Saturday, March 31, 2012

Thibodeau on Rip Hamilton's injury

Rudy Gay: Superstar

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Grading the Huskies

Ryan Boatright. B. He had a rough start to his freshman campaign, watching from the bench while the NCAA finished their investigation, but when he got in, he provided a much needed spark. He proved to be a threat from deep, deadly in transition, and a good ball handler against pressure. By the end of the year, his shot selection was much better and he began to be more aggressive.

Jim Calhoun. C. He would be the first to admit that it wasn’t his best coaching job of his career. He had the talent from a gritty point guard, an All-Big East shooting guard, and an top lottery pick big man, but he couldn’t find a way to get them to gel. It is not like he didn’t try. He used every possible lineup that he could think of and nothing solved the enigma of this team. They remained mediocre throughout the season and never got better which is not like a Jim Calhoun team.

DeAndre Daniels. C-. He wanted to be a sharp shooter, but couldn’t drain the outside shot, and for him to get the minutes he needed to rebound and didn’t, so he found himself coming in and playing miniscule stretches of ballgames and never got the opportunity to play through bad possessions.

Andre Drummond B+. There was a lot of hype when news of Drummond’s arrival to an already talented team was announced but it didn’t all go according to plan. It took awhile for him to get comfortable with the team. About mid-way through the season, he hit his stride and was getting easy dunks on put-backs and in transition. He also became UConn’s only player that could consistently get double-digits on the boards. He still lacked a back to the basket game, had no reliable jumper, and was a liability at the line.

Neils Giffey. C. After winning the three point shooting contest at Midnight Madness, Giffey looked ready to be that sharp shooter that this team needed, but he never settled into that role. He looked hesitant at times to shoot wide open jumpers, and continued to drive himself into trouble. He still provided great perimeter defense which this team lacked and was central to the rotation.

Jeremy Lamb. B. Lamb is taking a lot of heat for how this season ended and some of it does fall on his shoulders since this really was his team. He has so much talent and upside that it was head scratching to see him disappear late in ballgames or settle for deep threes early in possessions. His defense was also a liability and often times found himself caught behind screens, not hustling back on defense or late to his man. He was UConn’s primary scoring threat and led this team in points, but if this is his last year at Storrs, it has to be a disappointing end.

Shabazz Napier. B+. He sometimes forced things early on in the season, from passes to shots to leadership, but in the end Napier was the only player willing to step up late in ballgames. His game isn’t polished yet and he still relies too heavily on the three, but he is a good not solid defender, is getting better at this court vision, and wears his heart on his sleeve.

Tyler Olander. C. It looked like this team was going to have a solid three man rotation with Drummond, Oriakhi, and Olander. Tyler was hitting the 15-footer with regularity and was rebounding well, but then he got injured and he never got back to where he was early in the season.

Alex Oriakhi. D+. His grade is this bad because of the expectations he had coming in, being a pre-season Naismith candidate, but he couldn’t find his game all year against comparable or smaller players. His scoring and rebounding numbers dropped, he found himself with two fouls early in games, and his frustration was carrying over into games.

Roscoe Smith. B-. Smith had a slow start to the year and had a hard time rebounding and scoring, but like last season, he found his stride late in the season. His jumpers began to fall and he was rebounding much better. He also played solid defense though he fouled way too much.

Enosch Wolf. D. This team needed a consistent rebounder in the front court and it was a golden opportunity for Wolf to step up and get some minutes, but for some reason he couldn’t find his way onto the court. He must of not shown Calhoun enough in practice to warrant the opportunity, so he was delegated to finishing out blowouts in closing minutes of ballgames, which were few and far between.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Rudy Gay Dunks on Lakers

Remember the Name: Aaron Gordon

Aaron Gordon is a 6'7" and 210 pound power forward from San Jose, California. At this moment he is undeclared but is being recruited heavily by PAC-10 schools. He is being mostly compared to Blake Griffin. He is athletic, has great hands, can jump out of the gym and the sky is the limit to where and what this kid can do. He needs to work on his jump shot, but the upside is unbelievable. Washington has the inside track, but Oregon is right behind.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Potential Exodus of Oriakhi

Alex Oriakhi has put in his papers to transfer. So what does that mean to UConn heading forward? Well for starters it does not mean that Oriakhi will not be wearing the Huskies uniform next year. It just means that he is preparing himself for the possibility of not doing so. While his three previous years have been a roller coaster from an underwhelming freshman year, to a sophomore year that saw him make key plays in key moments on their way to a National Championship, to a junior year with inconsistent play and spotty minutes. Most of the information coming out has come from Oriakhi’s father, who as anyone familiar with the local press, has been outspoken about Calhoun’s style of coaching. Unfortunately this has become slightly embarrassing, like watching parents berate the coach or an official at a little league game. While Calhoun can be harsh, outspoken, and sometimes brash, he has reached the pinnacle of his profession that few have ever done in any profession and that gives him a certain credence in the way that he coaches and the style that he does it with.

