Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kidd to Caron Butler

Chris Paul to Emeka Okafor

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Unexpected

This is why college basketball is so exciting. You just don’t know what you are going to get each and every year. Last year UConn had high expectations with a team full of experience and athleticism to only see them fall into mediocrity. Then this team that is full of unknown and unheralded freshmen, inconsistent sophomores, seldom used seniors and one known offensive junior and they come out and shock the world, beating the number two and ninth ranked teams in the nation in back-to-back games. They did it on the defensive end. Depriving Kentucky of fast break and easy baskets, forcing the Wild Cats to earn every point. It is so amazing to see the maturity of this team offensively in the past three games. Against Wichita it was a one man show with Kemba taking it to the rim, against Michigan State it was Kemba and Oriakhi playing a high low game, and against Kentucky it was a well rounded effort with Napier, Giffey, and Coombs-McDaniel helping out Kemba and Oriakhi.

Walker didn’t need to shoulder as much of the offensive load but was still as effective. He once again was consistent from deep and mid-range which opened up driving lanes. He also had much better court vision and found easy baskets for others. It will be necessary for him to continue to find others because teams are going to double him every time he has the ball in his hands and that is why it is great to have Napier with the ball and have Walker run through screens for the ball. He dominated pure and simple and the only person to slow him down was himself with two early fouls against Wichita State.

Napier is so important to this team with his ball handling and his defense. His offense is still a work in progress and takes at least two bad shots a game to only make up for it with a great one. He needs to take the ball to the rim more because he is a great free throw shooter and has the blazing speed to get there multiple times a game. Beverly was not playing within himself and got into trouble with by going at a faster tempo then he can handle. He did do a good job on the boards, but he is trying to hard and needs to play his game. Lamb started bringing the ball up early but doesn’t look comfortable with the dribble. He is still trying to find his role. He hasn’t shown that he can create his own shot off the dribble and needs to find ways to open his shooting hand and take a few jumpers in rhythm. He did rebound well though but needs to find ways to contribute in other ways.

Early in the year, Oriakhi struggled and it looked like the front court would be in flux throughout the year, but he has turned his game around in a short amount of time. He is battling hard on the boards, especially offensively and is getting touches on the post and in the paint area, then executing there. He has shown the ability to knock down free throws early in the year but is struggling now. There is still so much more that he can do and the sky is the limit as to his ceiling as a player. Olander had a tough assignment defensively and struggled. He had an open jumper then missed and also had a terrible foul on a made three pointer. Okwandu made a nice high-low pass but had a hard time playing against a quicker and a more athletic team and found himself riding the pine.

Giffey had a great game. He moved well without the basketball and found the opening in the defense, scoring several easy lay-ups. Finally his three pointers began to fall and that gave him more confidence. Soon he made a nice step back jumper and began driving the ball to the basket. It was his best performance of the year. It was good to see a three pointer drop for Coombs-McDaniel. It looked like a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders. But the difference for him was that he wasn’t settling for jumpers and took the ball to the rim, scoring on several lay-ups. He needs to carry over this performance to the next game. Smith also had a horrible game and struggled against a tough and athletic front court. He didn’t rebound and also had a terrible foul on a missed three pointer.

Calhoun has found the right combination of Walker, Napier, Oriakhi, Giffey, and a mixture of Smith, Olander, or Coombs-McDaniel at the small forward position. They are gelling well together and are finally running sets where the ball gets passed three or more times. The defense is already better then last year and they are only going to get better with more confidence. They’ve got two solid notches on their resumes now and they’ll be ranked, but this team can’t let it get them over-confident. Kemba Walker knows that a fast start will not get them to where they want to go. They still need to solve the small forward position and develop a post game, but overall this team is light years ahead of where anyone expected them to be. And expecting the unexpected is what makes this game so beautiful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

On Notice

Who saw this one coming? UConn struggled to sustain offense and was beaten badly in the paint against Wichita State and then they come out and play a perfect game against the second ranked team in the country. They weren’t just sitting around and watching Kemba Walker take the ball to the basket on every play. They rotated the basketball, the big men all had post shots, pounded the glass, and had a ton of second chance points. Everyone played great defense and contributed on the boards. In the end, UConn put everyone on notice that this team is legit and led by an All-American superstar.

One game is an anomaly but the tear that Walker is on and against good teams is a major statement. By adding the outside and mid-ranged shot to his game, it has elevated his game into elite status. His whole arsenal was on display, blazing fast breaks, the 3-ball, fade away jumpers, knocking down shots from the line, and getting others involved which he didn’t do against Wichita State. He played his heart out, but he needs to have others step up to shoulder some of the offense because he looked tired by the end of the game.

