Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Whose Afraid of Enosch Wolf?

In each and every one of UConn’s losses the frontcourt has been nearly non-existent, relying heavily on the combination of Oriakhi, Drummond, and Olander for the bulk of the rebounding and post play. But the rotation, which looked to be a strength on this team, has turned into its glaring weakness.

While it is explainable that Drummond, though talented, is a freshman and is learning to play against comparable size. There is no doubt that he will become a big time player and has shown the spectacular in stretches, the half court sets are taking his strength out of the equation and he has yet to show a double move on the block nor play the pick and roll with effectiveness.

Olander has shown drastic improvement and is in somewhat of a slump since injuring his heal. He isn’t the banger inside nor a bulk rebounder, but has the best looking jumper out of the group and is an invaluable asset to this team against the zone where he can find that soft middle and knock down shots, but he isn’t ready to become that double-double machine.

Oriakhi’s struggles are a mystery. He is a junior, has the experience and he is undersized as a big man and would be more of a power forward at the next level, but he has never looked comfortable with his back to the basket . He also hasn’t developed a consistent fifteen foot jumper, nor a hook shot, and is limited to a quick turnaround as his go to move. He might never turn into that post threat, but the most frustrating part of his game is that he isn’t a great rebounder. He tends to ball watch, not block out, or fumbles with the ball when he gets it.

With the recent slump the front court has gone through, it is a wonder why Calhoun hasn’t utilized Enosch Wolf. Sure it is like asking for the back up quarterback to come in when the starter isn’t performing, but he has size, has shown that he can produce, and it isn’t working now so why not? He has basically wasted two of his four eligible years on warming the bench. Is there another motive? Was he asked to transfer and didn’t, is he so horrible in practice that Calhoun doesn’t trust him, or is it something else? It would be nice to see what he could do on the court to help this team instead of filling out garbage time and he never has had that opportunity. With the season on the brink, it is all hands on deck and it might be time to see what the giant German can do.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Pulling Hair

This team is hard to figure out. For much of the month the frontcourt was a no show and the backcourt carried the team, but when the frontcourt finally showed up and made plays, the backcourt struggled to find any semblance of consistency and they once again fell to an inferior opponent. It was a combination of poor shooting, poor rebounding, and no offensive rhythm. And this was happening with Ryan Boatright back from a long layoff. But it didn’t matter, they still found themselves coming out sluggish in the second half, letting Notre Dame score 12 consecutive points and UConn couldn’t muster enough offense to claw back. Though the problems have been different, the end results have been the same. They just can’t make enough positive plays to overcome their negative ones, pure and simple.

It took forever for Lamb to get going, making his first attempt at the basket 12 minutes into the game. But when he finally got it going, he was UConn’s sole offensive threat outside the paint, hitting three 3-pointers, a floater, an 18-footer, and a jumper. He nearly stole this game down the stretch, but it was far from enough to put away a pesky Notre Dame squad. In games where the ball isn’t going, Lamb needs to take a more aggressive mentality. Only two free throw attempts is just not enough.

This was by far Napier’s worst offensive game. He missed all his shot attempts and some of those were horrible decisions. The only positive for him to take away from this game was that he only had one turnover to four assists, but if he and Lamb aren’t contributing in the scoring column then the pressure to score falls on the frontcourt and that is a tall order.

Drummond came to play. He had a couple of dunks, a put-back, a jumper and a wild shot that fell in. He was also UConn’s sole rebounding threat with 11. He was the only bright spot of the game with so many others struggling to get anything done. Oriakhi’s season continues to slide. Once again he started out strong with an early jumper and a dunk but then got into foul trouble with offensive fouls. It is his rebounding that is the most frustrating. Four rebounds isn’t going to cut it and if he can’t give more then Calhoun needs to find someone who can, because it was the offensive rebounds in the second half that beat this team. Olander is another who is a shell of what he was and hasn't gotten over his foot injury. He only played 7 minutes and didn’t contribute much.

Boatright finally got out on the court and had a nice dish and floater at the buzzer in the first half and it looked promising, but other then a reverse and a coast-to-coast lay-up, Boatright struggled missing all his jumpers and having problems defending without fouling. Hopefully it is just a little rust and he'll be back. Smith had a good game and played solid defense, got fouled, and had a steal, but he needs to rebound and he didn’t have a single one. Daniels couldn’t find the basket in his limited play. Giffey had an early lay-up and was sporadically in and out of the line-up.

