Sunday, March 31, 2013

J.J. Barea dribbles under Hasheem Thabeet



Saturday, March 30, 2013

Kemba Walker 2013 Highlights

Monday, March 25, 2013

March


UConn didn’t have much of a March to play in, just three games.  The first game was against Cincinnati.  UConn was shorthanded with Napier dealing with an injury.  They were dominated throughout the game, but made a heroic comeback only to fall short because of some costly turnovers late in the ballgame.  The second game was against USF.  UConn put forth a lackadaisical effort as they struggled without Napier and Giffey.  The defense looked soft and the offense sputtered in the halfcourt sets.  It was their worst game of the season effort wise and was not indicative of what this team has displayed all year long.  They did rebound with another nail-biter against Providence.  Napier’s return sparked the offense and the defense that had hit a low mark against USF sprang back to life.  They ended the season on a positive note and despite the abrupt end to their season, they earned the respect of just about everyone in the now defunct Big East as a team motivated by each other and not for the self which is refreshing in this one-and-done era of college basketball.

Napier had only one game to shine in during March but he made it count against a Providence team playing their best basketball of the year and on the bubble of making the NCAA tournament.  Napier didn’t show any signs of rust, knocking down jumpers, getting to the rim, and making plays in overtime.  He ended the season on a high note and solidified himself as a true leader which many had doubted that he could achieve heading into this year.  He will more than likely return for his senior year and will be a major factor for conference player of the year and an All-American.

Boatright had a tough month and struggled with the offense flowing through him.  His jumpers that had been consistent throughout the middle part of the season weren’t dropping for him.  The major issue was his turnovers.  They came in bunches and almost always led to points at the other end.  Once Napier came back, Boatright’s offense got back on track, hitting several jumpers.  It was good for him to end the season with a good game.  He'll need to work on using one or two dribbles to open up his shot and running off screens to take jumpers.

Calhoun struggled throughout March with a wrist injury.  It effected his jumpers that were off the rim and his confidence wasn't there like in previous months.  He has shown the ability to be a big time scorer but needs to develop a mid-ranged game.  Teams will force him off the perimeter and wall off the driving lanes, so a fifteen to twenty footer would go well in his arsenal.

Daniels emerged as an elite player in the last three games of the year and the sky is the limit for where he wants to take his game because he has all the tools.  He can hit the 3-pointer, attack the baseline or hit a baby hook, he can also attack off the dribble, and is a good shot blocker.  Not bad.  His game resembles Jeff Green’s but he needs a bit more bulk to develop a post game.  If his progression continues at this pace, he should be a lottery pick next season.  It is all in how he treats this off-season.

Olander’s season was over one game sooner then expected, breaking his foot.  He just hasn’t been right all year.  The major issue for Olander is rebounding.  He has had trouble all year clearing space and attacking the glass.  He is going to feel the pressure from some of these new recruits coming in for playing time especially after this incident in Florida.  Fans are tired of all this nonsense off the court and he just might find himself off the team.

Nolan kept up with his development throughout March.  He rebounded well in each game and found ways to score around the rim.  He quickly surpassed Olander on the depth chart and should be battling for a starting spot next year.  The off-season will be very important for him and he'll need to bulk up and develop a 15-footer.

Giffey only played in the Cincinnati game because of a hand injury.  He’s been one of the few consistent pieces off the bench that Ollie can trust in and should have a great season next year.  Ollie leaned heavily on Evans with Napier out for two games in March and he played well.  He gave his usual hustle plays, lay-ups, and defense.  Tolksdorf, Allen, and Lenehan all played sparingly with little impact.

It was the shortest March in recent UConn history with no tournaments to play in, but they ended the season on a high note, beating a Providence team that needed a win for a chance at the Big Dance.  This team has a lot going for it heading into next year.  Napier and Boatright will more than likely return, their stock would rise drastically with another season, and they should get some influx of talent on the front line.  The conference is still up in the air, but the Huskies should be a major factor in winning it next year.  With the dark days behind them, the future looks bright for this team no matter what the landscape looks like.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Dog Days


It doesn’t seem fair.  While all the teams sit back and watch the NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday broadcast, UConn has to sit at home.  The toughest part was that UConn was definitely in the tournament and probably a 8 or 9 seed, which is a huge accomplishment for a team that went through a coaching retirement, a major exodus of talent, scholarship hurdles, a rookie coach, a player suspension, and injuries galore.  But alas they are watching from the sidelines and paying the price for what they had nothing to do with and that is the real shame of this.

