Monday, April 30, 2012

Rudy Gay on loss to Clippers

Ray Allen on the Big Four

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Jumping Ship


The news that Roscoe Smith is transferring UConn was a bit of a shock. Here is a glue player, running away with the sixth man of the year award, that has come on late in both his freshman and sophomore seasons. He would be coming into a situation where he would be playing a larger role then what he had in his prior years, and even though UConn might miss both the Big East and NCAA tournaments, he would still have the opportunity to play in those in his senior year. Drummond and Lamb leaving were no brainers, Oriakhi was a senior and even Bradley would do well with a much needed change of scenery, but this move just doesn't seem beneficial. There has to be more to this story then missing a chance at the post-season, because making the tournament isn't a guarantee.

This transfer automatically puts DeAndre Daniels into major minutes. While Roscoe and Daniels both play the same position, their games, as of now, are totally different. Smith did start out shooting the outside shots but soon realized that attacking the glass and playing staunch defense was the way to get minutes. He was one of UConn’s most consistent ten feet and out players and did a great job on the glass. Daniels hasn’t developed that mentality yet and that is vital for UConn to have on the wing, especially with the smaller line-up. The sophomore will need to bulk up some more and be willing to battle on the boards because with Smith gone, UConn has only Olander as a veteran rebounder. Wolf has the bulk and size to be effective but hasn't been able translate that to the court.

So what is the real reason for Smith's sudden departure? Was there a rift between Smith and some of the other players still on UConn’s roster? There is no telling, but something just doesn’t add up. He’ll find a fit as a glue guy on a variety of rosters, but he will not covet the attention that Oriakhi did. Oriakhi is a senior that needed to showcase his skills now because this is his last shot to get into the lottery. For Smith to get into the lottery this year or next, he would have to metamorphosis into a legit twenty point scorer. Unless Calhoun was holding him back offensively, Smith at the best would be a ten point and ten rebound performer. Not enough to change his draft status.

Assuming that the transfers are done and the roster will consist of starters of Omar Calhoun, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Tyler Olander, and Enosch Wolf. They might move Calhoun to the bench for DeAndre Daniels but the talented freshman will be playing starter minutes, because the three guard line-up will dominate this team. Jim Calhoun will need to blend in some big bodies at the forward and center positions to build a front court by committee. They need as a unit to average ten to fifteen boards and chip in some points, but the offense will solely be on the backcourt.

It is amazing that even though talent like Drummond, Lamb, and Oriakhi leaving didn't put the pressure on UConn's squad as the news that Roscoe Smith was going did. He was one of the few consistent players that this team could count on next year and with that gone next season looks even gloomier. But the show must go on and this team needs to head into next season with a good mindset, because it can't get any lower then right now. These next two years are going to be Calhoun's most precarious. He'll need to get his program back on track before he hands it off to his successor and he only has two years to do it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Follow the Leader


Lamb is testing the NBA waters, Drummond following suit, Oriakhi has jumped ship, and Bradley needed some new scenery that leaves UConn’s roster in a bit of flux with only Napier and Boatright as the stabling force. It is up to them to keep this team afloat in an upcoming season that feels like it is already a loss. On paper the team is a mess. They lost their rebounding and leading scorer off the team, but the season isn’t unfixable. They, as of right now, aren’t going to the Big East and NCAA tournament, but that could and should be changed in the summer when the NCAA meets. It is inconceivable that they don’t incorporate the previous year’s APR score. But no matter what happens in that department, the show must go on and Napier and Boatright must keep this ship afloat.

Napier tried desperately to become a leader last season, but it never gelled with the team, but that has to change next season. He is going to have to be that vocal leader on and off the court, but needs to keep the negative comments in house. No more pillow talk. While he had a hard time of taking over the offense and tried to force feed Lamb the ball, this upcoming season will be different. They will live and die by Napier’s impact on the game, much like they did with Walker, though Walker had a once in a generation season, Shabazz is going to have to take more high percentage shots. He'll have a lot on his plate. He'll need to be the primary offensive threat, while distributing the ball. It is a lot to ask of him, but he won’t be alone.

Ryan Boatright had a pretty good freshman campaign. He was able to show consistency with his outside shot, was deadly on the break, and began to get into the lane late in the season. He needs to remain on his progression and has a real opportunity to take his game to the next level next season. He’ll be more free to take shots and won’t feel like he is hijacking the offense. Being the second option on the team, Boatright will have some more responsibilities at point and play the role that Napier played in UConn’s Championship run. As long as he remains within his game and doesn't play too fast or take ill-advised three pointers then he should be a double-digit scorer all year.

Napier and Boatright will have to anchor this squad with R.J. Evans and Omar Calhoun coming in to give this team some depth, but it will be dependent on these two players to hold the team together through this tough stretch. If they can muster some respectability and vie for the Big East regular season crown then this will be a blip on the radar but if they tank and sink the ship then this could hurt the program long term. So this upcoming season is as important as any in UConn's recent history and it is on the shoulders of two combo-guards to captain this ship and bring her home in one piece.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Will Lamb and Drummond make it in the NBA?


It isn’t a surprise that Andre Drummond is following Jeremy Lamb’s decision to enter the NBA draft. They are both lottery picks in most NBA mock drafts and returning to UConn wouldn’t raise their stocks much more, especially with UConn’s post-season suspensions. Both Lamb and Drummond still are works in progress and while both have shown NBA qualities, it is on potential alone that they are projected as high as they are.

