M.V.P.: Jerome Dyson
December was to be the final tune-up for the Huskies before they entered the meat of their schedule and games that truly mattered. They were still a team searching for some bench help, consistency from the frontcourt, and stability in the rebounding department. While they had their chance at defeating an elite team in Kentucky, they fell short with some free throw misses and lack of an outside shot. As the month wore on, they continually got better rebounding, as the rotation defense began to improve. Towards the tale end of the month the outside shot started to drop, mainly due to Dyson and Robinson. Hanging their hat on the defensive end, they were getting multiple stops and converting rebounds and blocked shots into fast break opportunities. That soon came to an end in the last game of the month as the Huskies stumbled into league play against Cincinnati on what ended up as a horribly played game and a terrible call in the final seconds.
Dyson shined in December and began to get more confident with his jumper. He was still his hard driving self, but he mixed in a pull-up jumper, three point jumper, and an elbow jumper to his game that he didn’t display as prominently in the prior months. He also was playing much better defense. While much of his energy was spent on the offense end of the court, he would tend to let his opponent drive into the lane and creat havoc. Towards the end of the month, he was his usual stalwart ball-hawking defender.
Robinson finally shook off the majority of the rust and started playing near to his seemingly limitless potential. He was being more assertive with the ball in his hands and not deferring. His post game could improve, but he has mastered the art of the bank shot. He also has found the range on his outside shot, draining the three at a consistent pace. He hasn’t let up on his rebounding prowess but it also hasn’t hindered him sprinting on the break for his athletic slams.
Walker struggled through the month of December. He had problems converting around the rim and had trouble passing the ball. He has so much ability that even a struggling Kemba is better than most point guards in the conference. But for this team to win tough ball games on the road, he needs to play better. He is also taking too long to get himself involved in the offense. With no threat in the post, he is needed to shoulder some of the offensive load and early.
Edwards emerged in December as the best post player on the team and hasn’t complained about coming off the bench which shows his team first mentality. He is also the best free throw shooter on the team and needs to get to the line more to make teams pay. He has shown a baby hook, elbow jumper, and an ability to play above the rim. He just needs a dribble drive and a few pump fakes to get to the line more.
Oriakhi has proven to be a mystery. He has the length, strength, and tenacity to be a starting Big East power forward but he tends to get pushed around for offensive boards at key times and hasn’t shown a consistent post game. He is still UConn’s best rebounder, but he could be so much better.
December brought the much anticipated arrival of Ater Majok and he looked to be the new student who takes the seat in the back of the room. He looked lost in his first game, took a bad shot, and was quickly benched, but he improved with each and every game. By the end of the month, he looked like a shot blocking force and a solid rebounder. But with Majok’s arrival came Okwandu’s benching. He was showing signs of improving when he was in the game, but Majok has the most potential. It will be interesting to see how Okwandu fits.
Beverly was solid off the bench, but his lack of an offensive game has caused Kemba to play more minutes then he should. If he could hit a jumper or two then he could be the missing third piece in the backcourt rotation. Coombs-McDaniel was hot and cold in December. He would have solid performances, getting points off the dribble drive and from deep, but then he would disappear from games. Trice and Smith both were non-existent in the month and rumors swirled of Smith’s displeasure at playing time. They need to be patient and ready if necessary. There is no telling when their time will come.
UConn had some tough last second losses in December and let a key resume building win slip through their hands, but they were playing much better basketball then in the prior months. If they can figure out the slow starts, get Walker to play better, and make jumpers on the road, then this team is right where they need to be. Now that Big East play is upon them, UConn needs to solidify roles. The Big East has more parody then in last several seasons and one loss isn’t going to hamper them, but if they can’t win away from the comfy confines of Hartford and Storrs then this team is going to struggle to stay afloat in the conference.