Tuesday, February 1, 2011
UConn’s January began much like it ended with a heartbreaking loss, but sandwiched between those tough losses were games that defined and set up their season heading into the pivotal month of February. UConn took care of teams they were supposed to beat like DePaul and Rutgers, they won tough victories against Villanova and Marquette, and went out of conference to beat Texas and Tennessee. While they let the Louisville game slip through their fingers and might regret it later on, only losing two games in a month is a remarkable achievement.
Walker has had his shooting troubles throughout the month. His outside shot has been inconsistent but it his inability to get to the line like he did in prior months that has hurt his scoring the most. He is also turning the ball over more this month then in the past few. Even with all his shooting woes, he still has hit two game winning shots in clutch opportunities and has shown up in late in every ball game. He just needs to get to the line more.
Oriakhi has been an enigma in the month of January. He put together dominate performances against elite clubs in Texas, Villanova, and Tennessee but then disappears in games like Marquette, Louisville, and Notre Dame. His post game is much improved and has shown a consistent baby hook, but his offense usually goes the way of his rebounding. If he isn’t getting boards then he isn’t scoring.
Napier has had a solid month. He has hit a three pointer in six of the seven games in January and is seeing the court much better. He is also playing much better defense and not being too aggressive and fouling. The team flows much better when he is running it and allowing Walker to work off the ball. He just needs to mix his game up a bit and take the ball strong to the rim more.
Lamb has finally emerged as a big time player. It started in the DePaul game, in which he started, and quickly found his mid-ranged game. He never let up after that playing well against Villanova, Tennessee, and Marquette. He did have a hiccup in the Louisville game and was flustered by the zone, but he has put together such a solid string of games that it looks like he will be a heavy contributor from here on out. Other then Walker, Lamb has the most versatile game.
Smith has had his offensive woes this month but he is doing all the little things with blocks, rebounds, and excellent defense. He did have a horrible play agaisnt Texas where he threw a full court shot with seven seconds to go which could’ve caused UConn to lose the game, but other then that he has played well and none better then the Tennessee game where he hit four three pointers. He is another player that has to get to the line more.
Coombs-McDaniel played well against Notre Dame, Rutgers, DePaul, and Tennessee. He looks to be settling into his utility role and isn’t taking terrible shots anymore. He is also fighting well for boards and playing solid defense. While it isn't the role he wanted, his ability to fill in the three and four spot is crucial.
Okwandu had some good games against Villanova, Tennessee, and Marquette, but still remains inconsistent. He has shown the ability to hit the hook shot and block shots, but he needs to do a much better job on the boards and hasn’t. He also fouls too much but that is mostly due to the guards playing poor defense.
Olander had a tough month. He hasn’t been able to get anything going offensively nor help out on the boards. With so little depth on the front court, he’ll get his minutes, especially early in games, but he needs to find ways to contribute and hasn’t. He gets pushed around underneath a lot but plays with a ton of energy. It just hasn't added up to plays.
Beverly has found some of his range this month, having three games in which he has hit a three pointer and has been a consistent third point guard off the bench. While it isn’t the integral role that he wanted to play in his senior year, he has adjusted well to his role off the bench.
Giffey started out the month playing a handful of minutes but that changed after the poor performance against DePaul and his minutes began to shrink. He now plays only a couple of minutes a game and looks to be thinking too much about not making mistakes. He needs to be a spot up shooter but either defers or dribbles into trouble. Wolf only played sparingly in the DePaul game and looks to be totally out of the rotation.
UConn has set themselves up nicely in the tightly contested Big East standings but needs to continue to play at their high level. They’ve been able to win some closely contested ballgames and are battle tested. They can't allow the Louisville game to become a setback and need to string together another series of wins to put it behind them. While they are sitting nicely with a bunch of resume building wins that has just about locked them into March, they are a team still with a bunch of upside and need to keep improving. If Oriakhi and Smith can get on track offensively then this team will be legit to making a deep run in both tournaments.