Napier had a numerous poor shots, missing a bunch of three pointers before sinking one at the end of the first half. He is a great defender but tends to hand check and gamble. Offensively, he has such a great first step but doesn’t drive to the basket as much as he should, relying heavily on his jumper. Lamb had a tough game. He doesn’t look like a shooting guard and plays more like a small forward. He needs to show that he can create a shot off the dribble. Beverly didn’t do much and when Calhoun shortened his bench Lamb and Beverly minutes were limited.

Oriakhi had his best game of the year, pounding the glass and devouring offensive rebounds. He played with energy and was strong with the ball. The only downside to his game was at the line. He has shown in the past that he can be consistent from the charity stripe and needs to find his confidence again. It was good to see him demand the ball in the post and take some shots, even though they were rushed. This team needs him to take shots at the post to take pressure off the perimeter.

Olander and Okwandu both rode the pine for much of the game when Calhoun shortened his bench. Olander did have a nice post move and a rebound, but struggled defensively and on the boards. Okwandu had a nice block but missed his free throws and had a bad hook shot.

The small forwards had a much better showing in this game. Smith did a better job on the boards and had a monster block. He also showed that he can drain the outside shot with consistency, hitting a three in his last three games. Coombs-McDaniel had a great dunk but needs to do more on the boards. He is also in a dreadful shooting slump and needs to find a way to get to the line to get a feel for the ball going into the basket. Giffey is a great defender. He has good length and quick feet, but it was his rebounding that was most impressive in this game.

While the news will state how great Walker is and he deserves all the accolades, it was solid defense, tough rebounding, and contributions from Oriakhi and the freshmen that allowed UConn to pull off the upset. This was a total team effort. And having Kemba Walker playing at such an incredible level doesn’t hurt either. They put the NCAA on notice because these dogs can bite.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

One Man Show

It wasn’t how Calhoun had drawn it up. Kemba Walker sitting for almost the whole first half. It could’ve been ugly but the freshmen held their own and took a lead on a Smith three pointer at the buzzer. There were some troubling signs though. Wichita dominated the paint area, were winning the loose balls, and sinking threes that ballooned the lead. But UConn had Kemba Walker and he took over. Sure UConn benefited from some bad calls, but the aggressiveness made the referees have to make calls and some went the Huskies way.

Walker is having a sensational start to his season. The only real knock on his game was that he was too aggressive defensively in the first half. He needs to know that he can’t pick up those type of fouls. His jumper wasn’t falling early and he started driving to the basket, feasting at the line. He took over late and after missing a three pointer, he then made 6 points at the line, hit a three pointer, had a steal, got fouled, made two more free throws on a questionable call, and then sank two more jumpers. That’s stepping up down the stretch and they needed every single point.

Napier played solid defense getting some steals, but was a bit too aggressive, fouling twenty feet from the basket. When the team needed someone to step up when Kemba was in foul trouble, Napier took over. He displayed the ability to get to the lane and to the line. He did take a couple of bad jumpers and needs to take more shots in rhythm. Beverly handled the press well, had a nice assist, made his free throws, and had an offensive board, but he isn’t much of a factor offensively and didn’t look aggressive out there. Lamb also stepped up in the first half. He rebounded great, had a beautiful bank shot, and a steal, but wasn’t as much of a factor in the second half especially on the boards.

The front court played horrible. There was no semblance of position rebounding and it turned into a tip drill for every board. Oriakhi did have a nice post move and scored on a hook, but he didn’t have any consistent offense. On defense he was getting beat on back screens and was out of position, giving Wichita easy looks and put-backs. While he did have a horrible pass that gave up a dunk, he did step up and seal the game with a free throw. Overall though, UConn needs more from him. Olander also had a tough game and wasn’t effective rebounding. He took an ill-advised three pointer that had him riding the pine. Okwandu started the game and blocked a shot, got to the line, and had a steal, but didn’t have an impact in the second half. Calhoun isn't giving him much minutes.

The small forward position is still finding its way and struggled. Smith was UConn’s best outside threat sinking a pair, but other then that he had a tough game. He wasn’t effective on the boards and gave up a free throw rebound. He needs to do much better on the boards. Coombs-McDaniel showed that he wasn’t strictly a jump shooter and had a nifty lay-up. He played solid defense and had a block, but he also didn’t do much in the second half. Giffey had a lay-up, snagged an offensive board, and made half of his free throws.