Oriakhi is at a crossroads of his basketball career and there has to be a bit of pressure on him that whatever happens next season, he has to produce and show scouts a much better product if he wants the chance to play professionally. The downside is that he is an undersized center and ask Jeff Adrien how hard it is to break into the NBA with that label on you. Oriakhi is going to need to develop three major aspects to his game to have a chance at making it at the next level, a 15-foot jumper, find a consistent post move, and do a much better job on the boards. If he hasn’t found one of those already, it is a mountainous uphill climb to do it in your senior year. Is it impossible? No, but it is unlikely.

A lot of his frustration this season had to do with coming off the bench while a freshman Andre Drummond got the start. He felt disrespected, but instead of that motivating him to showing everyone wrong, it plagued his season with inconsistent play. While he did have a great run in the NCAA tournament, no one points out the major contribution of Charles Okwandu down the stretch of that season, even outplaying Oriakhi in every other game. The merit of starting should be on performance not on reputation and as the season went on it was apparent that Drummond was a far better player. That shouldn’t be a knock on Oriakhi, just look at the NBA mock drafts.

So if Oriakhi leaves where does that leave UConn’s front court? On shaky ground. Besides if Oriakhi leaves then the NCAA has already ruled UConn’s postseason over before they even start the year. So it would be a good grooming year for Wolf and Bradley. And for fans there is nothing greater then the unknown, especially since the known is inconsistent and the other is a no brainer to test the NBA draft waters and won't be here. The only sad thing is that this has turned into a bit of a circus. This should be about a kid developing and growing into a good basketball player and a man, but it has digressed into a silly ‘I broke up with you first’ squabble between player, family and fans. Either way, Oriakhi should find a place, either here or with another team, that he feels comfortable and gives him the best chance to pursue his dream. That is the least that UConn fans should want from someone who has given his precious collegiate eligibility to help stabilize an institution that is going through one of its toughest times in its storied history. For that we should all say, thanks and wish the best for him.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Five Reasons To Be Proud of UConn

Jim Calhoun's Heart: He was coming off a National Championship season and had a team with the talent to defend their title, but his team stumbled midway through the season. Right during their worst stretch of the season, Calhoun found himself unable to move and eventually needed back surgery. While he was out for an extended period, his team wallowed in mediocrity and looked like the NCAA Tournament was a distant memory. He could’ve taken the season off. No one would’ve blamed him for it, but he didn’t. Days after his surgery, he came back to his team and showed that he truly cared, not about winning but about his team. They responded and played their best basketball in well over a month to solidify a berth in the Big Dance.

Ryan Boatright's Maturity: In pre-season practice and the Midnight Madness festivities, Boatright looked primed to be a major contributor on the team, but information that the NCAA had received about an airline ticket put a hold on his debut. He didn’t get frustrated and didn’t spout off to the media, but instead handled it with maturity. He was then cleared to play ball again and made an immediate impact, before the NCAA again was tipped off by an ex-boyfriend of Boatright’s mother and then leaked personal information that should’ve been kept in-house. Again Ryan displayed composure and let the process take its course. He he was finally cleared, he played a key role down the stretch of the season.

Alex Oriakhi's Leadership: Say what you want about his sub-par play or the twitter rant that he had earlier in the season when he was coming off the bench, but when things were at its worst, it was Oriakhi who called the team together and publicly said he would do whatever he had to do to get the team on track, be it start or come off the bench. As being the eldest on the squad, he needed to show that leadership and he stepped up and provided it.

Andre Drummond's Commitment: No one would hold it against Drummond to head into the NBA, especially with his projected lottery slot, but he would’ve been hovering around the same draft spot even if he didn’t head to Storrs. He wanted to taste the college life and even if the season didn’t go the way that he wanted, he has benefited greatly from the experience. He didn't have to choose UConn, in fact they didn't even have a scholarship for him available but he still choose to come. He started out offensively raw, but as the year went on, he began to find ways to use his athletic frame to get to the rim and even showed some post moves. There is no doubt that this year has helped his development for the next level.