The fairest way of hurting the University for their poor grades would be to hit them financially.  Why not penalize the school for every cent that they would have earned from playing the postseason?  That way the unpaid kids that this sport makes millions of dollars on aren’t the ones being punished, but the school is.  Unfortunately the NCAA wanted to make an example of UConn and scare everyone else into taking action towards making grades a priority, but the punishment far exceeded the crime.

The worst part of this punishment is the audacity of the Big East to hold UConn from the tournament and then ask them to be a pillar to hold up the new conference.  For some reason they were so afraid of UConn winning the tournament and causing them a black eye.  Really?  How about the crumbling of the entire conference in one season?  How about a break off of seven schools that grabbed the name and the tournament with them?  Besides if UConn did win it all, Louisville, Syracuse, Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova, Notre Dame, and Cincinnati would have gotten in anyways.  It was a pointless gesture to hold UConn out of the last Big East tournament.

The path forward for UConn is a bit muddled.  There will be several good schools moving into the new conference but the at-larges will most likely be cut in half from a normal 6 to 9 to about 3 to 6.  That makes it a priority for UConn to play some top out of conference teams and try to get some home and home games, but their leverage is way down.  They might play more neutral site games that are closer to the opponent’s territory.  The end game however is to scurry out of this conference and land somewhere better.  With the black eye this new conference has given UConn, there is no loyalty or love loss.

So while the tournament goes on without UConn, fans are left to ponder the good ole days of a conference that was once great but is now a cast of misfits.  It will be interesting how the ACC adjusts to the influx of the Big East elite.  They just might devour their own but in the end they’ll get eight or nine teams into the tournament instead of their normal 4 to 6.  The new Big East will be intriguing with some serious basketball schools and the best tournament venue in the country to attract talent.  The America 12 or whatever it will be called is a shell of those two conferences and will need to build up some of the programs coming in and make them more competitive, but it all comes down to UConn, Cincinnati and Memphis to shoulder the turbulent waters in the first couple of years of this conference, but in the end it will be the talent they can attract.  So cheer up UConn fans, these might look like dreary days, but at the end of the day it will all be settled on the court and that is just how Coach Ollie wants it.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

UConn Tribute to 2012-2013 Season

That's All Folks


With Napier back from a two game hiatus because of an injury, UConn’s offense found a much needed boost and the defense that was severely lacking against Cincinnati played much better.  They rotated, sealed lanes, and rebounded the basketball after misses. The offense, which at times struggled to get anything going in the halfcourt sets, hit critical shots and found ways to get to the line to do damage. Daniels, Napier, and Boatright played the entire game, plus the overtime, and on tired legs they ended the season like they had six other times, with another heart pounding overtime. This team has demonstrated tremendous heart throughout this season and have expertly guided the program through the most turbulent year ever for UConn and has earned the respect from everyone around the around the country.  The season is over too soon and these kids deserve much better than to be sent packing and watch the swan song of the Big East from the couch especially since they are going to be the jewel in the new conference's crown.

Napier’s injury didn’t slow him down one bit, playing the entire game.  He hit two 3-pointers, a lay-up, a jumper, and a fade away in overtime.  He struggled a bit on defense, not putting his hands up on a perimeter shot and backing away from his opponent. It is amazing that he could bounce back without any practice and play the way he did though.  This season has validated his play and has thoroughly wiped the image that some had of him from that under performing team of last season.  He’s proven to be able to lead a team with less talent to perform better and has solidified his legacy on this team as loyal, tough nosed, and a winner.

Boatright had a much better game with Napier’s return.  He hit an early running lay-up, a 3-pointer, and four more jumpers with one being an and one that put UConn ahead in overtime.  He relies heavily on his dribbling skills to create his shot, but did have a couple of jumpers occur when he was curling off screens which is what he needs to use more.  His court vision and his ability to mask his emotions need to improve, but this was a much better game for him and needed heading into the off season.