What happened to the consistent outside jumpers, the flawless free throw shooting, and ball movement that UConn showed in the preseason? There is too much dribbling to this offense and little to none ball movement. While Kemba Walker is a great option, it is starting to look like the UConn of last year where everyone stepped aside and let Dyson take the ball to the rack and everyone knows how that story ended. This team is going to need a more well rounded effort especially from the front court and small forwards against an elite team in Michigan State. If they don’t then its going to be a long night.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Baby Steps

It didn’t look good early on. Vermont was getting open shots and knocking everything down. The help defense was rotating late and giving up rebounds. The offense was stagnant, other then Walker, and there was too much dribbling and not enough sharing of the basketball. But that all changed in the second half and it started with the defense, creating multiple stops, getting to the line, pounding the glass, and causing turnovers which lead to easy points.

If there was any doubt that Kemba Walker is one of the elite point guards in the country then this game has shattered it. He was simply amazing. He has not only added a deep threat to his game, but his ability to play under control at his blazing speed is the most impressive improvement to his game. His whole arsenal was on display from the crossover to the spinning jumper. It was all clicking. He is going to have to carry the load offensively while the freshmen figure out their roles. If he can be close to as effective as he was today, then this team will be special.

Napier’s defense was what sparked UConn’s run that put them ahead for good. He was giving Vermont’s guards all types of problems. His outside shooting wasn’t there but he showed that he can affect the game in other ways. He has proven to be the second best guard on the team and is eating into Beverly’s minutes. Donnell had a good first half and did a great job in helping on the boards, but he also had a horrible behind the back pass that lead to a turnover. He needs to be that solid guard off the bench that can play defense, help on the boards and handle the rock. Smith had a nice game, hitting the outside shot with consistency which is a great sign. He needs to contribute more on the boards and close out better on defense, but overall he had a good night.

The frontcourt had a tough time defending the post without fouling. This could become a problem against bigger foes because of their lack of depth. Oriakhi had another effective game. He didn’t rebound as well as he did in the Stony Brook game and gave up some offensive boards. He blocked a ton of shots and had a bunch of put-backs, and has emerged as the second leader on the court for this team. Olander had an uneven game. He blocked shots, pulled down some boards, got put-backs, steals, deflections, and made hustle plays on the floor, but then would be out of position on rebounds, and had multiple passes go right through his hands. Okwandu is not getting the minutes he needs to get better. He wasn’t playing well, forcing a turnaround jumper and being late on defense that had him yanked from the game. Calhoun is not letting him play through his mistakes more then the other players.

The small forward position is the enigma on this team. Lamb, Giffey, and Coombs-McDaniel all had tough nights offensively. They did contribute on the boards in the second half but need to crash the boards and help out more in that department. Coombs-McDaniel has not found a way to contribute and Lamb has taken advantage, garnering more minutes. It was good to see a jumper go down for Giffey and he plays the best defense of the three, but they all need to step up more.

While it was the Kemba Walker show tonight, this game proved that he couldn’t do it alone. It wasn’t until Napier, Smith, and Oriakhi chipped in that they started to pull away from Vermont. They still don’t have a post presence, the small forward position is still in flux, and the rebounding is disconcerting, but then again they have Kemba Walker and that solves a lot of problems. Calhoun has done a great job of inching this team forward, ratcheting up the opposition’s talent game by game, building up their confidence. The next step is a road game, be it a neutral site. Let’s see if this team is ready to take that next step.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010

No Baseline

It wasn’t pretty, buckets weren’t dropping like it has in the past two games and Stony Brook was knocking down threes, keeping themselves in the game early. It looked like it was going to be one of those underachieving performances, but UConn settled down and won this game on the defensive side of the ball, denying Stony Brook open looks on the perimeter. It is a great sign to see that one side of the ball wasn’t affecting the other, especially for such a young team. The rebounding was exceptional and everyone helped chip in and protect those long rebounds that they weren't getting in the preseason.

Walker struggled offensively but he was active. He had open jumpers and lay-ups that rolled off the rim. They’ll eventually drop for him, but he remained aggressive, which is what he needs to do. The team is so dependent on his energy and the tempo that he sets, that even if he is missing, it causes the defensive breakdowns which opens up easy put-backs and lay-ups.

Oriakhi was a beast. This is what he’ll need to do all year. He won’t have as big of an impact when he plays comparable talent, but his activity under the basket, from rebounds, blocks, put-backs, to deflections is what he needs to bring to every game. He needs to get the ball on the post more though. The team is too perimeter focused now and needs Oriakhi to post up and demand the ball. Okwandu didn’t play much and it wasn’t due to his play on the court. He made plays while he was out there from a nice hook shot to some hustle offensive boards. He needs more minutes in games like these to get more confidence.

