Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Kerplunk. That’s the sound of UConn hitting rock bottom. Luckily this game was played in the afternoon so most people were spared watching what was a horrible display of basketball. Calhoun tried to pull every trick in his arsenal to get this team to play fundamental basketball on both ends of the court but nothing worked because this team is flawed. They have a multitude of players at each position that have the exact same strengths and weaknesses. Kemba and Dyson's weakness is in their outside shooting and their strength is in their drives. Oriakhi, Majok, Robinson and Okwandu do not possess a back to the basket game and their strength is in put-backs. Edwards stands alone as the only player that can play the post but he is turnover prone there. They just don't compliment each other.
Defenses sagged back, eliminating lanes, and dared UConn to shoot over them. It’s no surprise that the Texas, Villanova, and West Virginia games were all great outside shooting performances. They just couldn’t buy a bucket down the stretch and it culminated in putrid performances. Nothing was going down, from threes, free throws, to lay-ups. No one stepped up, demanded the ball, and took control of the offense. Everyone was waiting for someone else to do it.
This team also couldn't get multiple stops, which feeds their fast break. The frontcourt was getting killed inside and that just isn’t Connecticut basketball. With their length and size, they should be dominating the glass, but all year it has been a major issue. The backcourt, used to a major shot blocker to protect them, struggled containing the basic pick and roll play. Guards gashed the man-to-man defense and found easy lanes or got fouled on drives.
The most frustrating part of this season is that they never got better. Calhoun’s teams usually played their best towards the end of the year, but this team had the same struggles throughout. It even seemed like some players were reverting. Robinson became his inconsistent self, disappearing from stretches and even halves of ballgames. Dyson couldn’t find a jumper to save his life and he began to show his lackadaisical style that frustrated UConn fans throughout his first two seasons. While Dyson looked to not care, he had a lot to lose at the Garden other then the game. There were plenty of NBA scouts there and his performance down the stretch of this season could possibly cost him a ton of dough.
Edwards and Walker both were solid, though both struggled with turnovers. Walker was the only outside threat and Edwards the only inside one. That put a lot of pressure on them to be effective and when they weren’t, the team could barely hit the fifty point mark. Majok is going to be a player. He has all the tools and plays hard, but is very raw. The same goes for Okwandu but isn’t as athletic. If he can bulk up and use his strength more and position rebound better, he has a chance next year to start. Oriakhi is a total mystery. He struggled all year on every aspect of the game. He was getting beat rebounding, off the dribble, has no post moves, and fouls a ton.
Coombs-McDaniel could be a major player next year. When he was comfortable with taking more then three shots, he did well. He has a nice stroke and just needs the minutes. Smith is another player that needs a bit more time. He definitely has to bulk up without losing his speed, but it is his defense that needs serious improvement. Beverly was a pleasant surprise and can be the Austrie of this team next year. He has shown the ability to hit a jumper and run the point. Another year under his belt should only add to his confidence.
This team was filled with a bunch of role players waiting for a star to take over the game. Kemba has the opportunity to be that, but for a point guard to be successful, he needs a co-star. Will one of the incoming freshmen be that? Either way, UConn’s seniors have a farewell NIT tour. It wasn’t what they wanted but its what they deserved. They had every opportunity and let each one slip through with a more disastrous finish. The shame of it all is that they'll leave a legacy, and not one that they intended to.