Shabazz Napier's Will: While he tried to force things early on, from passes, shots, and to leadership. Down the stretch, he limited his turnovers, got to the lane, and was more aggressive. Not only that but he has developed a real kinship with Calhoun. It didn’t end the way that he wanted it to, but this year showed a ton of heart from this kid. During a stretch of the season, he was willing to change his entire offensive game to get Lamb the ball more. While it didn't lead to wins, it showed that he would sacrifice for the team.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Rudy Gay leads Memphis past Washington

<a href='' target='_new' title='Gay, Hollins after win' >Video: Gay, Hollins after win</a>

Anthony Bennett on Recruiting

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Friday, March 16, 2012

Same Sad Song

It was the same old song for UConn. They had problems protecting the perimeter early on and were blitzed. The offense was stagnant and they settled for horrible three pointers. Even with their size advantage, UConn still got crushed on the boards. It wasn’t until they started attacking the rim that UConn stumbled back into the game. But as soon as they crawled back to six points and it looked like they had a chance, they reverted back to settling for terrible 3-pointers, started fouling on defense, and gave up offensive rebounds. There was nothing new here. UConn giving up big leads or falling behind by massive deficits and having to chip their way back and not quite getting there. This has been the issue with this team all year and they couldn’t find a way to fix it. They just never improved all year and that doesn't happen with a Calhoun coached team.

Lamb needed to be aggressive but instead took two horrible 3-pointers early on and played sloppy perimeter defense, letting Iowa State get on that huge run. It wasn’t until late in the first half that he finally attacked the rim and got to the line, hit a lay-up, knocked down a jumper off a screen, and hit a floater. It helped cut into Iowa States’ huge lead and he remained aggressive early in the second half, getting to the line twice and knocking down a floater, before reverting back to settling for the perimeter shot. He needs to know that he is best in the mid-ranged game, but he continues to take a majority of his shots from deep. Until he realizes his strengths and weaknesses, he will remain inconsistent.

Napier did all that he could, even yelling at his teammates in that Iowa State run, shouting, Stay Connected. He was aggressive throughout the game and wasn’t afraid to attack the rim. He hit a couple of 3-pointers in the first half, had a lay-up, got to the line but couldn’t consistently knock them down, and had a few nice passes. It was in the second half that he once again reverted back, like Lamb, and took terrible 3-pointers, had bad passes, and struggled to get others involved. This loss can’t be blamed on him or Boatright though. Ryan did have a rough start, getting his shot blocked, taking and missing two 3-pointers, before he made a lay-up and had a hustle steal. He had a nice stretch in the second half that gave the team a boost and brought them within six points. He had a nice jumper, a floater, and a 3-pointer. He showed flashes of potential and was more determined to probe the defense.

This game encapsulates Oriakhi’s season. He was yanked twice early with poor defense on White and had a turnover where he couldn't handle a pass. He did have a dunk and a block, but was a non-factor for much of this game and was no where on the boards where this team needed him the most. UConn also needed Drummond on the boards and he was a no show, coming down with only 3. He did have a put-back, and a block, but he missed some easy lay-ups and had a hard time dealing with White, but that his understandable with his hybrid style. What is not acceptable is their inability to out-rebound teams and continually to ball watch instead of jumping for the ball at its apex or blocking out.

It looked like Smith was going to have a good game, hitting an early 3-pointer, but then his game fell off a cliff. He over-helped & left wide open shooters, missed most of his shots, and once again threw the ball for a half court shot with time still left on the clock. He did have a nice put-back in the second half and played the best defense against White, but he didn't make enough positive plays to outweigh his negative ones. Olander got to the foul line, but didn’t have a single rebound. Giffey played well, hitting a jumper and got to the line, but he had a hard time defending without fouling.

This was a tough way to have the season end, because Iowa State plays a style that put their strengths against UConn’s weaknesses. They were able to pull UConn’s big men from underneath the basket and opened up lanes for drives and second chance points. They just couldn’t find a way to slow down Iowa State and they countered every UConn run with one of their own. The problem with this team is that they had Kemba Walker on the team last year and won the Championship. They are still young and had the bar set too high and they couldn’t handle that pressure. They just didn’t look happy out there and it came across in their play. It added up to poor chemistry and selfish play and that will get you beat every single time.

<a href='' target='_new' title='UConn crashes out of NCAA tournament' >Video: UConn crashes out of NCAA tournament</a>

Thursday, March 15, 2012

UConn on Playing Iowa State

Five Keys to Beating Iowa State

Perimeter Defense: It is obvious to anyone who has watched UConn this season that opponents have been draining threes against them. The guards have over helped and left wide open shooters or have been caught behind screens. They need to do a better job, especially Lamb, on fighting through screens. Every Iowa State shooter must have a hand in his face or it could be a long night. Sometimes it comes down to luck and like the game against Providence, teams can get hot and hit some incredible shots. The good thing is that UConn has done a much better job on protecting the perimeter and has so far avoided a hot shooting team. Hopefully it can continue.

Transition Game: This is where UConn can do some damage. Iowa State doesn’t take care of the basketball and that can lead to some breakouts. Napier and Boatright need to apply pressure on the guards, while Drummond and Oriakhi need to protect the paint and swat shots. Those blocked shots can fuel the transition game as fast as a turnover will. On the other end, UConn needs to get back on defense and watch for those shooters stopping on the arc for some wide open three pointers. Those can deflate a team faster then any other scoring opportunity.

