UConn didn’t have a cakewalk in the month of November. They started the month off with a blowout versus Concordia, but then went into the hostile confines of the Barclays Center and beat a talented Maryland team in which they controlled most of the game but let it nearly slip through their fingers and escaped a last second shot. It was the theme throughout the month. They let a Yale team out-rebound them, then destroyed a Detroit team (Their best game of the year), and then played three tight games against Boston University, Boston College, and Indiana before finishing the month against Loyola where they allowed 20 offensive rebounds. Despite the poor rebounding, they hung their hats on the defensive end and they made plays down the stretch to hold back late rallies which is what you want to see your team do.
In his senior season, Napier is displaying a more point guard oriented game. He’s looking for others earlier in games and when he sees that his teammates aren’t making plays, he takes over. He has hit plenty of big shots in November and none bigger then the ones late in the Indiana game. The biggest surprise for him in the month of November is his rebounding. He’s done a great job of helping out on the defensive boards and when he does, it fuels the fast break, which this team thrives on. He is by far UConn’s MVP for the month of November.
Even though Boatright’s jumper has tailed off in November, he’s still provided a consistent presence. He’s limited those multiple turnover possessions that had plagued him last year and he is passing the ball really well. Like Napier, he has done a great job rebounding and running the break. He did struggle getting to the line throughout the month and needs to use these new rules to get to the line more like he did against Indiana because he game is tailored for getting into the lane and causing havoc. His defense is underrated and he has shown improvement there.
Daniels had an up and down month. At times he has shown a passive game and other times he has been an unstoppable beast. He is UConn’s best offensive player and has a wide variety of moves to get into the paint but he needs to get into attack mode right from the tip-off. He also struggled to rebound early in the month but has slowly improved there. He is at his best when he is playing north and south and it is up to the backcourt to get him the ball where he can drive.
Calhoun had everything going in the first two weeks of November but cooled off significantly since then. He might be hitting a bit of a wall because he didn’t have the training camp or summer workouts that the others have had due to his rehab. All his shots are hittting the front of the rim which is usually a sign of tired legs. Hopefully the Thanksgiving break will allow him some time to recover.
The biggest surprise of the season so far is Giffey. He is finally turning into that spot up shooter everyone knew he could become and he has put together one of the most spectacular outside shooting displays ever seen in a UConn uniform. He is hitting almost 70 percent from deep in November. Most of his damage was done in the first half though and he needs to do a better job of making an impact in the second half. On top of that he needs to rebound much better and take those mid-ranged shots when driven off the line.
Nolan deserved to start and has the best overall game out of all the centers. His only issue is that he has a hard time sliding over in the help defense and is picking up quick fouls so his minutes are way down and sporadic. He is the best rebounding center that UConn has but that isn’t saying much since he is only averaging two rebounds a game. He needs to triple that number.
With the new rules, shot blockers are a necessity and UConn has one in Brimah. He has great instincts and can change a game defensively but he can’t rebound right now. He needs to block out and use his height to get boards because he is using one hand, like he does when blocking shots, to knock the ball around. It is going to take awhile for him to learn some of the fundamentals.
Olander has already played two games in November that are better than any he had played last year even though he is third off the bench and is relegated to low digit minutes. He’s coming in and playing with energy, getting loose-balls and making impact plays. He needs to keep this up and play with that energy, rebound, and good things will continue to happen for him.
Another big surprise of November is Kromah. He has provided instant energy and a defensive tenacity that has allowed Ollie the ability to rest his guards and also mix and match different line-ups. He has been an unsung hero throughout the month and has quietly done everything Ollie has asked him to do. He’s one of those glue guys that good teams need.
Samuel has shown flashes of brilliance in early November but with the depth that UConn has in the backcourt if there isn’t foul problems, he isn’t going to see minutes. The same goes for Facey though he has a better opportunity to see the court because of the inexperience of the frontcourt. Tolksdorf had a good preseason but this team needs rebounders, not outside shooting big-men, and Tolksdorf hasn’t shown the ability to rebound. Until he does, he’ll be mired on the bench.
The troubles with this team have been well documented. They need to do a better job on the boards but they are playing solid defense, have an abundant amount of scorers, can stretch the floor, and are scoring on the fast break. The rebounding will improve with time as the centers develop. They already have two resume wins in Maryland and Indiana and don’t have a loss yet. Not too shabby. There is still plenty of work to do and it isn’t going to get any easier in December.