What more can you say about Daniels?  He’s been the vocal point of the offense, taking the most shots, 21, on the team and can score in a variety of ways.  He has done a much better job of using the opposite rim for lay-ups and can score on attacking baseline or using the hook when going towards the middle.  His outside shot is still inconsistent, but will be much more improved with more practice, but he has a chance to be an elite player next year.

Nolan got the start with Olander’s foot injury and played well especially on defense.  He had an nice offensive rebound put-back and hustled out there.  He did have an embarrassing dunk attempt but it shouldn’t mar what has been a productive end of the season for him.  Evans played his final college basketball game and showed emotion on a hustle save, but did little offensively and struggled at the line.  Tolksdorf got some early playing time and hit a 3-pointer and had a good rebound in traffic.  He should be an important piece in the next couple of seasons.  He will need to focus on being able to rebound while being able to hang around the three point line.  Allen played a minute but didn’t do much.

There wasn’t much expectations for this team heading into the season, but UConn put together a heck of year and would’ve been a lock for the NCAA tournament.  They beat Syracuse, Michigan State and Marquette and Georgetown needed overtime to beat them.  And they did it with a depleted and injured frontcourt.  Even though their season is done, this team has accomplished something other more talented and decorated teams have not, they have earned the respect of not only the Connecticut but throughout the country.  The way that this team has been treated by the Big East, while every other team has their suitcases ready to go to another conference, has been appalling.  What it does do is not give them pause to leaving this new America 12 league if a suitable offer comes by.  Why should they show loyalty to a conference that has shown none to them?  It's really a shame.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Embarrassing

No Napier, no Giffey, late road game, or tail end of the season, there is no excuse for UConn to have put forth a game like this. It was embarrassing. The first half looked promising and reminiscent of many of their games this season. They struggled to find points, but battled hard and kept it close, but then the wheels fell right off the cart. Without UConn's workhorse in Napier, the halfcourt offense sputtered, stalled, and finally pulled over to the side of the road. The most concerning aspect to this game was the defensive intensity and lack there of. There were gaping lanes to the basket, no one stopped the ball in transition, the rotation was sluggish, and they allowed one of the worst offenses to hit 45% against them. It was uncharacteristic for this team and a head scratcher.

Boatright is in a huge rut right now. He's turning the ball over, front rimming shots, dribbling way too much, and his defense is sorely lacking. He did hit a jumper, a floater, and a 3-ball when the game was out of hand, but he also showed poor leadership with his body language when his team wasn't getting the calls or plays weren't goingg his way. He needs to rally the troops  not express his frustrations. This was his time to shine and he has struggled to find ways to free up his shooting hand.

Calhoun hasn't been the same since his wrist injury and missed several shots that he normally makes, including a dunk. He had five horrible misses in this game but for a freshman, it can effect his entire game mentally. He needs a confidence builder heading into the off-season to wash the taste of these past three games out.

Daniels was masterful offensively and carried the entire team even when USF threw double teams at him. He hit a turnaround jumper, a fade away, an offensive rebound 3-pointer, a jumper, a spinning lay-up, a dunk, another lay-up, and a fall away. But unfortunately that is only half of the game and he severely lacked the same intensity on the defensive end. He wasn't closing out on his man, rotating, or sliding in for a charge. These are the things that he must do to be a complete player and become a lottery pick. To his credit, this was an anomaly. He has played hard defensively in most games, but without Napier and Giffey the spotlight was shining on him in this game.

Olander had a rough game, but did have a turnaround jumper and a floater, but was carved up on the pick and roll. He then injured his foot in the second half. Nolan played well, had a dunk and a couple of blocks, but failed to carry over his career game against Cincinnati. Evans had a hot and cold game. He did get a four lay-ups, was aggressive and got to the line but missed a ton, turned the ball over way too much, and was beat several times on defense. Allen came in early and had an opportunity to score late but missed a free throw. Tolksdorf and Lenehan played sparingly in this game.