It doesn’t look good and with a weakened Big East this season only 5 or 6 teams are going to get an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and right now UConn is on the outside looking in. And it doesn’t get easier from here. They will need to play an elite Georgetown team coming off a tough loss of their own. If they drop this next game they might have dug themselves a hole that they won’t be able to climb out of unless they make some noise in their conference tournament. This has to have Calhoun pulling his hair out. This team just shouldn’t be in this predicament.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Jim Calhoun Interview

UConn Recruit Kris Dunn breaks scoring record

Jim Calhoun CardioRaiser

It is an honor to team up with Jim Calhoun to get the message out on his upcoming Inaugural Jim Calhoun CardioRaiser presented by Farmington Bank.

Everyone that has followed the Coach knows his commitment to fighting and spreading awareness about Autism. This new event is scheduled for Sunday, February 26th, 2012 and will take place at two locations: in Manchester at the Cardio Express located at 412 West Middle Turnpike and in Southington at the Cardio Express located at 342 Queen Street.

The cardio activities begin at 9 a.m. and there will be Zumba, spinning, and cardio machines at both locations. Come for an hour or stay all day and join Coach Calhoun to show your support for Connecticut families battling Autism. All proceeds will go to the Connecticut Chapter of Autism Speaks so the dollars you raise will stay here to help Connecticut families and children. For more information head to www.calhouncardioraiser.com. Don't wait! Register today!

Sunday, January 22, 2012


It doesn’t look good. The offense is relying on two players, Napier and Lamb, to get everything done and without anyone to back them up because of scholarship losses and Boatright’s ongoing NCAA investigation, they are getting fatigued and settling for some poor percentage plays for a majority of their attempts. The lack of frontcourt play was evident again and unless they are getting plays off of offensive rebounds or in transition, they are just screen setters. It all adds up to an other abysmal performance and must have Calhoun shaking his head because he has the talent on this team to make it to another Final Four, but they just aren’t producing.

Lamb had a slow start, missing on two jumpers before getting a dunk. Other than a 3-pointer and two free throws, he struggled to find any offense in the first half. He came alive in the second half, mostly because he was forced to due to no other person besides Napier willing to take shots. He had a floater, a runner, a jumper, got to the line, had a lay-up and nailed a 3-pointer. He had a hard time getting free again on screens but found a way to use isolation plays to take his man off the dribble. It was good that he broke out of his slump and found some much needed offense to make this came at least competitive.

Napier once again had the pressure of the entire offense on his shoulders for much of this game and he still produced. He did a much better job of looking down court when he got the ball and found two easy lay-ups that way. While at times you shake your head at some of those three pointers he takes early in the shot clock, but there aren’t any better shots, because of lack of any offense from anyone else. And like the end of the Cincinnati game, Napier almost brought UConn back and steal a game they had no right to be in. Another good sign was his ability to handle the ball better, but it wasn’t enough.

There is no one answer to why Oriakhi is having the season that he is. He barely catches the ball cleanly either on rebounds or in the post and several times had a rebound to only have it bounce in his hands to get swiped at. His only positive plays were getting to the line and a turnaround jumper. It got so bad for him that he even gave up a free throw rebound and fouled out. Drummond wasn’t much better. He had a nice lay-up and offensive rebound and dunk, but was a major non-factor down the stretch other than a put-back. Olander had a nice pass in the first half and that was about it. It has been quite awhile since he has had a major impact in a game. The lack of any consistency from these two players are putting this team in precarious situations that they just don’t have the fire power to get out of.

Giffey got the start. He played solid defensively, made some hustle plays, and hit a transition 3-pointer. He has become the most reliable player on the wing position. Smith missed a easy lay-up and gave up a free throw rebound. Daniels had an offensive rebound and was tied up. That was about it from this group and that isn’t enough. They need to help out more by either working hard on the boards, working harder on the mid-ranged jumpers, or pick and rolls. Whatever they are doing now isn’t working.

This team is at a crossroads. They can’t rely on Lamb and Napier to be the only offense. That isn’t going to work and hasn’t. They have only a couple of signature wins and now are mired in the middle of the pack in the Big East with a brutal stretch ahead of them. They dug themselves a hole and need to steal a few road wins just to remain viable for a good seed and unfortunately missing the tournament isn’t out of the question if they continue this play. The past few losses could be tossed up to be downed by hot shooting from outside, but not in this game. They were just outplayed and that shouldn’t have happened. It doesn’t look good, but then again it didn’t last year around this time of year.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Deep Problems

There are deep problems at UConn. They just can’t stop teams from raining threes on them and it cost them another game. Cincinnati scored 33 of their 70 points from beyond the arc. While most of those shots were well defended, UConn was caught a multitude of times over helping and left wide open shooters that didn't miss. The lack of backcourt depth was also evident in this game. Lamb and Napier looked tired at times and settled for easy shots early in the shot clock, but it was the total lack of help from the frontcourt that cost UConn this game. They only had 6 points from Drummond and Oriakhi and that puts way too much pressure on Lamb and Napier to score. Unfortunately this will be the game where they look back and wished they had. They need to defend home court and they didn't.

