Thursday, March 5, 2009
UConn faced its toughest part of its schedule in February with the albatross of the number one ranking around its neck. They took on a tough test against Louisville on the road that opened eyes and shed many of the doubters. They relied on their defense through games against Michigan, Syracuse, and Seton Hall. Never allowing any of those teams to score more than 61 points. It was in the Syracuse game that UConn faced its first serious hurdle of the season, losing Dyson. His loss put a serious burden on Walker, Austrie, and Robinson to step up.
UConn then faced their most hyped game against Pittsburgh. They were dominated right from the tip, battling back to take a marginal lead, and then they couldn’t stop Levance Fields down the stretch. Thabeet was thoroughly dominated by Blair and only played half the game due to foul problems.
The Huskies then took out their frustrations on a young USF team, though they struggled to find their offense. It didn’t take long to find it, scoring an impressive 93 points in an offensive slugfest. They then finished off the month against Notre Dame in which Thabeet redeemed himself against Harangody, sending him home with an N.I.T. invitation.
Adrien had a solid month, only having one poor game. He is as consistent a player to ever wear a UConn jersey. Thabeet continued to dominate smaller adversaries, but lost a lot of the luster and hype in the Pittsburgh loss. He has turned into a dominate rebounder and has shown a nifty 15-foot jumper. He is demanding the ball in the post, and is playing better against players that draw him out to the perimeter.
The loss of Dyson has sent ripples down in so many areas: perimeter defense, attacking the zone, deflections, steals, running the break, knocking down threes, and making clutch plays in the final three minutes of games. Price has more than filled Dyson’s ruby sneakers. He has been deadly from deep, has limited his turnovers, found the open man, has started making free throws, getting into the lane, hitting the mid-range shot, and has been defending better.
Austrie struggled through February. His outside shot isn’t sinking, he has started to turn the ball over, and his minutes are shriveling. He has been playing outstanding defense though. Walker is turning into a serious player. He is running the point during long stretches, is finishing plays around the rim, finding the open man, and has played the best perimeter defense on the team.
Robinson has had his stretches in ballgames where he is dominant. His shot has been all over the place, but he is persistent. He is getting more rebounds and has been attacking the offensive glass for put-backs. Gavin hasn’t had the minutes during the month but has shown the ability to step in and contribute when necessary. Haralson has been the best surprise, coming in and jacking up shots as soon as the ball gets in his hands. He has a fantastic stroke and his shots are sinking.
They have finished up the regular season strong and now they enter March. They face a rematch against Pittsburgh, the Big East Tournament, and then the Big Dance. They’ve earned a number one seed and there is still a lot to play for before Selection Sunday. They have the opportunity to have the overall number one seed and Big East Championship. It is right in their grasp, all they have to do is finish strong.