Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Big East Power Rankings

1. Syracuse. (+1) This is a well rounded Orange team and Kris Joseph is leading the charge with 15.3 points per game which isn’t a lot, but this team is still ranked 2nd behind Marquette in points per game. That means that they are getting offense from a multitude of places and teams can’t scheme against any one player which creates nightmares for opponents. They have also done a great job of handling the news hysteria surrounding their team. They have also adapted to the zone quickly and are using their length to cause havoc.

2. Louisville. (+2) Louisville is winning games on defense end, stifling teams with the Big East’s number one defense. They’ll need more offensive from this team once conference play starts though. Kyle Kuric, Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng are having good starts to their year. The scary thing is that this team isn’t healthy yet.

3. Marquette. (+7) Marquette has come out of the gates with a scorching offense, averaging 88 points a game. Led by Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, this team is hard to slow down. Match that with the second ranked field goal defense in the Big East and Marquette has made an early statement that they are contenders for the Big East title.

4. UConn. (-3) The Huskies are having their ups and downs with the front court but with the talented backcourt of Napier and Lamb and the addition of Ryan Boatright, this team will be vying for the top spot on the power rankings all season. UConn's arch enemy is itself, landing dead last in turnover margin in the Big East and no one is even close.

5. Pittsburgh. (-2) While Pittsburgh has struggled through their early stretch of games, Travon Woodall is putting up some impressive assist numbers averaging 8.5 a game and Nasir Robinson is knocking down shots. The Panthers known for their tough inside game have been tearing it up from deep, leading the Big East in 3-point efficiency. What is un-Pittsburgh like is their defense which is struggling at the moment.

6. West Virginia. (-1) Kevin Jones is tearing it up. He is near the top of the Big East in points per game at 21.8 and rebounds per game at 12.3. This is a blue collar team. They aren’t going to blow you out of the water with either offense or defense, but they give you 40 minutes of effort.

7. Georgetown. (+4) The Hoyas offensive prowess has been surprising, averaging 82.2 points per game. They are deadly from deep and Jason Clark, Hollis Thompson, and Henry Sims are a great triple threat. They are gelling nicely and might sneak into the top five before it is all said and done.

8. Seton Hall. (+5) Fuquan Edwin has become a defensive force for Pirates and Jordan Theodore is doing a great job of being a facilitator. So far they have taken good care of the basketball but they probably don’t have the fire power to stay in the top 10 once conference play starts.

9. DePaul. (+7) Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young are leading DePaul up the rankings. They are knocking down threes, getting steals, and sinking free throws. If they don’t rebound and play better defense though then a plummet down the standings will certainly occur.

10. Villanova. (-2) The Wildcats are struggling on defense and haven’t been knocking down shots. You can’t blame Maalik Wayns for that though, averaging 20 points per game. They lead the Big East in free throw percentage and do a good job of getting to the line. This team is finding its way and won’t be in the middle of the pack for long.

11. Cincinnati. (-2) The Bearcats are leaning heavily on their defense until they get their offense on track. Yancy Gates and Sean Kilpatrick need some help and can’t do it alone. This team needs to figure out how to get more efficiency on the offensive end before Big East play or they are in trouble.

12. Providence. (Even) Vincent Council and Gerard Coleman are a good one two punch but they need more help from those around them and they don’t have a solid defense to keep them in ballgames. They need to do a better job on the boards with LaDontae Henton as the only one stepping up and doing the dirty work. It doesn’t look good for the Friars early on.

13. South Florida. (+1) Toarlyn Fitzpatrick and Ron Anderson Jr. are doing all they can for the Bulls. They are playing really good defense but are dead last in offense in the Big East. They need to find more help on the offensive end and keep up the strong effort defensively. If they do that this team might surprise some.

14. Notre Dame. (-7) It doesn’t look good for the Irish. They are average on both ends of the court, are lousy rebounding the ball, and have no one to protect the rim. Jerlan Grant is their leading scorer at 13.4 points per game. That just isn’t going to cut it.

15. Rutgers. (Even) This is an average team. They don’t do anything extremely well or poorly. They are lacking a go-to-scorer and are relying on everyone contributing. Without any star power this team is going to struggle once conference play starts.

16. St. John’s. (-10) The Red Storm are the most disappointing team on the list. They have such a heralded group of young talent but with Lavin’s illness, they haven’t been able to put any type of consistency together. They are near the bottom of both offense and defense in the Big East, can’t hit or defend the 3-point range, and struggle mightily rebounding the basketball. It is a combination that will put you in the cellar of the Power Rankings. The upside is the young players will eventually mature. They have too much talent.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Andre Drummond Official Mixtape

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Survival Mode

Coming off the collapse against UCF, UConn looked to bounce back against an offensively challenged but defensively stout Florida State squad. While the beginning of the game was sloppy for both teams, UConn found it’s rhythm with inside-outside passing that led to open jumpers. They were also running much better and found easy baskets in transition that they couldn’t find in previous games. The second half was much different though. UConn began turning the ball over in stretches and FSU started draining 3-pointers. Another bad sign was that whenever UConn scored, they didn’t get back on defense and allowed the offensively inept FSU team easy looks at the basket or gave up lay-ups. This was one of the major issues that cost Connecticut the basketball game against CFU. Watching their lead dwindle and disappear again, it was an unlikely hero that stepped up and put this team on his shoulders, Ryan Boatright. Playing his first game, he knocked down three free throws that sent the game into overtime where UConn held on by their fingertips to come out victors.