Lamb had a hard time getting free on screens all game, which he had been doing better as of late. He did hit a jumper, a floater, and a 3-pointer in the first half, but also had a bad pass, a turnover, and played bad defense & gave up a 3-pointer. In the second half, Lamb had a lay-up, an offensive rebound & floater, and was fouled on a 3-pointer. But it wasn’t enough and UConn could’ve used a more aggressive Lamb, especially when they were in the bonus so early in the first half. He needs to figure out ways to get free and get touches because the offense needs to go through him and it didn't for long stretches of this ballgame.

With no one stepping up, it was up to Napier to make plays and he almost single handedly pulled out the victory. He had a goal-tended lay-up, a steal & 1, two lay-ups, and a step-back jumper in the first half. He stepped it up in the second half with a fade away jumper, another jumper, and heated up down the stretch with three 3-pointers. He did have five turnovers with some of those coming with being over aggressive and going a bit too fast, but without anyone else stepping up it is hard to point any fingers in his direction, especially when he runs through two offensive sets and no one is free to get the ball.

Drummond took a step back in this game and couldn’t find a way to attack the rim in the half court sets. He did have a couple of dunks in the second half on transition or put-backs, but he had little impact offensively and tended to go up weak or rush things. Oriakhi didn’t do much better. He did have a nice offensive rebound and dunk in the first half but that was about it. He missed three turnaround jumpers, a 15-footer, and a dunk. Olander had a lay-up and was over matched defensively. With the smaller Cincinnati line-up, UConn’s bigger frontcourt should’ve had a huge impact on this game and they just didn’t show up. The only bright spot was that they did a pretty good job defensively and on the boards.

Daniels played bad defense in the first half and didn’t get much playing time after that. Smith had an offensive rebound & dunk, a lay-up, and was fouled three times, but it wasn’t enough to contain the perimeter shooting of Cincinnati. Giffey was the only pleasant surprise from the wing position. He had a hook shot off the glass, two 3-pointers, a lay-up, and rebounded much better. He was also the best overall defender on the perimeter. It was good to see his progression this year. Allen came off the bench and had a beautiful lay-up on the baseline.

UConn needs to put this game behind them. They ran up against another hot shooting team but unlike other games, they played good defense. They showed heart, came back and nearly stole this game with only two starters and a bench player contributing offensively. They’ll have to dust themselves off because they have a tough road test against a non-conference foe in Tennessee. Tip your cap to the Bearcats, they are playing really well and played out of this world from deep. Hopefully this hot streak from deep doesn't continue and UConn's front court figures things out, because if they don't then it is going to be a ugly rest of the month.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Role Play

It was a total team effort. With a shortened bench, due to Boatright’s sudden suspension and Olander’s injuries, UConn leaned heavily on Giffey, Smith, and Daniels and they all chipped in, especially on the defensive end. They withstood an early and familiar charge from deep which kept Notre Dame in the game, but once that dried up in the second half, UConn’s front court dominance sealed the lanes and rejected shot after shot. UConn used a crisp offense that only had 10 turnovers and out rebounded Notre Dame by 12 to pull ahead and seize control of the game.

Lamb had a quiet morning. He missed all of his three pointers with some of them deeper then the NBA line and at the tail end of the shot clock. He did make a couple of deep jumpers, and had a steal then lay-up in the second half. He did a good job of cleaning up the glass on the weak side and played much better defense on the perimeter. It was good to see this team not suffer with a bad shooting game from Lamb.

Napier has become more of a vocal leader on the court and could be heard over the commenter to give him back the ball and reset the offense, which is a great sign. In the first half Napier had two back-to-back steals, two jumpers, and a lay-up in transition. He carried that over into the second half with an early 3-ball, a few nice assists, deflections, a lay-up, and continued to knock down free throws. It was an impressive performance considering that he had no one to back him up and went the whole way.

