn’t allow his opponent to ride his shooting hand. He got off to fast start, knocking down a 3-pointer, had an aggressive runner, a hustle tie-up in the first half. In the second half he had a 3-pointer and a lay-up. It wasn’t a great shooting game for him but he rebounded the ball, got to the line, and played solid defense, which is some of the little things that he hasn't been doing.

Napier has been in an incredible funk as of late and finally got his first field goal in three games late in the first half on a pull-up. It was the only one that he had all game. He wasn’t forcing shots up, taking only six field goals, and he found a way to get to the line on dribble penetration. He also had one of his best rebounding games, 8. His sloppy ball handling once came into play again and needs to clear that up. He also got into a scrum with Jordan Theodore. He needs to get himself back on track, especially in the next couple of games against better talent.

Boatright had a great game. He had two steals that led to a dunk and a lay-up, he had a floater, a sweet change of direction shot in mid-air, a jumper, bank in, and a few sweet passes. The only knock on his game was his 4 turnovers, but without his offense this game would have been another frustrating loss. He has that scorers mentality and with Napier's slump, the offense needs to flow through him more.

Oriakhi had a great game and nearly got a double-double. He had a nice lay-up & 1, two spinning lay-ups, a slam, a hustle board, and a block. He still found a way to get a rebound swiped from his hands and had a horrible pass, but this was a much better Oriakhi. His problem is that he hasn't been able to string together good games. Drummond played a limited first half, getting two early fouls and he didn’t have much of an impact offensively other then a jumper and dunk & 1 which he surprisingly made the free throw, but it was his 7 blocks that had a Hasheem Thabeet like impact in the paint. Olander continues to search for that spark that he had earlier in this season. He did have 6 points, a block, a steal, went 2-2 from the line, and had three boards. But it is obvious that he isn't the same player out there.

Smith also had a good game and had back-to-back jumpers, a steal, and a deflection. He has become more and more reliable off the bench and is doing the little things that this team needs. Daniels played only three minutes but rebounded the ball better in that time which is a good sign. Giffey also played a limited role playing only 7 minutes and missed all his three point attempts. Enosch Wolf and Brendan Allen both got into the game but didn’t get into the stat book.

A win is a win and UConn desperately needed one, but they still need to clean some things up and need a much better showing against a potent Louisville team. The Cardinals will feed off those UConn turnovers and UConn’s offense isn’t potent enough right now to find themselves down by double digits. They’ll need to win the rebounding battle, continue their stellar defense, remain aggressive and hope that Napier and Lamb’s jumpers comes around. They desperately need some momentum heading into the final stretch of the regular season. But for the time being, smile kids.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Big East Power Rankings


1. Syracuse. (even) No surprise here. Syracuse is propping up the Big East at this point and is running away with the regular season title. The only question is their rebounding, which has caused them to have a few close games as of late. Syracuse can pour on the points holding the top offense in the league at 77.4.

2. Georgetown. (+2)The team is gelling at the right time. Georgetown has the best perimeter defense in the league. Hollis Thompson and Jason Clark are leading this resurgent Hoyas team.

3. Marquette. (+3) This team plays hard on both ends of the court and Buzz Williams has done a great job of having players buy into their roles.

4 Cincinnati. (+6) The three guard line-up has done wonders to this team and has Cincinnati primed for another NCAA tournament run. Cincinnati is relying on the three ball and it is an effective weapon, hitting a league high of .365 a game.

5. West Virginia. (+4) They are a solid unit and have the Big East Player of the Year on their team in Kevin Jones, but they just can’t break into the top echelon of teams yet.

6. Notre Dame. (+6) Their style of play frustrates teams and it is working. They play consistent offense, don’t turn the ball over and limit possessions. The emergence of Jerian Grant and Jack Cooley have fueled the Irish’s run.

7. USF. (+9) This is the most surprising team in the Big East and it is good to see. The Bulls have hung their hat on defense and hold that top spot allowing teams only 59 points a game but the downside to that is that they have the worst offense in the league at 62.1 a game.

8. Seton Hall. (-3) After having a fantastic start to the Big East season, the Pirates have come to earth a bit. They need to find the magic again.

9. Louisville. (-7) It is hard to figure out what type of team Louisville is. They have the talent to beat just about anyone in the country but haven’t found the consistency.

10. Connecticut. (-7) It has been a month to forget for the Huskies. Like Louisville, UConn hasn’t been able to utilize all the talent on their team. UConn is getting beat by the three ball and holds the worst perimeter defense in the conference.