There is one game left in this season for UConn and they need to head off into the sunset with their heads held high. And to do that they can't show this type of effort or body language. This season has been one of the most trying in UConn's history and this team has fought through just about everything that can possibly be thrown at them and they have endured. No matter what happens on Saturday, this team has won the State's respect. They should go out there and play free, smile a bit, and have some fun. It's a game isn't it?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Hands Tied


It is hard enough to win a game on the road in the Big East but trying to do it without your best player on an already short staffed squad is like playing with one hand tied behind their back.  So when UConn led at halftime with little contribution from Boatright, it felt that this team could over come just about any obstacle in its way.  But in the second half Napier's absence was felt and UConn’s offense went stagnant, struggling to put points on the board while Cincinnati began knocking down threes.  Like in their first meeting, Cincinnati dominated the first ten minutes of the second half, but UConn turned the tables and clawed their way back.  Unfortunately the turnovers and second chance points that have been the bane of UConn’s season came back and bit them, sinking their hopes and costing them valuable looks at the basket in critical situations.  It was a weird game statistically, with Cincinnati taking 31 3-point attempts, making only 9, but those came in a single stretch.  Both teams were tied up in the rebounding department at 36, with the offensive rebounds not that far apart, but the Bearcats were able to convert those offensive rebounds into points while UConn could not.  Stats can be misleading because it is what you do with those stats that makes the difference and Cincinnati made them count when it mattered.

Boatright has been in an offensive rut for a several games now and needs to get his jumper back.  The majority of his offense came at the free throw line which is a great sign and showed an aggressive mentality.  The turnovers continue to plague him and should be his primary focus on improvement for next season.  He plays the game in the moment and needs to see the court better and read the defenses quicker.  It isn’t all about speed but about when and where you use it.

Calhoun got going early with a 3-pointer, but struggled from there on out.   The most improved aspect of his game is in the rebounding department, grabbing 6.  Like Boatright, he will need to improve on his decision making.  Turnovers have been a major concern with his game all year and this game was no different, but more acceptable from a freshman.

Daniels has been a tear in the last couple of games and the ceiling on his game is sky high. He hit an early 3-pointer, a one handed dunk, a circus shot at the half, two other dunks, two lay-ups, a fade away, and had a team high in rebounds at 8.  Now that’s making an impact.   He has the best opportunity to make an impact at the next level as anyone else on this team, but needs to fill out more.

This has to be a new low for Olander.  Earlier in the year Wolf came in and outplayed him.  Now Nolan has come off the bench and has done the same.  Tyler could only muster 4 rebounds with 2 of those being offensive in his 14 minutes of play.  Nolan came in and had two consecutive lay-ups, got to the line, had a nice pass, and had 5 rebounds in the first half alone.  He didn’t have as great of an impact in the second half with a couple of offensive rebounds, a put-back, and got to the line.  He has shown drastic improvement in each and every game and deserves a start before this season is done.

Giffey had a tough game, hitting a baseline jumper, but struggled on the defensive end and was injured in the second half.  Hopefully he’ll bounce back.  Evans got the start with Napier out, and had a Evans’ like performance.  He hit the glass hard, got some offensive boards, blocked a shot, had a lay-up, and played some solid defense, but he also took some bad shots and turned the ball over.  Tolksdorf found some playing time but was quiet.

The only surprise in this game was that UConn had a chance to win it. Kevin Ollie’s next man up mentality has rubbed off on this team and the future of this team is pointing in the right direction.  Everyone on this squad has shown growth and while the end of the season is looming right around the corner, this team continues to play hard and hasn’t shied away from adversity.  They’ll have another tough road test against a reeling USF team.  These types of games in the past have been problems for UConn and they’ll need to remained focused on the task at hand, something Coach Ollie has done well this entire season.


Saturday, March 2, 2013

February 2013


UConn had a rollercoaster of a February, winning 5 of 7 in the month.  They started out with a gritty comeback and win against USF in overtime, a recurring theme throughout the month. They then turned and played their most disappointing game of the month against St. John’s in Madison Square Garden.  UConn’s defense was carved up and the Johnnies took advantage surging ahead.  The offense made a comeback in the second half but couldn’t sustain the momentum, giving St. John’s a double digit win.  Like so many times this year, UConn bounced right back from a poor showing and took their frustrations out on the Seton Hall Pirates.  It was a hard fought first half, but the Huskies firepower took over in the second half and ran away with the victory.  UConn then headed into it’s toughest stretch of games, playing Syracuse.  UConn did everything they weren’t supposed to do, turning the ball over and getting killed on the boards, but the resilience of this team persevered and it didn’t hurt that they were knocking down the 3-pointers at an incredible clip.  Coming off the high of the Syracuse win, they let their guard down a bit, letting the Villanova Wildcats come into their home and dominate.  Again UConn had to pick themselves up after a thorough beating and play a top 25 team in Cincinnati.  Both teams mirrored each other throughout the game, matching baskets.  UConn rode the hot hand of Napier in the extra period and pulled off the victory. The month ended in possibly the best game of the year, besides it being a loss.  UConn vs. Georgetown was a double overtime slugfest where both teams hit big time shots.  Unfortunately one team had to lose and it was UConn.