Sure Lamb only took 9 shots, but unlike his poor shooting day versus CFU, he played within the flow of the game. Instead of taking jumpers, Lamb attacked the rim early and often, getting to the line 5 times. He also showed his floater again and was attacking the glass, snagging an offensive rebound then hitting a 3-pointer in the same possession. He is still having difficulty with ball security, having 4 turnovers, with some of those leading to easy points on the other end. His outside shot was working again with none bigger than the one he made in overtime. What is missing from his game is the mid-ranged curl route that he developed late last year.

Napier was determined to have a better game and had a game high 26 points, and while his numbers looked good, there were still some disconcerting numbers. He took way too many 3-point attempts, 13, and is still turning the ball over at a atrocious rate, 6. He is making some difficult passes in crunch time to his big men and not allowing his offense a chance to score. He is so talented and sometimes mimics Walker too much instead of being himself. His outside shot is a deadly weapon but he needs to know that when it is crunch time that means take it to the basket.

It was Ryan Boatright’s first game as a Husky and he didn’t disappoint, playing 33 minutes. Calhoun utilized the three guard offense for a bulk of this game and Boatright used his speed to get into the lane for several nice passes that led to easy baskets. He also had a corner three pointer, made those crunch time free throws, and most importantly didn’t turn the ball over. It was one of the best first games for a freshman in recent UConn history, especially considering the level of competition and what was on the line. With Boatright playing major minutes and the ballgame tight, Giffey and Allen didn’t get into the game.

Oriakhi played sparingly due to a hyper extended knee. He saw 10 minutes of action and only had 3 fouls and a turnover in his box score. Drummond was also battling an injury, hurting his wrist in his last outing. He came to play though, having several spectacular dunks, put-backs, lay-ups, and 7 blocks. He also was a beast on the boards, snagging 10 with 4 of those offensive. He is becoming more confident in each and every game. They just need to find ways to get him the ball late in the second half and against the zone. Olander continued his slump. His jumpers weren’t falling and he had a dunk as his only field goal. His passes were off the mark, he was caught not looking for the ball when it went his way, and he missed the front end of a 1 & 1. He did pull down 6 boards and had 4 assists, but with his solid play earlier this year, this team needs more from him.

With Calhoun utilizing the three guard lineup, the wing position took a hit minutes wise. Daniels set the bar high and he has been in a bit of a funk. He only took 3 field goal attempts with 2 of them threes. His shot was all over the place, sinking an in rhythm three but then airballed a jumper. Smith played the least at the wing position, 12 minutes, and also chucked up an airball on a 3-pointer. He did have 4 boards with 2 of those offensive, but he has been careless with the ball and that is too much of a liability if he isn’t making plays.

For some strange reason this team is not carrying over the defense from the first half of ballgames into the second half. They kept an offensively inefficient FSU team to 37% shooting in the first half but then let them shoot 63.6% in the second half. A lot of those points were on beating UConn down the court on made baskets which is unacceptable. The turnovers continue to plague them, 19, with a majority of them being unforced. This team is a fantastic offensive team, maybe when all said and done one of the best ever to suit up for UConn, but they aren’t playing a team game. They are playing to much isolation basketball and that plays right into their opponents hands. If they can’t stop turning the ball over, giving up easy baskets on the other end, and forcing up poor shots by trying to go one-on-one then this team will be in survival mode all year.

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Breaking sports news video. MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL highlights and more.

Breaking sports news video. MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL highlights and more.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Paradise Lost

This loss was far from surprising. It was bound to happen with the way Connecticiut was playing. UCF is an experienced team and talented across the board and UConn was playing sloppy basketball, they were playing with a shortened bench, and they were coming off a back-to-back games. On tired legs, UConn’s top backcourt struggled down the stretch. As UCF began their dramatic comeback from 17 down and used the zone, UConn changed their game plan, settled for one pass and a jumpshot, turned the ball over by taking on double and triple teams, and did not use sound half court offense. It all led up to an utter collapse and one that this team has been flirting with all year.

Jeremy Lamb had a rough game, going 5 for 16 from the field. He took way too many three point attempts, 9, and wasn’t attacking the glass, which might be a result of tired legs. He also had some costly turnovers down the stretch and didn’t help out on the glass as much as he has in the past several games. As the game was getting close, Lamb looked to be rushing things and looked uncomfortable, which isn’t his game. He needs the game to come to him and his game isn’t creating plays 20 feet from the basket.

