Monday, December 3, 2012


No one knew what type of team UConn would truly have heading into the season.  They had lost a lot from the previous year and other than Omar Calhoun and a few unheralded additions, the team would be fairly limited from what UConn fans were used too.  Not to mention a brand new coach who was being evaluated in each and every game.  So it was a bit of a surprise when UConn opened the season against Michigan State, a team that some had in the Final Four, and beat them in an entertaining and convincing fashion.  That win might have set the bar higher than it should have, because they then struggled to find that same intensity and confidence that had them beating up on an elite team.  They fell behind to Vermont before turning it on late, they had a back and forth affair against Wake Forest, needed double overtime to beat a pesky Quinnipiac team, then they had their first encounter against a hot shooting team in  New Mexico and promptly lost, made a come back against Stony Brook, and struggled to the finish line against New Hampshire.  It left UConn fans with a bit of trepidation, unsure of what this team's true potential actually is.  Is it the team that beat Michigan State or is it the team that struggled against mid-majors?

Napier’s slow starts have been well documented.  Other than the Michigan State game, Napier has done little offensively in the first halves.  There is no one answer to this.  Teams are skewing their coverage over to him, not fearing the frontcourt, but the main culprit is that he just isn’t aggressive.  He doesn’t even try to penetrate in the first half.  When that second half whistle is blown, he is a different player though and becomes that down hill player that Ollie is always preaching him to be.  He gets to the line, makes plays in transition, and takes in rhythm 3-pointers, but if he wants to be an elite point guard, he needs 40 solid minutes.

Boatright has been the one constant for this team. With Napier’s struggles, the offense flowed through him and he delivered.  He found ways to get to the line, attack the lanes, get others involved, and has taken over the leadership of this team.  His outside shot is still a work in progress and his turnovers seem to come in bunches, but he has carried this team for much of the month.

Calhoun has shown flashes of stellar play, but he is adjusting to the speed and competition of this game.  He has a quirky and quick release that goes in.  He’s disappeared in  the second quarter of games, and doesn’t know when to assert himself into the offense, but that will come in time.  He’s getting better in each and every game and should be a major factor heading into December.

DeAndre Daniels has been the most improved player so far.  He’s stopped becoming a perimeter shooter and started becoming a more well rounded wing player.  He’s been a menace on the boards, attacked the baseline for dunks, and has hit the mid-ranged shot.  He’s supplanted Olander as the team's best rebounder and is the glue guy of the team.  He needs to do a better job of not picking up that second foul in the first half, because his absence on the court usually coincides with the opponent's run.

Olander has struggled in his role as the starting center of the team.  He’s in a tough spot, playing out of position.  He’s more of a power forward than a center and he’s found himself in foul trouble in most of his games. This team needs him to be a position rebounder and he hasn’t gotten it done so far.  He's got to keep his head up and stay confident because this team desperately needs him on the court and playing well.

Giffey makes up a large portion of the bench and has done a much better job of taking open shots and getting more involved in the offense.  While his rebounding isn’t his strong suit, it has been much improved, though it could be a better.   He is unique because he can slide into several positions from the wing to a two guard.  That has allowed him plenty of playing time to get the confidence he needed to improve in November.

R.J. Evans is the other major piece to the bench and had a great start to the season, finding unique ways to get the ball through the hoop, but he suffered an injury midway through the month that halted his solid play and the team struggled to find that bench contribution elsewhere.

Wolf has done an adequate job, but just hasn’t put together a series of games to warrant biting into Olander’s minutes.  He has active hands on defense and has shown the ability to block shots and make effort plays, but needs to rebound better, especially for his size.

Tolksdorf has struggled mightily to find his place on this team and looks lost out there.  His injury came at the wrong time and has set back his progress and Nolan has filled that roll.  Nolan has shown improvement in rebounding and defense but has found it difficult to get the ball through the basket.

This team is not going to blow teams out of the water.  They just don’t have the firepower to do that.  If they want to have a shot at the Big East regular season title then they need Napier to be more of a presence early in the game, Olander has to rebound and play defense without fouling, and they need to have an attacking mentality in the half court sets.  The defense has kept them in these games, but they have flirted with losses throughout the month.  December will be the final tune-up for UConn before playing conference games and they need to clean up some of these deficiencies or it could be a tough couple of months.

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