Oriakhi has finally arrived, carrying over his solid finish in the West Virginia game into this one. UConn made an effort to give him touches on the post and he produced with a turnaround fade shot, a 15-foot jumper, and made 5 of 8 from the line, but it was the activity in the rebounding department that was most impressive, snagging 7. This could be the turning point of his season. While Drummond didn’t have a rim shattering dunk, he had his fingerprints all over this game. He had several blocks that would have been easy lay-ups and was a man on the boards. His jumper was off this game but he had a sweet finger roll, a lucky turnaround jumper that banked in, a lay-up, an offensive rebound then jumper, and then had a dunk. Battling the heal contusion, Olander was visibly limping out there but gutted it out. He had a nice put-back dunk and made some free throws. It was the best overall showing from the frontcourt and hopefully it remains as impact-full moving forward.

The wings had a huge impact on this game and it started with Roscoe Smith who had three offensive rebounds in the second half that helped propel UConn’s run to take the lead for good. He also had an elbow jumper. Giffey had an offensive rebound & put back, a jumper off the curl, played some stellar defense, and knocked down an open three. He has been a reliable piece off the bench all year. Daniels made an athletic basket, shooting the ball while falling down, but still hasn't been able to get that magic he had during the beginning of the season.

It isn't molecular science. If they take care of the ball, out rebound their opponent, and play great defense, they are going to win. And finally it was all clicking and looked like a well oiled machine rather then some one learning how to drive a stick shift for the first time. They’ll now head back home with a lot of confidence and take on an improved Cincinnati team. Hopefully they can carry the momentum from this game into the comfy confines of Gampel, because the schedule down the stretch looks brutal.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


It didn’t look good early on. UConn continued to struggle in the half court, they turned the ball over on sloppy passes, They were getting pounded on the glass, and once again they were getting sizzled by the three pointer. But unlike the past two games, UConn came out with a sense of urgency in the final ten minutes of play. Fueled by pressure defense, UConn turned the table and cashed in on the Mountaineers sloppy ball handling and the outside shot which was killing UConn dried up. They held on with a free throw battle between both teams worst free throw shooters, Drummond and Kilicli. It wasn’t a must win, but UConn didn’t want a three game losing streak and dig themselves too big of a hole this early in the Big East schedule. This gives them a bit of confidence, though they still have a ton of work left.

Jeremy Lamb had a bounce back performance. He started his night with an up & under move, attacked the rim for an & 1, and had a 3-pointer in the first half. He looked more aggressive early, wasn’t settling for threes, and was coming off the screens tighter. Unlike the other two games where he disappeared in the second half, Lamb came out and took control of the offense. He had 3 jumpers, hit a floater, a dunk, a lay-up, and sank his free throws especially in crunch time. He did a better job of not shying away from contact which had been one of his major critiques of late. This could be the turning point in his maturity where he takes hold of the leadership.

Sure Napier didn’t hit a shot, but that’s fine with him, because this team is at their best when he is setting the table for others. He knew that it wasn’t his shooting night, only taking 6 shots and was scoreless, but his dribble penetration allowed the big men to get open and he made a ton of plays. He still has a bit of Bret Favre in him, because he tends to think that he can fit the ball in places he just can’t, leading to turnovers, but overall he was a much better point guard out there tonight.

What more can you say about Andre Drummond’s night? He had 5 dunks, pulled down 11 boards, sank 2 turnaround jumpers, a 12-footer, 3 blocks, and made free throws in crunch time. He put his turnover plagued game behind him and outplayed Kevin Jones. The only bad thing about this game was that it was in front of a bunch of NBA scouts.

Oriakhi’s line doesn’t display the full impact that he had in the game. He had 8 points, 3 boards, and 3 blocks but he was active throughout the game. He flashed to the rim for easy lay-ups, had a nice dunk, and hit a jumper. He is struggling on the boards, from not putting a body on a player to getting tied up on a rebound, but it was an overall good outing for Alex and one to build on.

Boatright hit a 3-pointer, a steal then dunk, and a jumper in the zone, but he also had numerous bad passes and some poor shots. He is still learning what he needs to do and where he needs to be with the ball. He is also playing a bit too fast. Olander had steal, some nice passes and a 15-footer late, but he also had a double dribble and some bad fouls. Giffey played 10 minutes and made two free throws. Calhoun is shortening his bench and Smith and Daniels are feeling the pinch getting three minutes each. Smith did get 2 blocks and 1 assist in that time though.