Lamb hasn’t grown into his body yet and still could add thirty pounds to his frame without detrimenting his athleticism or his speed. He already possesses a mid-ranged game that most NBA players don’t have. He has one of the best floaters in the college game and has a streaky but effective outside shot. One of his major issues that he will have to deal with is his dribble drive. He is awkward when creating off the dribble and that will only be magnified at the next level. He also needs to be able to use his length better on defense. He rarely got blocks or bothered jumpers and needs to work harder there. He will be successful if he takes a majority of his shots off of screens and going right into his shot.

There is a lot of talk about the risk that drafting Drummond creates, but he has the greatest potential out of UConn’s two prospects. The college game favors back courts with zone defenses, closer three point lines, and spacing. The NBA will allow Drummond better opportunities in the post to showcase his skills. He has shown the ability and will to rebound and block shots that will translate at the next level. He also has an athleticism that is power forward like but in a center's body. He needs to work on his free throw shooting that if doesn’t improve will be a liability late in ballgames and he is extremely limited in his range which is five feet and in, but his above the rim game is off the charts.

It is truly a mystery as to the ceiling of these two UConn prospects, but the potential is tantalizing enough for teams to take that risk. They don’t want to lose out on a potential superstar. While Drummond will be able to find a role because athletic big men are a premium in the league, Lamb will have a harder time adjusting and finding his niche, but if they get drafted in the first fifteen slots then they made the right decision and no UConn fan should hold it against them. But these two players can either be a Hasheem Thabeet or a Ray Allen.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

March


UConn got off to a great start in the month of March, beating a pesky Pittsburgh team before heading into the Big East Tournament and destroying DePaul and gritting out a win against West Virginia. They were playing their best ball in over two months and it gave UConn fans hope that things might have turned around, but then came Syracuse It was a close game, but ugly. The offenses struggled mightily and UConn shot just .303. They still headed into the NCAA tournament with some swagger, but they went up against an Iowa State team that played their best ten minutes of basketball all year and the Huskies once again dug themselves a giant hole that they tried to claw out of all game, coming close but never quite getting there.

It was March and it was time for Jeremy Lamb to put this team upon his shoulders and take them as far as he could take them. It wasn’t far. He produced for the team, led them in scoring, but it wasn’t enough. He continued to disappear in key stretches and settle for 3-pointers during UConn’s five minute droughts. His defensive intensity wasn’t there, not making many individual plays on that end of the court. While he was still UConn’s best offensive weapon during March, it felt like he left much more on the table. He did find his mid-ranged game though and was doing a much better job of coming off curls and knocking down jumpers.

It was hard to fault Napier during March. While he did take some bad three pointers, which he needs to work on his shot selection next year, he took good care of the basketball, got to the line much more, and was more assertive in the offense. No matter what happens next year, this will be Napier’s team. There were some obvious chemistry problems between Napier and Lamb that created a black cloud over this team. He’s going to have to smooth the edges of his game to facilitate better chemistry.

Boatright found his stride in March and began to use his speed more and get into the lane. He also did a better job when he was running the point and limited some of the careless passes he had earlier in the year. His outside shot wasn’t going down as it had in previous months and he had problems finding points, but he had a strong game against Iowa State. He’ll have a larger intangible role next year and he’ll need to keep an aggressive mindset throughout the entire game.

Oriakhi was what he has been all year, inconsistent. He just couldn’t find a way to impact the game in the tournament like he had in last year's incredible run. Be it Drummond or lack of playing time or bad luck, Oriakhi and the team had problems rebounding against every team they played. His month ended with him asking for a release from his scholarship so that he could play for a team that is eligible for the NCAA tournament which no one can blame him for, but his tenure at UConn has been a roller-coaster ride.

Drummond’s game fell off a bit in the month of March. He couldn’t get those easy dunks that he was getting in February. His rebounding also took a hit and he wasn’t pulling down the 11 or 12 boards that he was snagging consistently. He also went up against a tough match-up in Royce White which had him playing out of position and was exposed. His free throw shooting, which was bad all season, never improved. While he hasn’t made a decision yet, he is more than likely heading into the NBA and a top ten pick.

Smith was coming off a good month of February, but never built upon it. His outside shot and rebounding had improved, but he found himself in and out of the lineup due to foul trouble. Unlike last year though, Smith couldn’t be that lock down defender, though he did a good job against Royce White. He’ll need to come out of the gates strong next season and he'll have a bit more pressure will be on him to produce points and rebounds.

Giffey did knock down some shots, but never looked comfortable taking them. He was always worried that if he missed he would be benched, so he deferred open looks or continued to dribble into trouble. He was one of the team's better perimeter defenders and helped stem the 3-point barrage that Iowa State dropped on them. He’ll be a more integral part of the rotation next year and needs the confidence to take a few more shots a game.

Olander stumbled down the stretch of the year. He wasn’t rebounding like he had and his shots weren’t dropping. It all stemmed from that foot contusion and he never got back to his earlier season form. Like Giffey, Olander will have more responsibilities to produce next season. He needs to bulk up and be that position rebounder that this team has been lacking since Adrien left.

Questions loom over this team for next season and there is no doubt that it will be the toughest ever for a proud institution. Transfers, lost revenue, uncertainty with Calhoun, NBA bound talent, and the dark cloud of two post season bans. It is the polar opposite of what this team was feeling a year ago at this time. There is little doubt that Calhoun will not retire with his program in the shape that it is and sometimes addition by subtraction can occur, but this could be a crossroads. There have been plenty of national powers that have lost their luster and have never made it back to the prominence that they once were. Hopefully this is just a speed bump and not an impassable object, because it would be a shame to see all the years of hard work under Calhoun end when he decides to hang up the whistle.


Sunday, April 1, 2012