Friday, April 30, 2010

Caron Butler is ousted from the Playoffs

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Caron will do just about anything for victory

Jeff Adrien Highlights

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Most Improved Player Award: Gavin Edwards

The most improved player award was a no contest this year. Gavin Edwards ran away with it. Maybe Kemba Walker could of challenged him for the award, but Walker’s expectations are astronomical compared to what was expected out of Edwards last season. No one knew what Gavin would be able to contribute to the team. He was used as the backup to Thabeet and Adrian last season and showed promise with a few sensational dunks, but didn’t have much consistent play. No one thought he would do what he did this year and become the best post threat on the team.

He showed a great post-up game with quick hook shots, a dribble drive, and a nice elbow jumper. None of which he had showed in his past three years. He started the year out fantastic from the line, but with every month, his percentage started to dip. With being UConn’s only post threat, he had a ton of pressure on him to produce in the paint and he did. What would his numbers be if there was an outside threat or another big man to draw the defense away from collapsing?

It wasn’t all sunshine for Edwards. He had problems with turnovers. His passes were late at times or just plain lazy, letting defenders read the pass for easy steals and lay ups. But his major issues had to do with his hands. Teams smelled blood when the ball was in his hands. They would swipe at it when he rebounded it and he had a tough time with catching passes.

Even with all those negatives, he had a great season. He wasn’t discouraged when he was coming off the bench, nor did it effect his game. He was even keeled with his play. Though the elbow jumper went south with his free throw shooting, he showed the ability to hit the mid-ranged game, but he did most of his damage with a quick shot in the post and off of offensive boards.

It will be interesting to see if a team takes a chance on Edwards. He did draw some attention to himself with his early play, but by the end of the year his stock began to drop. If he continues to get minutes, he should prove to be a solid big man off the bench like that of a Josh Boone and Hilton Armstrong. He’ll more then likely earn his stripes down in the D-League for awhile before he gets his shot, but if improves at the rate he has, he should eventually make it to the next level.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lightning in a Bottle

As UConn fans sulk as the top tier high school basketball players traverse to other campuses, be assured that it does not spell mediocrity for the Connecticut basketball program. Sure, talent is a major piece to winning, especially at the highest level, but the last several years have shown that parody has indeed equaled out the playing field. No longer can a team cruise through regular season and tournaments without coming up against a team with equal or better talent on the court on that particular day. There are so many talented basketball players that aren’t ranked on some scouts lists, that a team like Butler can make it through a field of 64 and get into the Championship game.

The top 100 recruits are based on individual statistics but basketball isn’t about the individual, it is about the team concept. The United States has the best talent of basketball players in the world, but even when they were assembled, they had a tough time beating more experienced and well rounded teams. It wasn’t until they understood that they were lacking the team chemistry developed through countless hours of practice and game experience that had that propelled them back into the number one spot. As with the one and done players, the talent alone can not take you over the top.

If you mix the top level with a solid core of experienced players, then you have a recipe for a championship caliber squad. The team that UConn has built is one of a semi-experienced frontcourt that has yet to live up to everyone’s expectations. The backcourt has an NBA prospect in Kemba Walker and an experienced role player in Donnell Beverly, but other then that the team is a total unknown. From afar and by what we do know, this team is not a championship caliber squad yet. They look to have a mix of players that when they are juniors and seniors will be among the best in their conference.

Another aspect that UConn fans must consider is Jim Calhoun’s track record at finding those hidden gems. The Emeka Okafor and Hasheem Thabeet of the basketball world that can elevate a team to the next level. Maybe Roscoe Smith, Michael Bradley, and Maurice Harkless are one of those talents that Calhoun can mold into a super star.

But the greatness of sports in general is the “lightning in the bottle” season, like the one that Syracuse had. Maybe Majok develops into an elite frontline player like Curtis Kelly did last season, maybe Coombs-McDaniel finds his jumper consistently and develops into a ten to fifteen point scorer, or Oriakhi becomes the beast inside that his frame suggests he could become, and Smith and Trice might show an ability to contribute off the bench. Sure there are a lot of questions among this team, but all the answers aren’t going to be ‘none of the above’.