Rebounding: Drummond needs to get around 12 boards and use his size to attack the offensive glass. Those put-backs will be the difference maker in this game. Oriakhi will need to out-play Ejim. That means he needs to give this team 8 boards and 8 points. So it is a must that he stays out of foul trouble. The major concern is those long rebounds which UConn has a problem getting control of and with all the 3-point shots that Iowa State will throw up, there will be plenty. That means Lamb, Smith and the guards will need to hover around the 15-foot mark for those long bounces.

Half Court Sets: Napier and Boatright need to find Lamb on every other possession, especially late in the second half. When he is aggressive in the half court the offense has a flow to it. They can’t settle for the 3-point shot and need to use screens to attack. Nothing sustains offensive lulls like getting to the line and they haven’t been doing that consistently and when they have it has been their worst free throw shooters. On defense, they need to trust their teammates and communicate on switches and screens. The major cause for UConn’s poor perimeter defense is over-helping and giving shooters the space to shoot in rhythm. It has also been the major cause of Oriakhi’s foul trouble, when he has to clog up the lane.

Jump Shots: When it is all said and done it will come down to who can make jumpers. Even with UConn’s improved play down the stretch, Napier and Boatright have been struggling to hit open jumpers that only leaves Lamb as the consistent shooter. Iowa State has no shortage of players that can get hot at any moment. It is imperative that Napier and Boatright make the correct reads and take the jumper in the flow of the offense and avoid hero shots, especially when Iowa State makes a three pointer.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Jim Calhoun on the NCAA Tournament

Breaking Down UConn versus Iowa State

Sure the match-up against Kentucky looks interesting, but UConn can't sleep on Iowa State because this team plays a style of game that has caused UConn problems all year, the 3-point barrage. They can light it up from deep as a team, hitting .380 from beyond the arc and they score 73.2 points per game. If the game gets into the upper sixties, it won't bode well for the Huskies. Not only do they rely heavily on the three point shot, but they have a fantastic perimeter defense, which is tops in the Big 12 conference. Teams are hitting just .298 from deep. UConn must not get three happy and needs to focus on their strength, the big bodies inside. Iowa State is prone to turning the ball over and has a -.66 turnover margin. Napier and Boatright need to apply pressure and create havoc without fouling. The game will be won on two fronts, stopping the three point threat from the perimeter and the battle on the boards, especially offensively. Iowa State has the Big 12's best defensive rebounding team. They make team's one and done. Oriakhi, Drummond, Smith, and Olander need to attack the glass for those second chance opportunities.

For UConn to win they must stop Royce White, a 6-8, 270 pound forward/center. He does everything for this team. He leads them in points, 13.1, in boards, 9.2, hits .521 field goal percentage, and leads the team in assists a game at 5.1. He is an inside player and is not a perimeter threat so Oriakhi, Drummond, and Olander need to give him space on the perimeter and make sure he doesn't get position in his comfort spots. Melvin Ejim backs him up. He's a 6-6 and 220 pound forward who averages 6.6 boards per game. They play small ball, but that has given UConn trouble. They need to win the battle on the boards and not let a scrappy and smaller team win those 50-50 balls.

Napier, Lamb, and Boatright will have their hands full of Iowa State's potent and experienced gaurds, especially Scott Christopherson, a red shirt Senior. He's knocked down 63 3-pointers, scores 12.5 points per game, is a lock at the free throw line at .895 a game, and hits an unreal .450 from deep. It is a priority that whoever is on him does not leave him to help out, because if they let a great shooter like this get going, it will be a long night. They have a plethora of shooters to complement Christopherson from Tyrus McGee, hitting 50 of 122 from deep, or Chris Allen, who hit 72 of 188, and the X-factor of the game Chris Babb who plays the most minutes on the team and hit 64 of 191. This backcourt could get going on a single shot and sink UConn. They must protect the perimeter at all cost and give up the two instead of over helping and leaving these shooters open.

It will be the battle of two different styles. UConn must focus every possession on attacking the rim, not settle for deep jumpers and Iowa State wants to play an inside-outside game where White gets the double team and kicks out to open jumpers. Drummond and Oriakhi must stay out of foul trouble and be able to handle White, because a double team will only lead to trouble. On the other hand UConn has a good three guard line-up and can Iowa State be able to stop Oriakhi and Drummond inside on the glass? It all comes down to jumpers with these two teams. Lamb, Napier, and Boatright versus White, Christopherson, Allen, Babb, and McGee. Let the best team win.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Omar Calhoun Entire Game:

Christ The King High School ( Queens ) Vs Archbishop Stephinac High School ( White Plains )