It just wasn’t Napier’s day. He was sloppy, took ill-advised shots all over the place, took on triple teams that caused several turnovers, and his jumper just wasn’t there. It wasn’t all his fault, because a lot of pressure was on him to produce and he felt that pressure down the stretch and forced the issue. Without Boatright, Napier was asked to shoulder most of the point guard duties and it has taken its toll on him. Even with all that, he needs to do a much better job of setting up the half court sets, especially against the zone. He hasn’t done a good job of that so far this year.

Oriakhi came to play. He had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. 7 of those offensive, but the most impressive part was his ability to score with his back to the basket. It was a great sign. He also had 5 blocks and no turnovers. The only thing was that when UCF went zone, Oriakhi disappeared. He needs to do a better job of getting involved either by pick and rolls or offensive boards against the zone. Drummond also had a strong game. He nearly had a double-double with 9 boards and 13 points. He also had 4 blocks. But just like Oriakhi, he couldn’t find a way to contribute once UCF went zone, which was the story of this game.

Olander had his worst showing of this young season. He had a hard time finding rebounds which he was doing a much better job of this year. He also took some ill-advised jumpers late in the game. He ended up with 4 points and 2 boards, which is far below his average. Daniels also had an off game. His jumpers weren’t falling and he forced up a few shots too early in the offensive set. Smith continued his up and down season with an off shooting night hitting only 1 of 4 from the field, but he did do a good job on the boards, pulling down 4. Giffey had a nifty driving lay-up and a rebound but that was about it in his limited minutes.

Hopefully this game is a wake-up call for this team. They need to know that the effectiveness in the half court sets isn’t were it needs to be and the shot selection is far from acceptable. They can’t allow the zone to affect them the way it has and need to make teams pay on the boards if they use it. They also can’t settle for the outside shot in the first ten seconds of the shot clock and need to use it after the third or fourth pass. They also can’t allow teams to keep up with them on the glass, especially with their superior size and talent. The turnovers, the lack of consistent rebounding, and the love of the jump shot has plagued this team since preseason. They need to realize their strengths and haven’t adjusted to that yet. Luckily this loss does little to their hopes of their ultimate goal but only if they learn from it and that has yet to happen.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Flaws in Paradise

While UConn was playing in paradise, the game was far from perfection. They got off to a fast start and the game looked to heading towards a blowout, but UConn began turning the ball over, a nasty trait of late, and they started taking jumpers instead of using their superior size to attack the paint. The poor shooting for UNC-Asheville didn’t last long and they soon began knocking down threes and clawed their way back into the game. Every time UConn looked to be ready to land the knock out punch, UNC-Asheville made some tough shots and UConn took some ill-advised shots or turned the ball over. The half court offense again stuttered with little to no ball reversal or inside outside passes. Most of the offense began and ended with Lamb and Napier, which was just enough to keep a pesky UNC-Asheville at arms length and pull off the victory.

Lamb had a very efficient night hitting 8 of 13 from the field. He has become a reliable three point shooter, but at times falls in love with the shot and needs to use the floater and mid-ranged shot. He got to the line four times, but needs to at least double that. He also found himself caught in the air with no where to go with the ball and had a horrible foul on a three point shooter in the closing minutes. Besides all that Lamb did a great job on the boards, pulling down 6 rebounds with some of those in traffic. He has been the quiet assassin for this team.

Napier carried over his superb play against Coppin State into this game. He was driving the lanes for some acrobatic lay-ups, sinking the outside shot, and getting to the line but only sank 4 of 9. He did have a hard time taking care of the ball, having 5 turnovers. He also had four 3-point attempts that were either too early or not in the flow of the offense. He needs to be more patient with the offense and not rush things and let his big men settle into position. Everyone must understand that he is playing a ton of minutes, isn't used to having the ball this much, and is still only a sophomore.

With Oriakhi’s struggles, Drummond was rewarded with the start. He had an up and down game, which is expected for a freshman. He started with a two dunks, a steal and an offensive rebound, but he soon found himself struggling to find some rhythm. He wasn’t attacking the rim and found himself laying the ball off the glass or floating it up for misses. He did do a good job on the offensive glass, snagging 3. He found himself again fighting foul problems with two offensive fouls and several on help defense. Oriakhi's mystery season continued. He had a lay-up and 1, a nice block, and a nice post move that sent him to the line, but he was supposed to be a leader on the court this year but instead he is losing minutes, playing only 15 minutes. His inconsistencies are hurting this team and they desperately need him to show up.

Daniels also started the game off strong, sinking a 3-pointer and had a tip-in, but disappeared down the stretch other than a huge block in the second half. This was a off night for DeAndre, who has been one of the most consistent players not named Lamb, Napier, or Olander. Roscoe Smith was coming into this game on a high note and it looked to be continuing, nailing an in-rhythm 3-pointer, had a block and a sweet turnaround jumper, but then the wheels fell off in the second half, missing a 3-pointer, having 3 turnovers, and missing the front end of a 1 and 1. Olander also had a fast start. He is turning into a nice passer, 4 assists, and is consistently hitting the 15-footer, but couldn’t find any offense in the second half. Giffey and Allen both got into the game but didn’t do much.