If this team can find it's identity, which it struggled to do last season, then they have a good chance at grinding out games. They’ll definitely need to lean heavily on their defense, keeping games in the low seventies as much as possible. They have enough talent, though unfulfilled at the moment, to compete in the conference. They just need to show it on the court. An one and done caliber player could put this team into contention from the start, but they have enough room for improvement to be there by the end of the year. In this day and age of college basketball, you don’t need a handful of McDonald’s All-Americans to make noise in the post season, you just need a solid core, great coaching, and a little lightning.

Emeka Okafor needs your help

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sixth Man of the Year Award: Donnell Beverly

Beverly earned the sixth man of year award with solid play backing up Kemba Walker at the point, but it also shows the lack of depth on the bench. There was little offensive output by much of the so called bench players. Sure Gavin Edwards and Oriakhi didn’t start for much of the year, but they couldn’t truly be considered bench players, not with averaging the amount of minutes they were. Beverly was as consistent as any player that came off the pine, but that was because he wasn’t asked to do much other then taking care of the basketball and running half court sets.

Players like Coombs-McDaniel and Majok are more offensive oriented players and showed promise in stretches of ballgames, but they couldn’t put together a string of games in which they were effective. Okwandu also showed games in which he would be effective in three minute stretches, but he was so foul prone that it limited his aggressiveness. Smith was erratic with his play on both ends of the floor. He never showed the ability to hit a jumper, but does have a quickness to his game, but he never settled into a role and when he was on the floor, he was rushing and got into trouble.

Beverly showed a flash of his offensive capability with a spectacular baseline move and a breakaway dunk this year, but he wasn’t comfortable with taking shots away from Dyson or Walker. At times he looked like he was thinking about whether to shoot it or not and when he did, his game suffered. When he went right up with his shot without thinking, he had good shooting games.

On defense, Beverly was solid. He doesn’t have a quick step but does a good job of not getting beat off the dribble. He fights hard through screens and plays the man-to-man defense adequately. He isn’t going to gamble, so he isn’t likely to get a ton of steals, but he has the size to be good rebounder for a point guard.

Next year will be a telling sign for Beverly. He will be looking to lock down the back up position but Smith will be nipping on his heels for minutes. If he can get into the lane and knock down a mid-ranged jumper consistently then he should keep Smith at bay, but the bench will need to show a lot more next year, because points are going to be needed from all areas with much of the scoring leaving.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Thabeet fights back

Kemba Walker 2009-2010 M.V.P.

Kemba Walker deserves the M.V.P award with his resurgent play down the stretch of the year. When Dyson struggled, it was Walker that stepped up and took charge of the team. He was more assertive with the ball in his hands, solid on defense, the best outside threat, and was UConn’s best free throw shooter. His season was a polar opposite of Jerome Dyson’s. During the first half of the year, Kemba was hesitant in his shot selection and would take his first shot six to ten minutes into the ballgame. He tried to be the distributor of the basketball, but the team needed him to be a more focal part of the offense to compete in the Big East with Dyson’s and Robinson’s offensive struggles..

Walker’s jumper improved throughout the season and became UConn’s most deadly outside threat with Dyson’s inconsistency and Coombs-McDaniel’s confidence issues. He never really developed a mid-ranged game, which he needs to do in order to break the zone that gave him problems all season. He has a tremendous first step and is beginning to get the feel for the pick and roll offense that Calhoun primarily uses. If he can master the pick-and-pop, then NBA scouts will be drooling, because he has all the offensive tools.

His defense is underrated and does a great job of creating charges. His speed allows him to anticipate and get position on his opponent. With the little amount of depth behind him, he wasn’t as aggressive early in ballgames and didn’t get as many steals as he could have, but he has a knack for passing lanes and does a solid job of swiping at the ball. It will be a necessity for him to remain in ballgames next season and he might need to become less aggressive of an on the ball defender.

With Walker definitely returning, it gives UConn a solid foundation to work with, though he will have a ton of unproven talent to work with. He will be surrounded with some young but athletic pieces, but with freshmen, it is impossible to know exactly what output that they can consistently give you on a day in, day out basis. He will have to shoulder much of the offensive load until scoring options emerge. If he progresses even more this upcoming season then he should be among the best point guards in the country.