Christ The King High School ( Queens ) Roster (White):
#2 Eric Ishman
#3 Isaiah Cosbert
#5 Malik Harmon
#10 Jon Severe
#11 Chris Mormon
#12 Adnois Delarosa
#15 Maynard Grant
#20 Thomas Holley
#21 Omar Calhoun UConn ( University of Connecticut )
#22 James Coleman
#23 Jesse Higgins
#30 Marthely Senat
#33 Jordan Fuchs

Archbishop Stephinac High School ( White Plains ) Roster (Blue):
#1 Josh James
#2 Naim Thomas
#3 Malik Omess
#4 Tyler Iacuone
#5 Mark Giardini
#10 Davino McRae
#14 Tarik Stoval
#15 James Decker
#21 Ryan Burnett
#22 Andrew Murray
#23 Samir Khalil
#25 Quarry Greenway
#44 Allen Suriel

Friday, March 9, 2012

Out Of Reach

They had Syracuse on the ropes, all the momentum was in UConn's favor, and the offense was clicking on all cylinders, but like they have done time and time again, they reverted back to the bad UConn. They began turning the ball over, missing free throws, taking horrible jumpers and three pointers instead of attacking the zone, and they couldn't make a play in that dreaded five minutes left period. They had shot the ball well from the perimeter in their first two games, but it came back to bite them because they thought that they were Ray Allen and took 23 three pointers in this game. Numbers do not lie and they need to understanding that it is one of their greatest weaknesses not their strength and they need to focus the majority of their offense on attacking the rim with their speed. It is a shame that they fell apart down the stretch, because they finally did a great job on the boards, out rebounding a good team, and they weren't getting rained upon by the three pointer, but it was a combination of poor shooting that led to poor defense, sending Syracuse to the line 23 times, that sank UConn's Big East title hopes.

Lamb was frustrated by the zone and only could muster 9 field goal attempts which is 10 less then what he should take. That put a ton of pressure on Napier and Boatright to make plays and they couldn't. He wasn't aggressive either, not getting to the line once, and taking 5 of his 9 field goals from deep. Much of this loss has to be pointed at Lamb for his disappearing act down the stretch. Other then two 3-pointers, a lay-up, and a pretty step back jumper, he was non-existent and UConn doesn't have the talent offensively to keep up with Syracuse when he isn't the focus of the offense.

With Lamb sleepwalking, Napier shouldered much of the offensive load, but his jumper was off. He went 5 of 17 from the field. Other then a pretty tear drop jumper and a lay-up & 1, his only other field goals were 3-pointers which he took way too many, 9. It is hard to blame Napier because the offense was solely dependant on him to produce and he tried. He just ran out of gas which was evident in two jumpers that missed everything. Boatright also struggled mightily. He missed all his outside shots from deep, going 0 of 5. He did have a nice floater, a lay-up & 1, and played good perimeter defense, but this team needed his speed to get into the zone but he instead settled for the outside shot.

Oriakhi had a bad tournament, getting into early foul trouble again and played only 17 minutes. He only had 3 rebounds and if he isn't getting rebounds, his offensive game follows suit. Drummond bounced back from his poor two previous games and had a double-double with 14 points and 10 boards. He had a put-back, a slam, a sweet one-handed put-back slam, two tip-ins, and a reverse late in the ballgame. Olander had a solid outing and played a good chunk of this game with Oriakhi's foul trouble. He had two nice jumpers, hit the offensive glass, and passed the ball well. It was good to see him contributing again and should help his confidence.

Smith continued to search for his game. He struggled from the line, going 1 for 4, missed all his field goal attempts, only had two boards, and was benched after getting his shot blocked. This team needed him in the center of the zone and he couldn't muster the magic he had in his last match-up versus Syracuse. Giffey hit a 3-pointer, had a steal, but also had two costly turnovers. He needs to take better care of the basketball because his turnovers always seem to come at the worst possible time. Daniels played a minute but didn't do anything.

Sure they were playing with house money and this loss won't hurt their chances to get into the NCAA tournament, but they let three great opportunities slip through their fingers to put that stamp on their big dance ticket. Now they have to hold their breath and cross their fingers that their resume will be good enough to get in. The flaws are obvious and this team more than likely won't contend for the Championship, but they deserve a shot. Not only because who knows what will happen next year with the APR situation but this team is a fingernail away from contending. And like all season, it has been out of reach.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Spark

They sure make it interesting. UConn looked dead to rights. They were getting slaughtered on the glass, giving up 21 offensive rebounds, and were in that offensive mailase that has plagued them throughout the year. All the momentum was in West Virginia's direction, but this team dug down deep and found away. They stopped West Virginia's dominance on the glass, didn't foul on defense, and knocked down some crucial shots. For the final five minutes of play, they played flawless basketball and showed everyone what this team is capable of. Now only if they can play that way for the entire game then this team would be mentioned among the college basketball elite.