For ten minutes this team played the way that they were capable of. Hopefully they can bottle this up and take it with them to South Bend because they’ll need it. The Irish are playing much better and any road victory in this league is tough to come by. They still have a lot of work to do, starting with turnovers and rebounding. It is all about execution and confidence for this young team and if they can play with the type of urgency that they showed tonight then this team can finally live up to their own expectations.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Flat Tires

There is nothing new here. It’s the same issue in each and every game, turnovers. They can’t turn the ball over the way they have and expect to win ballgames. It wasn’t like they weren't making shots or Rutgers was shooting lights out, but when you come up empty on multiple trips and allow teams more than 20 more looks at the basket then you, then you need to play a flawless game and UConn was far from that. The perimeter defense played much better, though Rutgers missed some wide open jumpers, but the offense came up empty in the second half and UConn floundered to find anyone other than Napier to score points. Losing back-to-back ballgames against two up and coming, but not top echelon teams shows that this team just isn't ready, hasn't found chemistry, and hasn't matured.

This was by far Lamb’s worst game of the season and possibly of his career. He started out strong, having a nice assist, a lay-up, and a slam but had little to show after that. He battled foul trouble throughout the game and finally fouled out when he went over the back on a rebound. His absence showed how much this team is reliant on him to produce each and every game and that the freshmen aren't ready to step up yet.

Without Lamb’s offense, Napier had to pick up the slack. While he was the only person to consistently get any offense going, he plays at his best when he isn’t forcing things, but this game dictated him to do so. He hit a few 3-pointers and was fouled numerous times driving to the basket, but he just didn’t have enough offense around him to pull off the victory.

It was another quick start for Oriakhi, getting two put backs early on, but found himself in foul trouble early and often. He did have a lay-up and got to the line in the second half, but this team needed his leadership with Lamb struggling and he didn't step up. Drummond had two slams early before he decided to become a turnover machine, tossing numerous poor passes out of bounds. It was another second half in which he struggled to find ways to score. The frontcourt failed to make an impact in the second half and allowed a Rutgers team to keep up with them on the boards, which should have never happened.

This was the type of game where Boatright was supposed to step up and show his scoring prowess, but he failed to appear. He had a sweet steal, lay-up & 1, but other than making 2 of 3 at the line, he was a no show. He doesn’t look comfortable out there and is hesistant in taking shots and isn’t driving to the rim. UConn needed him to become aggressive and he looked timid out there.

Giffey got the start and immediately traveled with the ball, had then had a steal, hustled on defense, then missed two 3-pointers before getting yanked. Daniels had a tip in and made some free throws. Like Boatright, he isn’t comfortable in where and when to take his shots. What happened to Roscoe Smith? Something must of occurred in practice to have him not play a full minute, because he played at least a couple with a wrist injury. Olander had a lay-up and a jumper but didn’t have the impact that he should of had in this foul riddled game. He should’ve been at the line a few times this game and wasn’t.

The wheels have come off. It’s been three months and this team hasn’t improved on the turnovers. They make poor decisions on passes, get stripped going to the lane, or aren’t in the right position. This is a young team and there are a lot of parts getting their first taste of Big East road life, but this needs to change and soon. They’ll drop in the polls, but this isn’t the BCS, this sport allows you to get better throughout the course of the season. They need to simplify things and get back to basics. Besides Syracuse, the Big East is wide open and will be a slug fest all year. They can change these flat tires, get off the New Jersey Turnpike, and hopefully turn this thing around.

Friday, January 6, 2012

December 2011

With finals and the holiday break, the December schedule only had five games with only three of those non-conference games before heading into Big East play. UConn started out the month playing Arkansas in the Big East/SEC challenge in which it looked to be Boatright’s coming out party. They then took on a Harvard team that had just cracked the top 25 and looked primed for the challenge but UConn dismantled them with big performances by Lamb and Drummond. They took that momentum into the Holy Cross game where they trounced them by 37 points behind Drummond’s 24 points. Looking like they had turned the corner and where going to be that dominant team everyone had imagined, they played a Fairfield team, pitting Olander brothers against one another. UConn once again let the lead slip away on poor perimeter defense, a theme all season, and barely hung on behind Napier’s 24 points and a Boatright three pointer. UConn then went on their first true road game down in Florida, leaving Calhoun in New England to serve out his three game suspension. It was a back and forth battle all game with UConn making the plays late and putting together their best defensive effort of the year. They finished off the month against the young St. John’s team pitting assistant coaches against one another. UConn proved to be a more polished team and offensively overpowered St. John’s to finish the month undefeated.