This team is a bit in flux with inconsistencies across the board among the frontcourt. With little help there, any flaws in the backcourt's play gets magnified and with Napier and Lamb turning the ball over 8 times and playing one-on-one basketball, it let a less talented squad hang around. Luckily they made the plays to shut each UNC-Asheville run, but it is far from a convincing win that this team is top echelon and deserving of a number four ranking. They certainly have the talent to warrant that ranking but their play hasn’t. They need to clean up these flaws, play more fundamental half court sets, and not fall in love with the jumper.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Seeing Triple

For some odd reason it takes a whole half of a ball game for this team to get going. In the first fifteen minutes, the half court sets were stagnant, they weren’t closing out on the Coppin State's hot three point shooters, they were being out rebounded by another smaller squad, and they were being out worked for loose balls. It all added up to Coppin State jumping to a surprising 12 point lead. UConn kept up their aggressive play though and got into the bonus early, keeping them in the game until Coppin State’s shooters came back down to earth.. The Huskies came out in the second half and dominated, shooting 74 percent with most of those points coming from the paint. They finally controlled the boards and did a much better job with turnovers only having 9. But the story of this early season has been the backcourt combination of Napier and Lamb, with this game going down as one for the record books for a young and upcoming star.

For someone coming into the game that Calhoun didn’t even expect would play because of a sprained ankle, Jeremy Lamb put on a show. Most of his jumpers in the first half were short which was expected with a sore ankle. But later in the first half shots started to fall. He sank an eighteen footer, a 3-ball, and an off balance fade away jumper at the buzzer. He was more effective in the second half with two 3-balls, a lay-up, and a jumper. It was a typical Lamb night. He lets the game come to him and looks effortless in doing so. This type of performance under the circumstances that he played under shows a quiet leadership that his teammates can respect.

What more can you say about Napier’s day? He did a lot of everything from being aggressive with driving the ball into lanes, hitting three 3-balls, knocking down free throws, hustling for loose balls, snagging those pesky long rebounds among the trees and making nifty passes for easy points for his teammates. He was much better with ball security, having only 1 turnover to his 13 assists. Everyone thought that Napier would be ready to take over the point, but no one could’ve expected the high level of play he has shown so far, especially without a capable backup. This triple-double performance put him in elite company among UConn lore and he still has so much more potential which is scary.

Oriakhi was coming into this game with a solid performance in his rearview mirror, but he couldn’t get himself on track. He was practically a no show through the first half, throwing up a wild shot as his only offense. He finally hit a floater for his first points in the second half, but he needs to be much better. With his struggles it has added more pressure on the other frontcourt players. Oriakhi wasn’t the only one to struggle, Drummond can’t seem to get out of foul problems, picking up a quick two and found himself riding the pine for much of the first half. He did contribute on the offensive glass and made 2 out of 4 from the line. He needs to defend better without fouling though.

Olander continues to impress. It took him awhile to get going with a bad turnover, was hesitant to shoot the ball, and had a very serious chewing out by Calhoun for not rebounding well, but once the second half started, he was a beast. He had a lay-up, a 17-footer, and two slam dunks. The most impressive part of his game is in the rebounding department where he had 10. He is by far the best surprise of this young season. Giffey had a rough day. He went 1 for 5 from the line, only had 1 board, but he did have a dunk which is un-Giffey like.

The stats won’t show it but Daniels had a solid game. He had a big time slam in transition, hustled for a couple of steals, and continued to show his range. He has a great combination of defensive and offensive skills that this team hasn’t had in the wing position in a long time. It was good to see Roscoe Smith bounce back with a great performance. He started out slow, missing most of his early shots, but he then found his offense by attacking the glass. He had three lay-ups, two reverses, and a slam. Hopefully this will get him back on track and a bit more confidence in his play.

It was another slow start where they struggled to find their groove early on. Again the backcourt carried this team behind the sensational play of Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb who combined went for 18 for 31 for 47 points, 14 rebounds, 14 assists, 4 blocks, and 4 steals. Not bad. They’re going to need more from the front court though and Drummond and Oriakhi need to be more effective and they weren’t. But with all the upsets going on in college basketball, this team is taking some pretty good punches and not backing down. These games which aren't pretty at times are exactly what these young players need and with the improved play of the wing position, this team is starting to gel. It always helps when you have a couple of Superstars on your team too.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

Maine Attraction

It was such a horrible first half that Jim Calhoun didn’t even bother to watch the last play, walking towards the locker room as his team had their final possession. They couldn’t figure out Maine’s zone defense, turned the ball over in bunches, couldn’t secure rebounds, and were out worked on both ends of the court in the first half. The second half started off just as bad as the first with Jeremy lamb out of position and Calhoun called one of the quickest timeouts in the history of UConn basketball, 5 seconds into the second half. To UConn’s credit, they righted the ship and dominated the foul plagued Maine’s front court. The bigs came alive and just in time with a depleted UConn backcourt that did little to thwart the 1-2-2 zone.