Lamb was aggressive early, hitting a 3-pointer, a pretty step-back, and a cross over lay-up &1. It looked like it was going to be a big night for him, but he once again lost his aggressiveness in the second half when West Virginia seized control of the game. He still had a 3-pointer, a lay-up, and a nice jumper off the curl in the second half. It was in the overtime session, when Napier had fouled out, that Lamb made a critical three pointer that put UConn ahead for good. He also did a great job on the glass, snagging a team high 8. It is amazing that with his scoring ability, he disappears in such crucial stretches.

Napier had a sloppy start, having some bad passes, missing a lay-up, before hitting a 3-pointer. He really came alive in the second half with a 3-pointer & 1, two more 3-pointers, got to the line, and had back-to-back steals & lay-ups. He single handedly brought UConn back from the dead and into overtime before he fouled out in the extra period. While he was the catalist for this victory, he still took too many threes, 10, and had too many turnovers, 4. But a win certainly washes that away. Boatright had a nice pass, a floater, and a bank shot in the first half, but he was a non-factor in the second half with only a reverse as his only field goal. He also had a chance to ice this game in overtime and went 1 for 4 at the line. He is driving the ball more, which is a good sign but he needs to sink those free throws.

Oriakhi didn't carry over his improved play and struggled to contain Rutledge and Kilicli. He ended his day with 6 points and 5 boards. He did have 4 blocks but continues to bobble rebounds around and lose the loose balls. Hopefully this is a one game anomaly and he bounces back. Drummond is in a bit of a funk and has had back-to-back bad rebounding games, only having 4. He had a nice lay-up in transition, but his major contribution was on defense on the last possession of the game. This team desperately needs his rebounding with no other front court player even flirting with double digits on the boards. Olander had an offensive rebound in his four minutes of play.

Smith had a rough game. He had a tough time gaurding Kevin Jones and was in and out of the line-up, only playing 19 minutes. He missed both his free throw attempts, didn't get a single rebound, and had a turnover. Like Oriakhi, hopefully he gets back on track. Giffey played with energy but continued to search for his offensive game and like Drummond, he played excellent defense late in the ballgame to secure the victory in overtime. He has been a consistent role player all year, which is something this team doesn't have many of.

This could be the spark that this team desperately needs. They'll get a huge test against Syracuse, but they are now playing with house money. They should be able to play carefree basketball, because they really have nothing to lose in terms of seeding. They know that they can match up with the Orange, but need to play that elusive 40 minutes of basketball. They have it in them and have now have something they have lacked for most of the second half of the season, confidence. With that who knows where this team can go?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Big Apple

UConn got off to a fast start, hitting 6 of 6 from deep, and riding a red hot shooting Lamb. They built up a 24 point lead by keeping Melvin in check and protecting the perimeter while getting easy looks at the basket, but it didn’t last. UConn once again went into an offensive malaise and the defense followed suit. DePaul took advantage and began getting easy lay-ups which gave them enough confidence to start hitting threes. UConn couldn’t defend without fouling and began sending DePaul to the line for easy points. It was just sloppy and instead of feeling confident about a blow out win, there is that uneasy feeling about something plaguing this team.

Lamb played out of his mind early on, hitting everything. Once the lead was extended to 24, Lamb went into a shell. He needs to be more vocal in getting the ball and when he does get it, he needs to be more careful with it. He had four turnovers. He did rebound the basketball much better, ending his day with five boards. Its that daze in the second half that this team desperately needs him to make a play to wake them up.

Napier was coming off one of his best games of the year but found himself in foul trouble for much of the game. He never had a rhythm to his game, playing 16 minutes, but he was effective when he was in. He did a great job of finding his teammates for easy scores, especially against DePaul’s pressure defense. He wasn’t looking for his shot and only took 3 field goal attempts. Boatright had a good game and was able to break the press on numerous occasions for easy buckets. He shot the ball well from deep and at the line. He did have a few costly turnovers in DePaul’s run to get back into the game and he needs to work on his court vision, missing some wide open teammates for easy scores, but it was an overall good outing. He seems to feel more comfortable playing with Napier on the court, because as soon as Napier picked up his fourth foul, UConn's offense went into the tank.

Drummond had a rough going offensively. He did have a couple of dunks, but struggled mightily at the line. He had one of his worst rebounding games in over a month, ending with only 5, which might be the reason why his offense was floundering. His game is dependent on his ability to get boards. He did protect the rim and had four blocks. It has been awhile since Oriakhi outplayed Drummond, but he did. He was able to get to the line, rebound the ball much better, and had 4 blocks. This is back-to-back solid games for him and he is playing well at the right time. This team needs this type of rebounding from him throughout the rest of the year. Olander played 3 minutes and had a board.