Jeremy Lamb remained his reliable self. He proved to be a dynamic jump shooter and reliable ball handler, but hasn’t taken the mantle of super star yet. While his cool and easy demeanor reminds one of Jerome Dyson, this team needs him to be more aggressive and a bit more feisty. He tends to settle too much for the outside shot. He still finds ways to score and has at times carried the team.

If anything December has proven that this team will go as far as Napier will take them. When he doubles his assists to turnovers, UConn is in total control of the game, but if he is erratic with this passes, teams find themselves crawling back into the game. Napier finished the month out strong and hopefully it carries over into the rest of Big East play.

The mystery of Oriakhi’s season continues. He lost his starting job to Drummond and is lacking confidence in every aspect of his game. There are flashes in games where it looks like he is back, but he still looks uncomfortable and uncertain when his back is to the basket. The most troubling is that he isn’t rebounding the ball and waits for it to come to him instead of going to it.

Drummond emerged in the month of December. He and Napier have started to build a rapport, scoring on numerous dunks. He has also become a shot blocker and helping out on those dribble drives into the lane. He still needs to show more on the post and continue to work on his free throws, which have steadily improved. He has by far been the most improved player this month.

Boatright continues to find his role and has put his stamp in each game, sometimes shutting the door on leads that looked to be squandered. His addition to the three guard lineup has added a dimension to this team that will create mismatches. His extended minutes have cut the playing time of Smith and Daniels.

Daniels didn’t have the impact that he displayed in November. He is still playing hard and isn’t shy on diving to the floor for loose balls or running hard on defense to swat a shot. He just hasn’t shown the offense in his limited minutes.

Smith had a rough month. He couldn’t find any consistency, but he has done a much better job of defending without fouling that had plagued him. He just isn’t that defensive force or rebounder that he was late in UConn’s historic run last year.

Giffey battled an injury and was the odd man out of the rotation. He was a bit gun shy when he got the ball and mainly spelled Lamb and Boatright.

Who would have thought that entering that at this point in the season that Tyler Olander would be the most consistent front court player on the team. He has shown the ability to knock down the important 15-foot jumper, has rebounded much better this year, is knocking down free throws, and is playing with a ton of confidence. He had a tough game against his older brother but other than that he has been solid.

Overall December was a good month and usually is for the Huskies. They will head into Big East play with some well defined roles and a relatively healthy team. They are entering the meat of their schedule and need to limit some of their self-inflicted wounds. Overall the talent on this squad is evident and while there are still flaws, they have a chance to make a statement in January. That’s if they continue to get better.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Square One

Every flaw that UConn was fighting against showed up against an upstart Seton Hall squad. The Huskies couldn't get stops and couldn't cool down the hot shooting Pirates on the perimeter, they were outworked on the boards, couldn't get anything going against the zone, the frontcourt couldn't get involved in the offense, and they turned the ball over again and again and again. It all led up to a humilating performance where they were outworked on all facets of the game. Sure Calhoun wasn't on the sidelines, they were dealing with injuries, and weren't getting the calls, but to put forth an effort like this sets this team back a month.

Jeremy Lamb carried the enemic offense and did it with mostly outside shooting, taking 10 of his 14 shots from deep. That is way too many. Seton Hall did a great job of sealing up the lanes and only giving him one free throw attempt. He has yet to figure out the zone and is settling. He needs to utilize the pump fake and drive more.

Napier had a night to forget. He was turning the ball over, taking bad shots, couldn't buy a basket, and was gambling on defense that was giving up easy points on the perimeter. He was battling an injury but that's not an excuse for his lackadaisical play. He reverted to the way that he played early in the season and if he can't control the turnovers than this team will flounder.
Boatright also struggled to make an impact and only had 5 points on 5 field goals. This team needed his offense and he didn't show up.

The bizarre Oriakhi season continues. He played 19 minutes and only had 2 rebounds. It is unfathomable that he isn't rebounding better. Sure his offense isn't there but he is barely scratching double digits in rebounds and that should be his strength. He is ball watching again and isn't blocking out when the shot goes up. He isn't playing like a junior. Drummond gave Seton Hall some locker room material when he said that he didn't know who Herb Pope was and unfortunately he didn't back that up. He only had 4 points and 5 boards while Pope had 15 points and 8 boards. He was still UConn's best frontcourt player but the zone is taking him out of the game.