Jeremy Lamb had an off night. He was missing the entire rim on jumpers that normally would sink in. To his benefit, Calhoun had him playing out of position, often running point and not to his strength of coming off the screens. The good thing is that even with having a bad shooting game, he still dropped 16 points, which is the sign of a great scorer and he did it with only with 16 attempts, which shows that he isn't forcing things. Defensively, Lamb was able to use his length to get into the passing lanes and get some easy scores. The good sign was that he was active and not frustrated with being pulled, yelled at, and not having a normal Lamb performance.

Napier also had a tough night. He was put under at the dentist and then gutted out a rough performance in which he tweaked his knee. When he was playing, he struggled against the zone. He’s going to see a lot of it this year and he’ll need to be more effective in getting into the teeth of the zone and dish to the bigs. Hopefully his knee is okay. While Allen started out the year playing a good chunk of minutes, he was relegated to only two in this game. Calhoun felt more comfortable in playing with no point guards rather than putting Allen in, which doesn’t bode well for him.

Oriakhi had his best game of the season and did most of his damage in the second half. He was much better on the boards, and got much of his points around the basket instead of settling for 15-footers. He needs to build on his solid play and be more consistent which is the one major knock on his game. Drummond was a beast. He dominated the paint area, blocking shots into the second row and getting a majority of his points on put-backs, snagging 11 offensive boards. It isn’t a mystery that he struggles at the line but 1 for 8 isn’t going to cut it. Wolf once again got into the game in garbage time, but did get a rebound and a block in that short amount of time. He's made plays in the limited time he gets. It must be what happens in practice that has relegated him to this role.

Other then Napier and Lamb, DeAndre Daniels has been the most consistent player for UConn and his hard work was rewarded with a start. While he didn’t have a great shooting performance, he did have 15 points and 7 boards. He needs to diversify his offense though, because he took way too many threes, 8. But without Daniels, this team would be stuttering offensively. Roscoe Smith is in a rut. He can’t defend without fouling, only played 12 minutes, and is thinking way too much when the ball is in his hands. He needs to concentrate on the small things, rebound, defend, and be aggressive without fouling, something easier said then done. Giffey got a bit more playing time, but still wound up dribbling into a walk and was benched right away. He did settle down and hit a three pointer, which is a great sign. He needs to be this team’s Rashad Anderson. Benjamin Stewart and Kyle Bailey also got into the game in the closing minutes.

Hopefully the UConn team that came out in the second half is the one that will stick around, but with the point guard position in flux and players playing out of position, it is work in progress. The half court offense is still stagnant and the turnovers are concerning, but the freshmen are gaining confidence and effectiveness and the rebounding is becoming a strength. They have a tough stretch coming up with five games in ten days and need to make sure that they don’t wear themselves down. There are still some major concerns, turnovers and lack of backcourt depth, but they are improving each game and that is what is a great sign.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Making Sausage

The one thing you don’t want to do to an underdog is to give them confidence early and UConn did just that. Wagner came out firing, sinking jumper after jumper and frustrated UConn with some tough nosed defense, which caused 19 turnovers. UConn righted the rebounding department which has plagued them throughout this young season, out rebounding Wagner by 18 rebounds, but they still gave up 11 offensive rebounds. With the turnovers and offensive rebounds, UConn gave Wagner 30 extra possessions, not good. They also had trouble with ball screens and gave up some wide open looks to Wagner’s guards which they took advantage of. It was only UConn’s superior backcourt that carried the Huskies to this victory and Lamb and Napier are holding this team on their shoulders until Oriakhi, Drummond, and Smith find their roles.

One role that is clearly defined is Jeremy Lamb’s, scorer. It was a horrible shooting night for him, going 5 for 15, but the great thing to take from this game was his ability to get to the line. If he can average 6 to 10 trips a game then he and his team can weather a poor shooting night. He also rebounded much better, which this team needs at the moment while the frontcourt gets settled. He is a born scorer and it is scary to see what he can do when he is on fire because a quiet night from him so far is dropping 20.

Unlike the Columbia game in which Lamb made the plays, it was Napier that took control of this game when the momentum was tilted in Wagner’s favor. He did have a hard time with the pressure that Wagner put on him and had 6 turnovers to only one assist. He needs to do a much better job of setting up the half court offense and ball control. Right now their best offense is in transition or on second chance points. Battling a cold, Shabazz looked winded with the up-tempo play and the lack of a backup is taking its toll on him.

Oriakhi was fighting a bad back but he did a better job on the boards, snagging 3 offensive and 6 defensive boards. He played sparingly in this game but was extremely effective in his 17 minutes which is an encouraging sign. He still hasn't dominated inferior talent and needs to find the Oriakhi that averaged a double-double in the NCAA Tournament. Drummond played with more energy and had a better outing. While his numbers won’t stand out, he was crashing the offensive boards and was a force down low. He did find himself in foul trouble early in the ballgame on some tick-tacky fouls. There is so much pressure on him to produce right away that he is forcing things.