Roscoe Smith hasn’t cooled off yet. He hit two 3-pointers, had a team high 8 rebounds, got to the line, had a block, and didn’t have a turnover. His activity is the missing ingredient to this team and might be that glue that they need to make some waves going forward. Daniels played four minutes and had 2 rebounds, which is a great sign. Giffey had a good game. He had two nice lay-ups, had a good block, and two boards. He doesn't have confidence in his outside shot and is hesitant to pull the trigger.

They are not going to beat better teams with the second half lapses that they have shown game after game. They need better focus on getting good possessions and play much better transition defense. Giving up these late leads are a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once a team goes on a run, which most teams no matter how bad they are will do, they begin to play flustered and either rush shots or play hesitant and force up garbage at the end of the shot clock. It then begins to snowball. It is at those spots in the game that they need Lamb to make a play and he needs to know that. If they don’t figure it out how to seize the momentum back then they’ll be leaving the Big Apple earlier then they want to.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


February was much like January. UConn could only muster a 3 & 5 record throughout the month with wins against Seton Hall, DePaul, and an overtime win against Villanova. They were thoroughly beat against Georgetown, were dominated by Louisville, beat twice by Syracuse with one a blowout and another a nail biter, they lost control of the game against Marquette, and ended the month with their worst game of the year against Providence, where they let a 14 point lead disappear in a blink of the eye. In each game it has been the same, poor rebounding, bad transition defense, five to seven minute offensive droughts, taking too many three pointers, and fouling on defense. It leaves fans shaking their heads because they see the talent from Drummond’s athleticism, Lamb’s silky smooth jumper, Napier’s grit, and Boatright’s speed, but it hasn’t coalesced into a team. Some might call it lack of leadership, but that is too easy and a catch phrase. It boils down to making plays in key stretches and this team can't do that and instead gives the other team an opportunity to do so. It all boiled down to a disappointing month.

Lamb has been taking more shots, but he at times settles for the easy outside shot. His game is much better when he is getting to the line. Taking quick outside shots isn’t going to get him there. What happened to that Jeremy Lamb who had that monster jam early in the season where he jumped through someone? That player needs to emerge. He also is a major culprit to not rotating back on defense and is letting his man beat him down the court for easy buckets. He hasn’t taken a step back from last year, but he hasn’t progressed as fast as most people thought he would.

Napier’s month has been perplexing. He made some big time baskets, none bigger then the one against Villanova, but he has stopped taking shots all together. He’s not looking for his offense and that has forced Lamb into the primary role, which is a good thing, but it has also put a lot of pressure on others that aren’t ready or capable to give this team 20 points. Something happened in this month to change his entire game around. He still tries to make hero shots when he doesn’t need to and needs to know that while he is capable of making the three pointer, he shouldn’t do it all the time. The team goes as Napier goes and this month it hasn't been good.

Boatright is still trying to figure out his role and has been put in a tough situation. He is by far UConn’s most consistent three point shooter, but he takes too many of them. His quickness should get him to the line more, but he doesn’t. He is still a freshman and that hopefully will be added to his game. There needs to be more patience with his game.

Oriakhi did have a couple of good games in this month, but for the most experienced player on this team, he has yet to become that penciled in double-double machine that Jeff Adrien was. This team lives and dies by rebounding and he just hasn’t contributed in the way that he needs to. This team just needs him to focus on the boards and the rest will follow suit.

Drummond has found a way to utilize his unique skill set with effectiveness. They toss the ball near the rim and he throws it home. He’s demonstrated a bit of a back to the basket game but it looks awkward and until he gets his free throw shooting around sixty percent, he should never take a 15-footer. He has become UConn’s best rebounder and has picked up much of the slack there. It would be a shame to see him go to the NBA right away. He has the talent, but the fundamentals are not there and he would be a second unit guy for his first year.

Olander had a rough month, battling his heel injury. He has struggled to be the rebounder that he showed promise of becoming earlier in the season, and can’t get the rhythm back in his jumper. He is still a solid big man in the rotation, but has lost a bit of confidence down the stretch of the season.

Smith has showed a lot of improvement throughout the month. His elusive jumper came back to him and knocked down a couple of shots from deep, was effective in the middle of that Syracuse zone, and was rebounding the ball much better. He plays good defense but tends to foul too much. This team hasn't had an effective wing in sometime and hopefully he can be a consistent contributor in the final run of the season.

DeAndre Daniels is still searching for his role. He’s only been getting a sprinkling of minutes and takes way too many 3-pointers. He has made a couple but it shouldn’t be his primary weapon right now. He needs to step in for a couple of long twos and needs to show that he can rebound.

Giffey has been more aggressive this month and has played well, other then a couple of turnovers in key stretches and his inability to knock down outside shots, but he is an invaluable asset that can play a number of positions. He is surprisingly a good defensive player and has been more reliable with his ball handling.

