UConn got off to a great start in the month of March, beating a pesky Pittsburgh team before heading into the Big East Tournament and destroying DePaul and gritting out a win against West Virginia. They were playing their best ball in over two months and it gave UConn fans hope that things might have turned around, but then came Syracuse It was a close game, but ugly. The offenses struggled mightily and UConn shot just .303. They still headed into the NCAA tournament with some swagger, but they went up against an Iowa State team that played their best ten minutes of basketball all year and the Huskies once again dug themselves a giant hole that they tried to claw out of all game, coming close but never quite getting there.
It was March and it was time for Jeremy Lamb to put this team upon his shoulders and take them as far as he could take them. It wasn’t far. He produced for the team, led them in scoring, but it wasn’t enough. He continued to disappear in key stretches and settle for 3-pointers during UConn’s five minute droughts. His defensive intensity wasn’t there, not making many individual plays on that end of the court. While he was still UConn’s best offensive weapon during March, it felt like he left much more on the table. He did find his mid-ranged game though and was doing a much better job of coming off curls and knocking down jumpers.
It was hard to fault Napier during March. While he did take some bad three pointers, which he needs to work on his shot selection next year, he took good care of the basketball, got to the line much more, and was more assertive in the offense. No matter what happens next year, this will be Napier’s team. There were some obvious chemistry problems between Napier and Lamb that created a black cloud over this team. He’s going to have to smooth the edges of his game to facilitate better chemistry.
Boatright found his stride in March and began to use his speed more and get into the lane. He also did a better job when he was running the point and limited some of the careless passes he had earlier in the year. His outside shot wasn’t going down as it had in previous months and he had problems finding points, but he had a strong game against Iowa State. He’ll have a larger intangible role next year and he’ll need to keep an aggressive mindset throughout the entire game.
Oriakhi was what he has been all year, inconsistent. He just couldn’t find a way to impact the game in the tournament like he had in last year's incredible run. Be it Drummond or lack of playing time or bad luck, Oriakhi and the team had problems rebounding against every team they played. His month ended with him asking for a release from his scholarship so that he could play for a team that is eligible for the NCAA tournament which no one can blame him for, but his tenure at UConn has been a roller-coaster ride.
Drummond’s game fell off a bit in the month of March. He couldn’t get those easy dunks that he was getting in February. His rebounding also took a hit and he wasn’t pulling down the 11 or 12 boards that he was snagging consistently. He also went up against a tough match-up in Royce White which had him playing out of position and was exposed. His free throw shooting, which was bad all season, never improved. While he hasn’t made a decision yet, he is more than likely heading into the NBA and a top ten pick.
Smith was coming off a good month of February, but never built upon it. His outside shot and rebounding had improved, but he found himself in and out of the lineup due to foul trouble. Unlike last year though, Smith couldn’t be that lock down defender, though he did a good job against Royce White. He’ll need to come out of the gates strong next season and he'll have a bit more pressure will be on him to produce points and rebounds.
Giffey did knock down some shots, but never looked comfortable taking them. He was always worried that if he missed he would be benched, so he deferred open looks or continued to dribble into trouble. He was one of the team's better perimeter defenders and helped stem the 3-point barrage that Iowa State dropped on them. He’ll be a more integral part of the rotation next year and needs the confidence to take a few more shots a game.
Olander stumbled down the stretch of the year. He wasn’t rebounding like he had and his shots weren’t dropping. It all stemmed from that foot contusion and he never got back to his earlier season form. Like Giffey, Olander will have more responsibilities to produce next season. He needs to bulk up and be that position rebounder that this team has been lacking since Adrien left.
Questions loom over this team for next season and there is no doubt that it will be the toughest ever for a proud institution. Transfers, lost revenue, uncertainty with Calhoun, NBA bound talent, and the dark cloud of two post season bans. It is the polar opposite of what this team was feeling a year ago at this time. There is little doubt that Calhoun will not retire with his program in the shape that it is and sometimes addition by subtraction can occur, but this could be a crossroads. There have been plenty of national powers that have lost their luster and have never made it back to the prominence that they once were. Hopefully this is just a speed bump and not an impassable object, because it would be a shame to see all the years of hard work under Calhoun end when he decides to hang up the whistle.