Olander had another effective all around game. He was much better on the boards, sank some free throws, and made some nifty passes. He did have 4 turnovers and needs to take better care of the basketball. Daniels continued his superb play. He rebounded, hit the outside shot, knocked down free throws, and played stellar defense. He is already whittling away at Smith’s minutes. If he can continue his stellar defense and still provide an offensive threat then he should be getting 25 or more minutes a game. Smith couldn’t play defense without fouling and found himself on the bench for much of this game. He only had 1 rebound and 1 point. He needs to come out of his shell in the halfcourt sets and crash the boards. He is at his best when he is clawing for second chance points.

Coming off a knee injury, Giffey finally played his first game but continues to not understand his role. He is determined to become a dribble drive scorer instead of a spot up shooter. Why can't he realize that he is passing up one of his strengths in three point shooting for one of his weaknesses? He did win UConn's three point shooting contest. Allen came in for 2 minutes and Calhoun seems to be willing to let Lamb run the point to spell Napier, especially in tight games.

It was another game shouldered by Lamb and Napier. This team is feeling the loss of Boatright even though he hasn’t played a single minute all season. They only have three ball handlers and are susceptible to the full court press. Daniels and Drummond are slowly coming along, but this team needs another consistent double digit scorer. They are in flux now. Once the freshmen settle into their roles and Oriakhi and Smith get back on track, then they’ll show the domination that this team is capable of. That is why they play these early games. It’s a not pretty watching the sausage get made but it sure tastes good when all the ingredients are cooked to perfection.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Stepping Up

It wasn’t pretty. UConn wasn’t fluid in the half court offense, taking quick shots, clanking free throw shots, and letting a smaller front court keep up with them in the rebounding department. It was sheer better talent that brought UConn this win. Against better talent, UConn would’ve been blown out. It wasn’t that unexpected though. With most of the offense leaving with Walker, Napier and Lamb shouldered the load. The freshmen and some role players that needed to contribute had a hard time of finding points. With so much talent spread among every position, this performance is more of an anomaly rather then a forecast of what to come.

With much of the team lost in the offense, Lamb stepped up. He took hold of this team and carried them when Columbia was dropping threes. He was an effective 11 for 17 with some well timed three pointers, a highlight monster dunk & 1, and used his length to get into the passing lanes for steals. He still needs to get to the line more and not settle for jumpers as much as he has, but when you are dropping thirty points in the first game of the year it is hard to nit-pick.

Napier had a back and forth game. He demonstrated the ability of hitting the three pointer in transition when dribbling against a back peddling defender, sinking three this way. A major concern was his free throw shooting, making only half of his shots. With Boatright ineligible to play, Napier had to keep himself in the game and it might of limited his aggressiveness. The walk-on Allen played within himself and looked more concerned with not making a mistake rather than making a play. He only was on the court for four minutes.

Oriakhi is in a slump. This is the second game in which he struggled to make any impact in the game. He was rushing his hook shot and looks to be releasing his shots at a low release point rather then using his height and length to shoot over his defender. He missed all his free throw shots and only had five rebounds. This team desperately needs him to be consistent and he hasn’t, especially against inferior talent. Drummond also struggled but it is more forgivable since it was his first game of the season and he only played 12 minutes. It is still unbelievable that with Oriakhi and Drummond both struggling that Wolf only played one minute. He has shown some energy and spark in his limited minutes that warranted more of a look, but Calhoun is either sending him a message about practice or he just doesn’t trust him yet. Bailey also got into the game in the closing minutes.

Olander again showed that he is UConn’s best front court player so far this year. He is playing with more confidence, taking the 15-footer, had a big time put-back slam, ran hard and was rewarded with a lay-up, and showed some better rebounding and shot blocking. He disappeared down the stretch of the ball game but his overall body of work is encouraging. Smith looked like the Smith of old. He played great defense, rebounded well, and had a transition dunk, but he isn’t effective in the half court sets and is afraid to use his jumper. Like his fellow freshman Drummond, Daniels struggled to find his offense. His jumpers weren’t dropping and he had a couple of sloppy passes. He still showed the ability to hustle back for a block which he has done in every game this year.

Sure it wasn’t a blowout. In fact there were times when this game teetered on the brink of being uncomfortably close, even late in the game, but for a teaching moment, a game like this does more for finding out more about your team than any blow out could possibly do. With the talent that Drummond, Daniels, and Oriakhi possess, they will rarely have the games that they had today, especially all at once. The thing to take from this game is that Lamb made plays to seize momentum when it had turned, something a leader must do and that is a great sign. This team needed a leader and he stepped onto that podium and took the torch from Walker.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Machine

UConn brought their solid play on both ends of the court against AIC into their last exhibition versus C.W. Post. The Huskies stifled C.W. Post in the first half, limiting them to outside shots which just weren’t dropping. All the while UConn’s offense kept attacking and when their jumpers are falling a lesser talented C.W. Post squad didn’t have a chance. There were some troubling signs behind this thirty point blowout though. The rebounding continued to be a problem and UConn was out offensively rebounded 24 to 13. The problem is that UConn’s bigs are tipping the ball around instead of going up with two hands and corralling it. They were also outscored in the second half which is a bit disconcerting. Overall it was a good warm up to knock off a bit of the rust to get ready for the regular season.