There aren’t any signs from this past month that this team can go on a run in the Big East tournament to get that elusive bid, but they have the talent to do so. The chemistry between Napier and Lamb just hasn’t been conducive to create wins. The amazing thing is that they still control their own destiny. With the soft bubble of the NCAA tournament, it really is amazing that this team could miss it. They aren’t playing Connecticut basketball and haven’t all year and it is perplexing. They still hold their destiny in their hands and need to head into March and find a little magic that they had last year. Who knows? This team could surprise us again, but for now two wins in a row would be nice.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Clean Slate

It looked like more of the same, UConn taking control of the game early with a good inside game and capitalizing off of turnovers, but Pittsburgh kept themselves within arms length by out-rebounding UConn and getting second and third looks at the basket. The Huskies got out to a good start in the second half and held a fifteen point lead before they once again reverted back to the bad team that has cost them so many games this season. They took bad shots that led to easy buckets and they had a hard time keeping the lanes clogged, letting Pittsburgh shoot an incredible percentage by giving them lay-up after lay-up. The fans in Gampel were biting their nails, having flashbacks to UConn's collapse against Providence, but this time things were different. They made plays and they were spread around. Smith, Oriakhi, and Boatright all contributed in that elusive five minutes left period of the ballgame and UConn was able to create enough of a cushion to pull off the much needed victory.

Lamb had a good game. He wasn't settling and had an aggressive mentality, getting to the free throw line six times. He started his night with a lay-up, had a sweet steal & dunk, was fouled on an offensive rebound, and hit a 3-pointer all in the first half. The second half didn't go as well for him. He had an early turnover, took a bad 3-pointer that led to a Panthers lay-up, had a lay-up, and took another bad shot that led to another Pittsburgh lay-up. If there is one aspect to his game that he needs to improve on it is his defense. He let his opponent get a first step on him numerous times and was a major cause for the Pittsburgh run in the second half.

Either it was Calhoun's return or something else, but Napier was a totally different player. He made more plays in this game then in the past two combined. He had a nice pass to Oriakhi, hit a 3-pointer off a screen, had a steal, had a turnover that led to Pittsburgh lay-up, made a sweet lay-up in transition, took a bad 3-pointer that led to a lay-up on the other end, but ended the half with a 3-pointer. He kept his foot on the gas in the second half. He had an early steal, a 3-pointer, hit a jumper, took a bad shot that led to a lay-up, hit a big time 3-pointer, gave up a horrible foul, snagged a steal & lay-up, and sank two big free throws. The best part of the game was when he dribbled the clock out and gave a geniune hug to Calhoun. That is what sports is all about. Boatright continues to find his game. He had two nice passes early, took a bad 3-pointer, had an awesome steal & dunk, a lay-up, and a sweet reverse. He played 32 minutes and didn't get to the line once though. With his ball handling and speed, he should have no problem probing the lane for contact.

Oriakhi had a quiet first half with only a lay-up and a pretty post and spin move. He made his biggest impact in the second half where he grabbed an early offensive rebound, had a nice block, another offensive rebound & put-back, and finished his half going 2 for 2 from the charity stripe. He still needs to rebound the ball better, ending with only 5, but it was a good overall performance from him. It wasn't a dunk-fest for Drummond, but he was able to effect the game in various ways. It didn't start out well getting trapped early in the post, not getting in position for a defensive board, and having a double dribble. After that he came alive. He had a nice reverse, two big time blocks, a nice slam, a slam & one which he missed, an offensive rebound where he took a terrible shot on the wing, and another offensive rebound, but it was his ability to hit 1 out of 2 from the line late that was as impressive as anything else in this game. He did have his worst rebounding game in some time, 5, and needs to do better of getting the ball high in the air.

There is no one more improved on this team right now then Smith. He has put together several stout games in a row and must be playing with a ton of confidence. In the first half, he had an offensive rebound put-back, a step back jumper on the wing (where did this come from?), and a pretty reverse. He stepped it up even more in the second half with an offensive rebound, a bad jumper that led to a Pittsburgh 3-pointer, a put-back, a dunk, another put-back, a lay-up, and a CHARGE! Amazing. I thought this team would never have a charge, but finally someone was rotating over to take that lane to the basket away that Jeff Adrien did with perfection. He also led the team in rebounds with 7. Olander only played two minutes and in that time hit a jumper and had three poor defensive possessions. Giffey passed up an open 3-pointer and played a bad defensive possession.

Who knows what will happen going forth, but the most important thing is that this team is playing better. It has been such a turmoltuous season with Boatright's absence, Calhoun's surgery, to the lack of chemistry or leadership, but they still control their own destiny. If they can get a few wins in a row, which they haven't been able to do in over a month, then they have a good chance to redeem what has been a lackluster regular season. The regular season is just about seeding. It all comes down to the tournament. If a one and done scenerio doesn't put a sense of urgency into this team then nothing will. It's time to clean off that slate, play together, and see where everything stands when the dust settles.

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