Beverly had a bad first half but turned it around in the second. It was great to see him sink a 3-ball and it seemed to inject some confidence in him because from then on he had multiple rebounds, a steal, and a highlight stop-and-go lay-up. Lamb couldn’t buy a basket, missing from deep and mid-range, but he made impacts in other areas especially on defense. He had a spectacular steal then dunk and a great block on the perimeter. This inconsistency is expected from some of the young players especially on offense. Napier has had the most impact of the freshmen and has done it in every game so far. While he did have a horrible decision in a 3-ball that luckily banked in, he also showed the ability to hit the open three when it was a good shot. His speed and hustle compliments Walker's game. He needs to use his speed to get in the lanes more though and not rely on the perimeter shot.

Giffey had a bad game and didn’t get into any flow of the game offensively. He played solid defense and kept Stony Brook's streaky perimeter shooters in check in the second half. Olander didn’t play much and didn’t have much of an impact other then an offensive board and a lay-up. Smith did a better job on the boards, but couldn’t muster much on the offensive other then some put-backs. He was active on defense though and wasn’t afraid to crash the boards which is a great sign. It was great to see a 3-ball drop for Coombs-McDaniel, though he still is relying on his jumper too much. He did make a much more consorted effort on the glass and found points on put-backs. If he wants to beat out the freshmen, then he needs to be that third rebounder.

It is strange to see a UConn team jacking up threes, but it is working, even if they weren’t dropping. They found ways to produce points on put-backs, at the line, and second chance opportunities. There just isn’t a baseline to tell if this team is a poor, good, or great outside shooting team, but Calhoun’s hands are tied. He just doesn’t have the frontcourt that can create their own shot off the dribble. For now this team will take a ton of threes, attack in transition, get to the line, and play solid defense. It has worked so far, but it is awfully strange to watch.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Monday, November 8, 2010

Making Some Noise

There are only a couple of positive things that UConn can take away from this blowout, jump shots and free throws. With such a size, depth, talent and speed advantage, they were supposed to dominate this game and did so. This is definitely a different team then last year’s with their ability to hit the outside shot. Sure it is only two preseason games, but it seems like this team will be the most consistent outside shooting team that UConn has had in years. The free throw shooting could not be better and will be a major asset if it continues. The rebounding is definitely a concern. The frontcourt should be dominating, averaging double digit’s a piece, but they are not getting it done. The defense has been sufficient and the 2-3 zone and full court press were effective and fueled the fast break which blew the game open.

Walker was a superstar. He had back-to-back solid outside shooting performances, hitting a couple of 3-balls. He was active defensively, getting deflections and steals, pushing the ball up, and driving the ball to the rim. He had a sensational crossover and a beautiful no-look pass that led to an easy lay-up that brought the crowd to its feet. Not only is Kemba the catalyst for the offense, but he is also crashing the boards too, which this team needs. He is doing it all now.

Beverly had an ineffective first half and needs to do more early, but he managed to get some offense going in the second half. It was good to see him nail a 3-ball and a jumper, but he needs to find ways to get others involved. Napier again showed his blazing speed and an ability to score in a variety of ways. He went coast-to-coast for an easy score, had a series of lay-ups, and had another 3-ball. He is making a case for more minutes and could possibly be in the game in the closing minutes of games.

Oriakhi has become a free throw master and if he can remain at this pace then he’ll have no problem getting points. He did everything right except rebound, which is his most important job out there. He tends to wait for the ball on rebounds instead of putting a body on a defender then go for the ball. He is also a non-factor on the offensive glass too, which is also disconcerting. Okwandu continues to show improvement. He got off to a slow start with a travel and early foul, but then showed hustle diving into the crowd for a loose ball, hit an elbow jumper, had a steal, offensive board, and got a charge. His emergence early on as a solid role player has eased the concerns of Majok’s departure.

Coombs-McDaniel is struggling. He is settling too much for the 3-ball and it isn’t falling for him. He needs to drive to the basket and become that third rebounder down in the paint. If he strictly becomes a spot up shooter then he will begin losing minutes to some of the freshmen. Olander had an inconsistent night. He rebounded well, but he struggled offensively, which is to be expected with a freshman. He made some plays in the second half, but he needs to show more of a post presence, because this team doesn’t have anyone demanding the ball in the post and that will cause problems down the road.

Giffey is a solid player. He plays sound defense, moves his feet well, and has a consistent jumper. It has been awhile since UConn has had a wing player that can hit a jump shot. He needs to show the ability to rebound better though. Lamb had a breakout performance. He rebounded, drove to the basket, hit free throws, dropped a 3-ball, sank a hook shot, blocked a shot, dunked, slipped in a runner, and played solid defense. Hopefully this is the Lamb that will show up in every game. Smith was inconsistent. He played good defense and had a block, but also struggled to find his offense. He needs to rebound much better too.