Tyler Olander came to play. He was aggressive late in the game and was the one frontcourt player attacking the rim. He had 8 points and 5 boards. The other player that stepped up was Giffey and was the only silver lining in this game. He made his three pointer, hit a mid-ranged shot, grabbed 4 boards, played the best defense on the team and hit 6 for 6 from the line. Daniels looked to have a good game early but disappeared. He hit a three pointer and had 4 boards in his 12 minutes. Smith had 5 points and 2 boards in his 15 minutes and is still fighting that wrist injury.

It was a tough loss to swallow. It is rare for UConn to be outworked like they were and it seems like this team that looked to be turning the corner on the maturity of their game is now back to square one. They can't turn the ball over 13 times in a half and expect to win, especially when they aren't playing defense. Sure they aren't getting the calls on the road and they're getting pommeled from deep, but good teams can weather those storms and keep themselves close enough to make a run when the shots stop dropping. This team stands at a crossroads, either they can be that team that has the unfulfilled potential or they can play at the all more controlled level where they don't turn the ball over, show more patience against the zone and also demonstrate better perimeter defense. The ball is in their court now.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Big East Power Rankings

1. Syracuse. (Even) The Orange are pummeling their opposition with the leagues best scoring margin at a mind blowing +21.7 points. The zone is working well and is causing teams to turn the ball over in bunches. They lead the conference in turnover margin at +7.85. They are such a well rounded team and their frontcourt has matured and are creating plays.

2. Louisville. (Even) They hold the best defense in the conference at 56.9 points and Gorgui Dieng has become a reliable piece to an already talented team. Though Siva missed a few games he is still among the leaders in assists and steals per game. The one issue with this team is that they don’t have that 20 point scoring threat and need their defense to keep the game in the high sixties/low seventies.

3. UConn. (Even) The Huskies are so proficient offensively, leading the Big East in field goal percentage at .499 and have the best field goal defense, limiting opponents to just .369. They also have the best three point percentage, sinking .407 percent. They also haven’t relied on it with only three teams taking less attempts then they have. They’ve played to their competition so far and need to find that cut throat mentality.

4. Georgetown. (+3) This has been the most surprising team so far this season. Jason Clark is leading a surprising yet talented Hoyas squad. They hold the leagues best perimeter defense, only allowing a stellar %27. Hollis Thompson is quietly having a good year.

5. Seton Hall. (+3) Herb Pope's play has a lot to do with the Pirates rise up the Big East rankings. He is averaging 20.3 points a game, but isn’t alone. Jordon Theodore has stepped his game up to solidify a pretty formidable one-two punch.

6. Marquette. (-3) They are passing the ball extremely well, leading the Big East in assists per game at 17.8. They lean heavily on Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder but the two are putting up some impressive numbers. Junior Cadougan has been a consistent player and the team does well when the offense goes through him. Hopefully the beating they took from Vanderbilt at home was an anomaly.

7. Pittsburgh. (-2) This just isn’t the Pirates team that we’ve seen in the last several seasons. They lead the league in rebounding margin at +13 a game, are getting solid point guard play from Ashton Gibbs, but the defense isn’t there, allowing easy baskets. If they don’t figure it out then they might sink below the top ten when it is all said and done.

8. Providence. (+4) The Friars are doing a great job of protecting the glass and making teams have one-and-done trips down the court. LaDontae Henton has been an impressive freshman and Vincent Council has been mister reliable at the point. They have a nice nucleus but the reality of Big East play might sink them down the power rankings.

9. West Virginia. (-3) Kevin Jones continues to have an MVP-like season, Darryl Byrant has matured his game, Jabarie Hinds is a great looking freshman. This is a solid team that doesn’t back down. If they can solidify the defense then they will be moving up the chart.

10. Cincinnati. (+1) The Bearcats are heavily reliant on the three pointer, taking a league high 98, and they are knocking them down at 8.2 a game. The brawl has put an unwanted spotlight on this team that it doesn’t need at this moment. They are looking for an identity and haven’t found the luster that they had garnered from last season.

11. DePaul. (-2) Cleveland Melvin has put this team on his back and this team is much improved but they just don’t have the pieces around him to make a big splash this year, especially since they have the leagues worst defense. It is a great step for this team though to not be in the Big East basement.

12. Notre Dame. (+2) Surprisingly the Irish are tied in the Big East in assists to turnover ratio with the Orange at 1.5. Eric Atkins is deadly from deep, knocking down half his shots from there and Jerian Grant is leading the league in assists to turnovers. The win over Pittsburgh was a confidence booster and hopefully they build on it.

13. Rutgers. (+2) The average team. They just don’t do anything extremely well or really poorly. They’ll be around this part of the power rankings all year. The win against Florida was huge for this team and they might have found their super star in Eli Carter.

