M.V.P.: Jerome Dyson
UConn couldn’t of had a worse January. They entered league play with the hope to compete for the league title to only have their hopes dashed by several losing streaks. It wasn’t a total surprise with hints of their mediocrity throughout their non-conference schedule against inferior opponents. It was only magnified when they played superior teams. Teams took advantage of easy lanes into the paint and had unbelievable success from the three point range. UConn’s offense stuttered and stalled and couldn’t keep up. They did have one shining moment in a victory against Texas, but that was soon washed away by another losing streak that placed them in the bottom rung of Big East teams.
It is amazing to see the free fall that this team is on. Everyone expected there to be some growing pains, but with a solid core of seniors, they should’ve been able to weather the storm and remain near the upper echelon of Big East teams. But with Calhoun’s absence in January, combined with a squad that hasn’t shown the ability to fix their obvious flaws, this season looks to be on the projected course of missing the NCAA tournament.
Dyson had problems remaining on the court, struggling with foul problems. He shoulders much of the offensive load that if he is having a poor offensive outing then UConn has no shot of competing in games. There is no doubt that he is a warrior and one of the best transition players in the country but if he can’t get into the lane and to the rim then his offense is extremely limited.
Walker struggled in the first half of the month with sloppy turnovers and ineffectiveness in the half court sets, but he played solid basketball in the later half of January. He is still figuring out how to run the team and when to control the tempo. His jumper still needs to be improved, but he has hit his free throws and finished plays around the rim.
Though Robinson has improved his offensive output this year, he is still limited in what he can consistently do in the half court. He struggles in the post and with the dribble drive. His rebounding wasn’t what it should be and he needs to be in the paint and crashing the boards on every possession. This team has struggled rebounding and Robinson takes some of the responsibility with that. He has also been struggling with his man off the dribble and is one of the main culprits in letting his man dribble right past him and to the rim.
Edwards entered January with momentum but had some rough outings. He wasn’t very effective around the rim and his elbow jumper wasn’t sinking. He also reverted back to his unenergetic body language and slippery hands. Passes slid through his grip and his passes were weak and intercepted. His defense was also horrible and he took bad angles or was getting sealed to close to the basket. Without Gavin holding the paint with effectiveness, teams had a glutton of offensive boards and easy buckets.
Oriakhi continued his strong rebounding, but he still hasn’t shown the ability to score with his back to the basket. On defense, he has been getting beat down court and has been getting posted up too close to the rim. He has steadily improved from the line, but he isn’t aggressive with the ball in his hands to get there enough.
Majok has also shown improvement but he is having trouble staying in games. He is UConn’s best blocker on the team but he hasn’t learned to contest without fouling, something Thabeet took a year to learn. He has a soft stroke from the line, and strong hands. If he can consistently get the ball in the post, he has a variety of moves, but he isn’t comfortable there yet.
Okwandu has had an up and down month. Some games he comes in and contributes right away and others it is one mistake and done. He needs more then the sprinkling of minutes to show his game and he isn’t getting them.
Coombs-McDaniel just isn’t sinking jumpers and that is what this team needs from him. He has shown the ability to take the ball to the rim, but without the jumper falling his confidence in his offense isn’t there. He is also inconsistent from the line and needs to be better there because he can’t throw points away.
Beverly showed that he can spell Kemba at the point, and the ability to finish at the rim, but he doesn’t have much of a jumper nor a way to get to the rim. Smith and Trice were spectators for most of the month with Smith getting a minute or two in emergency situations. He looked uncomfortable out there which is expected.
With the disastrous January behind them, UConn has only a narrow window to crawl out of the Big East cellar. The NCAA tournament is only a dream now, and their real hope is to get a better seeding in the Big East tournament to create their own destiny, but they haven’t shown that they can fix their obvious problems. The pick and roll on defense is gashing them, the turnovers are stifling the offense, and the offensive rebounds are burying them. How they fix this is a mystery. They are what they are, deficient and it is an utter shame.