The preseason is over and this team is gelling well offensively, but there are a few concerning aspects with rebounding the most major. The forwards are going to need to do a better job in helping the frontcourt in rebounding. It is all hands on deck for this team. The outside shot looks much more improved, but they can’t rely on it as much as they have. They need to attack the basket more, feed the post, and not fall in love with the outside shot. The freshmen are making major impacts, the seniors are settling into their roles, and Walker is dominating. If they can find a way to rebound the ball better, then this team is going to make some serious noise.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Walker on preseason expectations

Questions and Answers

The 2010-2011 season is here and there were plenty of new players to watch, sophomores who need to improve, seniors that have extended roles, and a top-flight point guard to enjoy. Sure they were playing AIC and had a dominating advantage in length and depth, but there were plenty of great signs out there to take from this game. The outside shooting looked much improved and players weren’t hesitant with taking open jumpers, the free throw shooting was stellar, and they rebounded well enough, though they lost several long rebounds. They mostly had two defenders on the offensive glass to protect easy fast break points, and AIC was crashing the boards. While the rebounding needs to get better, especially position rebounding, they did a good enough job in their first game together. Defensively, Calhoun mixed things up, playing full court pressure, several different 2-3 zones, and for the most part played the pick and roll well.

Walker was outstanding and carried over his great summer play into the preseason. He was looking for his offense early and often which is what this team needs. His jumper, while they always looked smooth, were sinking early. He played great defense too, getting a multitude of steals that fed the fast break. There was a stretch in the second half where he took over the ball game, having a great no look pass, then stealing the ball and draining a three. This is a great start to his season and a confidence booster for this entire team.

Beverly didn’t have a standout game. He did have a steal and got fouled, making both free throws and had a nice runner, but he needs to be more effective with the ball in his hands with either assists or scoring opportunities. Napier was a pleasant surprise. He is nifty with the ball in his hands and showed a sick crossover, but it was his outside shooting that was the most impressive. If he can consistently knock down those shots, then he will be eating into Beverly’s minutes.

Oriakhi and Okwandu had a distinct advantage against AIC and did what they were supposed to do, dominate the defensive boards. Oriakhi did show some moves around the basket, but most of his points were from the line or dunks. Okwandu did a superb job and was one of the most impressive players out there. He played hard without fouling which was one of his biggest issues last season, but it was his abilities to finish plays through contact that was great to see. This has got to be a great confidence booster for him and he needs to back it up with another solid outing.

Giffey, Olander, Smith and Lamb all had tough first halves, missing jumpers galore, but they started to settle in during the second half. Lamb’s jumper wasn’t falling, but he did have a nice block, rebounded nicely, and had a nice dunk. Olander showed some versatility and had some easy buckets early, but also showed some range with a 3-ball. Smith’s jumper also wasn’t dropping, but he battled hard on the boards and in the second half, he was able to get to the rim a few times.

Calhoun couldn’t of had a better showing for his squad. They were playing an inferior opponent, but Calhoun has seen his teams flounder against teams like this early, and especially with such a young team, there was no telling what type of execution there would be on the floor. His big men dominated the paint, Napier displayed enough to warrant more minutes, and Walker looks to have a stellar start to the season. Sure it is early, but this game gave fans more answers then it did questions about the future of this team.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Alumni Profile: Jeff Adrien

Looking Back: Adrien had a solid season adjusting and playing overseas. He honed his jumper and post game, and strengthened up. The hard work paid off and he was invited to two summer camps with two separate teams and flourished. He found a perfect spot for himself in Golden State and continued to impress his coach, landing himself a roster spot.

The Good: He has tremendous power and strength without losing any of his mobility. Adrien has always had the knack for rebounding, but it is his intangibles that make him a key role player. He plays solid defense, will dive on the floor for loose balls, and isn’t afraid to bang around in the paint. His post game has also come a long way and he has developed multiple moves with his back to the basket.

The Bad: He will always be looking over his shoulder at the next younger and taller player. His size will forever be a negative and he will need to make up for that with shear effort. He isn’t the best passer either and needs to take the shot when the ball is in his hands and not do to much with it.

Looking Ahead:
He is in the perfect situation and needs to take advantage. Getting the game tape of what he can do against elite NBA players now can keep his stock in the league high for the next couple of years. He is such a great story and gives hope to everyone that if you work hard, do things the right way, then you can achieve your dream.