14. Villanova. (-4) It seems to be a theme at this spot in the power rankings. Villanova is struggling on the defensive side of the ball and they just don’t have enough scorers to make up for it. They are dead last in shooting percentage. On the upside, once they get to the line, the Wild Cats are the league best, hitting %76.

15. St. John’s. (+1) The youngsters are finally coming around and Maurice Harkless is showing his scoring ability. They’ll be a good team before the season is through and will have a few upsets in their back pocket but they have dug themselves an early hole that they might not be able to get out of.

16. USF. (-1) They have a horrible offense but a stellar defense and rely too much on Gilchrist. If they can’t find more offense then this team is going to struggle against the talent in the league, but the defense will keep them in ball games.

*Some of the Stats are subject to change.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Eve

Finally. UConn put together an all around solid performance. Sure it was against a short handed, young, and so far underachieving St. John’s team, but UConn has shown the ability to play down to their competition all year and they didn’t. They controlled their turnovers until the closing minutes of the game when they had total control, they played good perimeter defense, dominated the boards, and handled the zone with efficiency. The backcourt was fluid against the zone, penetrating and dishing to the big men who did a good job of finishing plays around the basket. The frontcourt controlled the paint, blocking numerous shots, rebounded well, and played aggressive. They also handled Harkless and held him to 5 for 11 shooting, 16 points, and 6 boards. Sure it wasn't perfect and they let St. John’s go on a late run because of some sloppy backcourt play, but with many of these games that should have been blowouts turn into nail biters, this game was in total control throughout.

Lamb was his usual self. He showed his sweet jumper knocking down 4 for 7 from deep with one at NBA depth and another turning into a four point play, but he disappeared down the stretch of the second half and that was when St. John’s made their run to cut the lead in half. He needs to know that this team needs the ball in his hands when teams make a run and the offense needs to run through him. Besides the missing 10 minutes, he was fantastic.

Napier was solid again. He made almost all his shots, going 5 of 6. He had 2 3-pointers, a nifty left handed lay-up, a line-drive jumper, and was aggressive getting to the line six times. The most impressive part was that he was doing it with limited practice because of a sprain in the top of his foot. He did struggle with the ball down the stretch and helped fuel St. John’s late run. He needs to do a better job of running this team with a lead and he tends to become passive.

Oriakhi had a great start, snagging two early boards. He is still rushing things around the basket but he did a have a nice lay-up, 17-footer, and turnaround jumper. While it isn’t a double-double, this was an effective outing and something to build on. Drummond got Uconn out of the gates in both halves with back-to-back dunks. He also had an offensive rebound & put-back, a jumper, transition lay-up, sweet assist, and made 2 of 3 from the line. He is becoming a consistent force down low for this team and is helping UConn create mini runs.

Olander had a nice first half. He had an offensive rebound & put-back, dunk, and was fouled twice, sinking 2 of 4. He did disappear in the second half and that might of had to do with the three guard line-up. Daniels more then picked up the slack. He was hustling for balls on the floor, had a big time block, had a dunk, sweet reverse, and had a steal & foul where he hit 2 of 2 from the line. Smith had an injured wrist and gutted out 4 minutes where he snagged two boards. The wing position did a really good job of creating all the little plays a team needs to pull out a Big East win.

Boatright had an interesting game. He had an early steal and slam, had a nifty pass, and pull-up before taking back-to-back bad three point shots where he got immediately benched. He then struggled through the second half, but once again when UConn’s lead was shrinking, here was “The Finisher” sinking a big time 3-pointer and sinking the hopes of a St. John’s comeback. He has become a consistent playmaker for this team. It was good to see Giffey take and make a couple of three pointers. This could be the confidence maker for the three point champ that will allow him to understand his role as the sharp shooter of the team. Enosch Wolf had a board, Benjamin Stewart had a foul, and Ethan Waite had a foul in the closing minutes of the game.

This was just what the doctor ordered. With the top of the Big East besides Syracuse in flux and each victory now will give some breathing room down the stretch, UConn can’t over look games like this and they took care of business. They’ll have to keep their offense and defense sharp because a very dangerous Seton Hall team is ready to make a statement and a win against UConn would do that. They still need to focus on turnovers while holding a lead, not becoming too passive, and find that killer instinct, but this young team is settling into a nice rotation and roles. While it isn't a finished product yet, they are on the eve of something special.

Napier, Drummond Fuel UConn In 83-69 Victory. Watch more top selected videos about: Sports, NCB