Saturday, December 5, 2009
MVP: Jerome Dyson
November was supposed to be a time to work out the wrinkles and find some answers, but UConn is leaving this month with more questions than answers. Do they have an outside threat? Can the frontcourt be counted on to rebound, not to mention score? Will they start hitting free throws? Which of the freshmen will step up and secure minutes off the bench? Calhoun really hasn’t figured it out and there aren’t many easy games left.
The backcourt is the strength of this team and Dyson and Walker anchor it offensively and defensively. They are both fantastic on the break and attacking the rim, but they struggle in the half court, especially against the zone. Dyson started out the year strong from outside, but he has tailed off. Kemba hasn’t shown the consistent jumper either and it has sputtered the offense. But in transition there is no better duo in the country.
Robinson continues to have on and off nights. He comes out one night, hitting threes, snagging boards, and knocking down the mid-ranged shot, but then he disappears from games. He is always deadly in transition, but until he can hit the jumper and find a post game, then he will remain inconsistent. Edwards started out the month in Calhoun’s doghouse and lost his starting job to Okwandu. He has shown a reliable post move and hustles on the court, but he isn’t rebounding well and it is costing UConn.
Out of all the freshmen, Oriakhi has stood out. He has the size to play against the elite frontcourt players in college, but he is still adjusting to playing at a different speed then in high school. When the ball gets to him, he hangs on, but he is not always in the best position to get the board and it is bouncing over his head for easy offensive rebounds. His offense is still a work in progress and usually shines early on in games but disappears in the second half.
November has been a rollercoaster for Okwandu. He was in Calhoun’s doghouse to start the year, but was soon kicked out to make room for Edwards. Since being instituted back into the starting lineup, he has shown improvement. He is athletic, showing the ability to block and has eliminated the defensive lapses. If he can become a solid rebounder and a low-post threat by February, then UConn will have a formidable frontline.
Beverly has shown to be the most reliable guard off the bench. He is a vocal leader, which is something UConn needs, especially in the man-to-man defense. He’s shown the ability to score in a variety of ways and is effective in short spurts on the court.
Trice, Coombs-McDaniel, and Smith could’ve benefited by heavy minutes in a blowout, but they struggled in their limited role. They don’t have the confidence, especially in tight games, to take the open shot. They all have been hot and cold defensively and have Calhoun’s trust, but he doesn’t have a problem interchanging them and hasn’t had a specific rotation.
With November behind them and their identity as a team still a question, UConn has some work to do. The bench rotation is a mystery and there are some big games on the horizon. They will need to work on their serious flaws for this team, rebounding and outside shooting, but the fans can’t be disappointed by the heart, effort, and defense . They are still deep, athletic, and have experience in the important parts that they will be a potent team once they gel.