Lamb had a great first half. He showed some nifty ball handling skills, knocked down a couple of jumpers, a transition three, and had some deflections that led to easy points. He disappeared somewhat in the second half, making only half of the plays that he did in the first half. A major sign of worry is that he only had one free throw attempt, which means he wasn’t attacking the rim. He needs to hover around five to seven attempts a game from the line and have a more aggressive mentality.

Napier had another solid game though he was more sloppy with the ball, committing 4 turnovers. He is doing a much better job of dribble penetration and dishing the ball for easy buckets. He also had two nice three pointers, one of which had Calhoun cheering from the bench for the excellent ball movement. He is playing a ton of minutes, 33 already. Hopefully he doesn’t hit a wall. With Boatright missing another game, Calhoun again relied on Brendan Allen to back up Napier. He played 16 minutes and did a good enough job even knocking down a three pointer but also had a horrible pass that had Calhoun fuming. For a walk-on this is pretty impressive.

Oriakhi had a rough start, getting blocked on a jumper and benched. He barely saw the court, playing only 12 minutes. It was a message from Calhoun that he needs to play better. He has fallen in love with the jumper and needs to become more of a post threat. He did have 8 boards in those 12 minutes, which is a good sign.

Drummond was a beast and took over a stretch of the ballgame in the second half where he had a steal, power slam, block, and finger roll in consecutive plays. He put his stamp all over this game, getting 10 boards, 16 points, and 3 blocks. He did have a game high 5 turnovers and didn’t attack the offensive glass, but with that all said it was a much better showing from the freshman.

Smith climbed out of Calhoun’s doghouse and played a good chunk of this game. His jumper wasn't hitting and he was a bit erratic on the defensive end, but he did a good job of rebounding and blocking shots. Smith might be looking over his shoulder at Daniels who had back-to-back solid performances. He hit 2 of 3 from deep, had a couple of powerful slams and made two hustle blocks. These games can only be confidence boosters for him and he is a great compliment to Smith. Giffey missed the game due to a hyper-extended knee and a soar ankle. Hopefully the layoff doesn't put rust on his jumper.

Olander continued his improved play. He hit a jumper, jump hook, and attacked the rim. He has put in the work in practice and it is paying off on the court, but he still needs to show more in the rebounding department. 5 boards in 25 minutes isn’t good enough. It was great to see Wolf make some positive plays in his limited role. He had 4 boards, 4 points, and 2 assists in only 8 minutes. Hopefully he can find Calhoun’s trust to get more minutes. He sets great picks with his wide frame and he can be significant piece to the rotation if he can continue this type of play. Stewart and Bailey both got into the game but didn’t score.

Even for a blowout there were still some glaring problems that UConn needs to work on. Rebounding and turnovers on top of that list. They have such a talented squad that giving up second and third opportunities and easy buckets will beat themselves against better opponents. The offense will not be a problem and the defense, while in the half court, will be formidable, but they’ll need to play with more fundamentals in rebounding and not rely on shear athleticism. But this is the reason why they play these games. Shake the rust off, oil up the moving parts, and see what this machine can do. So far it looks offensively potent.

Charlie Villanueva Interview

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fresh Start

With Kemba Walker and Jerome Dyson looking on, UConn began their 2011-2012 campaign by hosting AIC. UConn had such a distinctive advantage at every position that it was like playing a pick-up game with your little brother. In a game like this the big things to take away are the turnovers, the outside shooting, free throws, and defense. While the defense was outstanding, only giving up 10 field goals all game, the outside shooting was atrocious, hitting only 1for 8 from deep. The rust was evident and not surprising. UConn did feast on a sloppy AIC team that had 18 turnovers and the bigs sealed the paint area, limiting AIC to outside shots that weren’t dropping.

Jeremy Lamb got off to a fast start and looked to be ready to dominate the game, but he quickly cooled off. His outside shots weren’t dropping but he did get to the line, making 3 of 4. He'll need to get to the line a lot more though. He has such a fluidness to his game that even with having what seems like an off night, he still drops a game high 17 points.

Napier has been in the doghouse for the past couple of practices but Calhoun likes to ride his point guards hard to start the season, even calling A.J. Price soft once. Napier struggled mightily on offense only hitting two shots. He did drop 15 assists and played great on defense, stifling AIC’s guards. The most impressive aspect of his game was that he didn’t have a single turnover. He has so much talent around him that his main job is to pile on the assists, limit turnovers, and play defense. His offensive game is a distant fourth.

Oriakhi looked great in the post, but he had a size advantage. He showed the ability to score in a variety of ways but none better than displaying the ability to knock down a jumper. The only down side to his night was that he didn’t rebound well. He pulled down eight boards, but with so many missed shots by AIC and his size advantage, he should of had more. Drummond came in off the bench wearing a protective mask and shaking off the cobwebs from a mild concussion. He was rusty early on missing on some easy baskets. The good side was that he had 4 rebounds, 10 points, and he did it in only 17 minutes. He didn't force the action which is a good sign from a star like player.

