Thursday, November 25, 2010
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.