Monday, February 6, 2012
It was a January to forget for UConn. It started out with a blow out by Seton hall for their worst loss of year, they struggled against an inferior Rutgers team, then got a win against a gritty West Virginia squad, they put together their best game of the month in a win against Notre Dame, then lost a heartbreaker at home versus Cincinnati, they went out of conference and struggled against Tennessee, and finished it up with a horrible offensive performance against Notre Dame. It doesn’t look good and they are reeling with their season on the brink. The backcourt has been the only offensive threat all month, but remained inconsistent in the half court sets. The frontcourt has remained non-existent and has struggled rebounding the basketball. The wings haven’t played a lot of minutes to contribute much and aren’t helping out in the one department that they need to, rebounding. It has all added up to mediocrity and that can’t be settling well with Calhoun, considering the talent on this team.
It all boils down to leadership with Lamb. All the talent is on display for him from a soft jumper, consistent floater, and an above the rim game, but he settles too much for jumpers and doesn’t get to the line, which is creating long stretches in games where he doesn’t contribute offensively. He also is turning the ball over too much and needs to be more decisive with the ball. With only two true scorers on this team, there is a ton of pressure on Lamb to produce and he’s been reluctant to take the team on his shoulders.
Where would this team be without Napier? He’s been the best player throughout the month. He’s had the burden of trying to make others better and still have to put up near twenty points a game. There were two games where he single handedly almost brought UConn back to steal games, but its obvious that he can’t do it alone. Without much help from the big men, Napier has been limited to making plays with ten seconds to go on the shot clock.
Boatright had a tough month. He’s had to sit out much of the month with the NCAA following up on an investigation into his eligibility because his mother’s ex-boyfriend tipped off the NCAA on some infractions. But before his hiatus, he was struggling to find his offense and he tended to be less aggressive in the three guard line-up.
Drummond had his ups and downs but remained UConn’s best option for offense in the paint. He still lacks a post game and is horrible at the line, but he makes up for that with his blocking and rebounding. It will be interesting to see how he finishes up this season and if he can take that next step in his progression, but if the season ended right now, he isn’t ready for the next level and could possibly lose millions of dollars.
It is amazing that Oriakhi continues to have the season that he is having. There are grumblings that he just can’t co-exist in Drummond’s shadow, but that is non-sense. His problem is that he isn’t utilizing his strength inside to get rebounds. He needs that Jeff Adrien style, throw them elbows and go get the ball. He also is lackadaisical with his rebounding and tends to let guards swipe the ball away.
Ever since Olander hurt his heel, he hasn’t been the same. His jumper looks off, he isn’t rebounding, and isn’t playing good defense. It went unnoticed how much he made an impact off the bench, like Gavin Edwards had done. Hopefully he gets healed up and finishes strong.
Giffey had a solid month. For a lanky body that isn’t athletic, he has great footwork on defense, and he is finally getting confidence in his perimeter game. He just needs to do some of the little things, like weak side rebounding and developing a mid-ranged shot.
Smith has had an inconsistent month. He’s not going to give Calhoun fifteen points a game, but he doesn’t need to. What this team needs out of him is rebounding and defense. While he does do that, there are stretches that he disappears in.
It’s been a frustrating season for Daniels. He showed a lot of promise in the pre-season, but he hasn’t been able to find the bucket on his jumpers and it doesn’t help that he plays only a sprinkling of minutes a game. He’ll have time to develop but if he doesn’t rebound better then the minutes will flow to Smith.
UConn now sits waist deep in a hole that they have just dug and February won’t get any easier. They need to win games and do so in a hurry, because it doesn’t look good. They just aren’t a good team and when they are losing home games and in the fashion that they are, then you know something is fundamentally wrong. There is a lot of blame to go around. You can throw out words like leadership, selfishness, or underachieving, but the bottom line is they aren’t getting multiple stops and get consistent offense. It is in these situations where you find what a true character of a team is. Will they fold or will they pick themselves off the mat and turn this around?