Napier has had some slow starts to his games in February but has made up for it with his play in the second half and especially overtime.  He took over the game against Cincinnati  and USF, knocking down several 3-pointers that propelled UConn to the victories.  He’s done a better job of ball handling and not turning it over like in the previous couple of months, but he needs to establish his offense earlier.  There are times when he takes only two or three shots in the first half.

Boatright struggled at the beginning of the month against USF and St. John’s, but bounced back with a stellar performance against Seton Hall and Syracuse.  His last three games were sub-par with bad outings against, Villanova, Cincinnati, and Georgetown.  He is pounding the rock too much and needs to attack north and south more.  He tends to dribble into trouble and needs to see the double team coming sooner so that he can dish the ball to the open man.  His turnovers have also been a concern all year and that hasn’t changed.

February was a coming out party for Calhoun who made impacts in each and every one of the games.  His outside shot is becoming more consistent and he is using his dribble drive more often, but the most improved aspect to his game is his rebounding.  He’s hovering around the painted area more and is being rewarded with second chance opportunities.

Daniels had an excellent month.  He’s improved in just about every category.  He’s rebounding much better, knocking down the outside shot more, getting to the line, and is playing extremely well on the defensive end.  With the lack of front court depth, he is being asked to play the four and five position which is asking a lot from a sophomore, but he has not only accepted it but has flourished.  He’s running away with the most improved player award.

Giffey has been the workman of this team and it showed in February.  He was asked to defend several different positions and did well.  His shot wasn’t consistent, but he isn’t hesitant to take the open looks.  His rebounding varies from game to game, but his effort doesn’t, which instantly makes him a fan favorite.

Olander had a tough month with Wolf being suspended from the team halfway through this month, leaving him with shouldering a lot of the responsibility with the center position.  He hasn’t been able to put together a performance like the Notre Dame game, but did make an improvement throughout February.  He gave the team spurts of offense and had several games when his jumper was working, but he hasn’t been able to flirt with a double digit rebounding game and he has had a hard time of playing defense, especially against the pick and roll, without fouling.

With the emergence of Calhoun during this month, it has diminished Evan’s minutes, but the senior has made the most of his minutes.  He played hard while he was in the game, wasn’t afraid of diving on the ground for loose balls, and still has kept up his aggressive mentality, though not as frequently as in the previous months.

Wolf struggled through his three games in February before he made a very poor decision off the court that has his basketball career in limbo.  It was the dark spot of this month and the first true conflict that Kevin Ollie has had to deal with.

Nolan played an important role in this month.  He was thrust into a pivotal role and has slowly improved with each performance.   He has played well defensively and has shown an ability to block shots and rebound.  He finally was able to get some offense going in the last game of the month and has shown Ollie enough to warrant extended minutes.

Tolksdorf couldn’t find the magic that he had in January, hitting a three pointer early in the month, but with the emergence of Nolan, his minutes are going to be spotty.  He does bring an outside aspect to his game which is a great compliment to what Nolan brings.  He’s shown enough to be a pivotal piece moving into next season.

This month was going to show exactly what this team was made of and it has. Heart.  They never backed down and battled hard in each and every game, even the ones that didn’t go their way.  The loss to St. John’s was probably their worst of the year, but those games happened.  It was the overtime games that have tested this team and they responded.  They won’t win the Big East regular season title or get any trophies or banners to place on the mantle, but this team has done more in this month than can be expressed in trophies, because with the collapse of the Big East and Uconn’s suspensions from post season, retirement of their hall of fame coach, and scholarship penalties, this team was losing it’s relevancy, but in one month they have turned all that around, proved that they are still a team to reckon with and have stabilized the turbulent waters they have treading in all year, steering this ship safely to port.  No mere banners can state the importance of that.