11. St. John’s. (+4) They are definitely a better team then in November and December, but they put themselves in too big of a hole to get out of. The arrow is pointing up for them though. They hold the worst three point percentage.

12. Rutgers. (+1) They are a tough out but their isn’t enough pieces to break through the middle of the Big East pack. The emergence of Eli Carter has stabilized a lackluster offense and Rutgers now has something to build around.

13. Villanova. (+1) Jay Wright just hasn’t been able to find the right combination to get victories, but don’t be surprised if they don’t knock some of the top teams off, because they do have talent but just aren’t knocking down shots and they turn the ball over way too much, holding the league’s worst turnover margin.

14. Pittsburgh. (-7) The Panthers are getting better, but don’t have victories to show for it. The offense just can’t make up for their defensive woes. They do hold the leagues best rebounding margin though.

15. DePaul. (-4) They just don’t have the talent to compete yet, but with a little bit of experience, this team should be improved. Until DePaul improves their league worst defense this team will continue to struggle.

16. Providence. (-8) It is a disaster for the Friars. Their heralded class of freshmen are just not ready for primetime and are struggling for consistency.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rock Bottom


Just when you think that things can’t get any worse, UConn found a way. They couldn’t buy a basket with Lamb, Napier, and Boatright shooting 4 for 31. Every jumper bounced out or didn’t hit iron but they continued to jack up horrible shots that weren’t in any sort of rhythm or fluid half court offense. Things looked good early with the new line-up with nice inside passes that had UConn out to a fast start, but then came their selfish and sloppy play where they jacked up horrible 3-pointers, off balance jumpers, forced offensive fouls, and turned the ball over with lazy passes. Sure there will be nights where they aren't going to shoot the ball well, but that means you play your game differently. You take the ball to the basket, see the ball go in a couple of times, or you attack the glass for second chance opportunities, but instead they diddled around the perimeter until ten in the shot clock and hoisted bad threes. That's not going to get it done.

It was obvious that Lamb had a horrible game, but he isn’t getting the ball in any rhythm and when he did, he knocked down those shots. He isn’t the type of player where he can take his opponent off the dribble. Instead he needs the ball in his hands where he can go right into his shot. He also isn’t getting open on screens through this horrible losing streak which is his fault. He needs to rub his man off the screens and cut harder. He also took way too many 3-pointers, 11, especially when it was obvious he wasn’t knocking them down. He needs utilize his pump fake and create contact or take a step in for a mid-ranged shot. His major problem is that he settles for the easy play.

Can it get any worse for Napier? He once again didn’t have a field goal and this team just can’t compete without his offensive help. It’s frustrating to see him jack up horrible 3-pointers and not get any dribble penetration. His poor play has now moved over into his defense where he had multiple lapses that led to easy Georgetown points. Boatright started out fantastic having an early steal and back-to-back-to-back nice dishes that gave UConn an early lead, but as soon as he took a seat with two fouls he couldn’t get his luster back. Even though he struggled, he deserves to start again because of his ability to increase the tempo.

Drummond was again the sole bright spot. He finished strong around the basket and rebounded the ball with strength. He still struggles with his back to the basket and hasn’t developed a go-to-move and settles for fall away jumpers, but with no other help around him, he has been the anchor inside. Oriakhi is playing so bad that he is losing valuable playing time to the wing position. He had a rebound stolen from him, a moving screen, and an offensive foul. It will be interesting to see how his minutes go. Enosch Wolf finally got into the game where he had a foul before Georgetown inbounded the ball and was immediately back on the bench. Talk about a short leash.

Olander had a nice lay-up, a couple of nice passes, and a jumper, but he is still a shell of what he was earlier this season. His mid-ranged game is sorely missed. Daniels continues to search for his jumper but he began taking the ball to the basket and attack the glass and was rewarded with a lay-up and a put-back. It was his best outing in a long time. Giffey had an offensive rebound but missed an open three. Smith played better. He had an early jumper and had five rebounds.

The disaster continues and it doesn’t look like it is going to be fixed any time soon. This team hasn’t been able to get any semblance of offense all season, has had problems with leads against inferior teams, had long offensive droughts, and can’t get multiple stops to create runs. It adds up to mediocrity and it is a shame because they have the talent, the coaching, and the opportunity to change this around, especially in a league that is beating each other up, but there has been nothing in the past month that gives anyone the feeling that this can be fixed. They've hit rock bottom and now it is time to see what the true character of this team is.

Hoyas Hand Huskies 4th Straight Loss. Watch more top selected videos about: Sports, Georgetown Hoyas