The most impressive player had to be Olander. He was a man possessed, grabbing 9 boards, 9 points, and a game high 3 blocks. If he can keep this improvement up then he could steal some major minutes away from Smith, Daniels, and Giffey. Giffey had a rough night, having a team high 3 turnovers. He is still dribbling too much and found himself in trouble with a charge and a turnover. He did do a good job of getting to the line and hit 5 of 6 from there. He needs to know his role and so far he hasn't.

DeAndre Daniels got the start and was effective hitting 4 of 5 from the field and had the only three pointer for the Huskies. For the first game of his career, he didn’t rush anything and let the game come to him. Smith finally got into the game in the second half because of breaking a team commitent, and only played 12 minutes. He did a good job in his limited minutes, snagging 4 boards. It is going to be interesting to see how Calhoun dices up Daniels and Smith’s minutes.

With Boatright sitting out this game due to an investigation into his eligibility, Brendan Allen, a walk-on, played a good chunk of the game. He did his job, getting 2 steals, 1 board , and playing solid defense. It is rare that Calhoun has that much confidence in a walk-on to play that much. Wolf and Stewart found their way into the game but didn’t get into the box score. It is a shame that Wolf has fallen this far down the depth chart. He had such high hopes coming into the season late last year.

It was a good showing for their first game. The defense look stout, the offense, though a work in progress, still unloaded 78 points. There is still enough on tape for Calhoun to work on for his team, like rebounding and turnovers, but the most troubling thing for Calhoun is how he is going to divvy up all the minutes which is a good problem to have. This team looked the part of a National Championship contender and they did it the Calhoun way, defensively.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

UConn Huskies 2011-2012 Preview

It will be hard to top what was one of the most magical and improbable runs in school history. A team led by a superstar point guard, underachieving sophomores, and talented but unproven freshmen. They came out of the box strong but struggled through Big East play. With their backs to the wall, they played five games in fives days in New York City to win the Big East Championship and then riding that momentum, they cut down the nets in the NCAA Tournament. It was an unbelievable and memorable run.

This team will have some weighty expectations. They have a talented sophomore in Jeremy Lamb, who proved to be a reliable sidekick to Walker and was the best player on the USA Under-19 basketball team, but he didn’t have the expectations that are on his shoulders this year. Can he become a first option and a leader that this team needs him to be? He has all the tools to be that type of player and has a maturity to his game that few players possessed at this point in their careers.

There was no doubt that early in the season Napier was capable of becoming a reliable point guard. His gritty play on defense frustrated opponents and he showed that he could knock down the outside shot, though his selection at times were questionable, but his energy and ability to move Walker to the two guard spot allowed the offense to run smoothly. Shabazz will have more responsibility and needs to focus on the simple play rather than the spectacular. He’ll be backed up by Ryan Boatright, who is a fast paced and athletic guard. He’ll play the same role that Price, Walker, and Napier played in their freshman year, which is that sixth man role to provide a spark off the bench or be a teaching tool for Calhoun if Napier needs reining in.

The shooting guard is a lock with Jeremy Lamb solidifying the position. He is primed to take that next step in his development and become the primary option to the offense. He has such a versatile game that it will be hard for teams to game plan against him. There is a gaping hole in that two-guard position behind Lamb, but Calhoun has options. Boatright and Napier can play that position or they can go big with Smith, Giffey and Daniels moving into that spot.

The Wing position is still up in the air. Roscoe Smith couldn’t find consistency in his outside shot and it effected his offensive game. He still shined on being a tough-nosed defensive minded player and began rebounding better down the stretch of the season. Giffey never found his stride but if he can find his outside shot and limit his dribble drives then he could find valuable minutes. He will have a lot of heat from the freshman DeAndre Daniels, who is a more fluid offensive talent. Roscoe has the starting job so far, but if Daniels shows that he can provide points against comparable talent and can play solid defense, then Smith and Giffey could lose minutes.

The power forward position is intriguing. If Oriakhi wants to play at the next level then he will need to be a power forward. This is a great opportunity for him to get minutes and put some work on tape for NBA scouts. There is also Michael Bradley, who sacrificed his scholarship for Andre Drummond, and Calhoun might feel encouraged to reward that kind of selflessness that isn’t seen a lot in sports.

The center position is one of strength. Andre Drummond headlines the position, but behind him is Alex Oriakhi, Michael Bradley, and Enosch Wolf. Oriakhi has the experience and will more than likely start at power forward but slide into the center position throughout the middle part of the games to avoid fouls.

It has been a long time since UConn has assembled such a deep and versatile line-up. The scary part about this team is that there is still a tremendous upside. Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier are scratching the surface to what they can do and Oriakhi and Smith have much more to show out of their respective games. Add that with a true blue chip in Andre Drummond and two solid recruits in Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels, this team might not strike lightning in a bottle again, but they have the right chemistry to create the thunderclouds.