Friday, December 19, 2014

UConn Falls To Duke

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

UConn Signs Jalen Adams

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Monday, September 29, 2014

Kemba Walker Extortion

Music Contains Swears

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Player Profile: Omar Calhoun

Looking Back: It couldn’t have been a worse season for Omar Calhoun. He was coming off a shoulder injury that limited him throughout the summer and he had to shake off the rust during the preseason. He looked really good in those early games but when it came to game time against better talent, he just couldn’t get anything positive going. With each brick, turnover, or defensive lapse, his confidence sank which led to even more mistakes. Whenever a shot did go in, everyone let out a collective sigh of relief that he was finally getting back on track, but he could never sustain any momentum and put two consecutive positive plays together. With each poor outing, Kromah and Samuel began eating into his minutes until he only played sparingly which didn’t give him much of an opportunity to break out of his awful slump. It all added up to a lost year for him and a major step back in his development.

The Good: It has to be his resilience. For a player to go through what he had last year and just continue to fight through it shows his heart and toughness. He has the tools, it is there on tape, but he just couldn’t get a break. He has a good handle, has the ability to knock down jumpers, and plays solid defense. He just needs the confidence that he can make a positive impact on the court.

The Bad: It is easy to lay blame on a wide variety of his game simply because he had a horrible season, but if there is one aspect of his game that he needs to get better at it is his jumper. It is quick but the release is all wrong and over his two seasons it has proved to be inconsistent and streaky. Now this is tough to ask of a player to do. To change something like their jumper is a long and arduous task and a gamble. There is no telling if it will truly work out for him, but right now, his release isn’t working and something has to change. He also needs to know how to make other contributions if he isn’t scoring. That means attacking the glass, causing havoc on defense, and getting to the line.

Looking Ahead: It can only go up from here, right? He is healthy and will have an entire off season to work on his game, get bigger and play, play, play. If he can figure out how to get to the line two or three times a game then it would drastically help his game. What he lacked is confidence and to see a few baskets drop for him early in the game might pay huge dividends for him. Hopefully he can get back on track because this upcoming team has a plethora of young and hungry guards that will be nipping at his heals for some playing time, but for now there is no telling which Calhoun will show up this upcoming season.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Player Profile: Amida Brimah

Looking Back: Heading into the 2013-14 campaign, there was no telling what Amida Brimah would bring to the Huskies. Ollie knew that he had a shot blocking presence which would be vital in the new freedom of movement NCAA, but like all big men it takes longer for them to adjust to the game. With that all said, Brimah exceeded all expectations. He showed both an ability to score on the block with a soft touch and also finish plays strong on the pick and roll. He continued to grow throughout the season developing a much better free throw shot and began defending without fouling which was a major issue earlier in the season for him. On top of all that, he also made one of the biggest plays of the year with a three point play on an offensive rebound that helped pull off the win in the NCAA tournament. At the end of the season it came out that he had been dealing with a shoulder injury that he had been playing through and had to undergo shoulder surgery.

The Good: It starts with shot blocking. Brimah has great instincts and has a knack for blocking the ball and keeping it in play for him to secure. He has great feet that allows him to slide over and help. He also has a soft touch for a big man and should have a much better free throw percentage in the upcoming year. With that soft touch, he should develop a ten to fifteen foot jump shot. He also showed great toughness with dealing with a shoulder injury and playing through it. His upside is tremendous and NBA scouts are probably drooling over his overall potential.

The Bad: With his height Amida needs to rebound much better. He had a hard time holding his ground and was pushed out of position for rebounds time after time. He needs to bulk up to allow him to stop being bullied out of the paint. He also has a hard time of keeping his hands off his opponent and he picks up needless fouls which keeps him from getting into the flow of the game. Another issue is his inability thus far to play through contact. He needs to go right into a move towards the basket and finish strong. It will allow him to draw his opponent to reach and get him numerous opportunities at the charity stripe.

Looking Ahead: The sky is the limit for Brimah. He is already hovering around a late first round draft choice just by size and upside alone, but if he can develop better fundamentals then he could be a top ten pick for sure. He will need to block out better, defend without fouling, and be a legitimate post threat. He has shown flashes of each and needs to continue to improve his game. If he can do that then he should have a fantastic season.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Player Profile: Ryan Boatright

Looking Back: Ryan Boatright had a roll-a-coaster of a season. It started out strong and he looked to be taking a huge leap forward in production and leadership. He was knocking down key shots and playing tough nosed defense but then something happened in the middle of conference play and the wheels fell off his game. His jumper stopped dropping for him which led to him turning the ball over in key stretches and not running good sets. There were many times that he would dribble out the shot clock and then take an off-balanced jumper. Finally Kevin Ollie had to bench him in the crucial final five minutes of games. It didn’t look good for him heading into the American Conference and NCAA Tournaments, but that would change quickly.

No one is exactly sure what flipped the switch for Boatright, but he not only came out of his slump, he exploded out. He became a menace on defense, creating easy scoring opportunities. His jumper that had been streaky finally started dropping for him and he cut down on his east to west dribbling and became a much more north to south player. It all added up to points at the line, easy plays for the big men when the help arrived, and convertible plays in the paint. Without his stellar post season play, UConn would’ve been early exits in both tournaments.

The Good: It starts with his handle. He can change direction in the bat of the eye. He likes to lull his defender to sleep in one direction and then blast by him going the other way. When he does get a step, he has the athleticism to finish plays through contact. He has a lightning fast release and usually gets the shot off before his opponent can even react. He’s a tough nosed kid that will not back down and sometimes thrives after taking a hard shot. His on the ball defense is outstanding and he has the ability to lock down and take a player entirely out of the game.

The Bad: While each year it has gotten much better, he still dribbles the ball way too much and without any concrete decision as to where he wants to go. It usually ends up with him running down the shot clock and heaving the ball up. His outside shot is also very streaky and tends to go on a two or three game stretch where his shot doesn’t drop for him. It is hard for him to adjust when that happens and he has some low scoring outputs. He also has had a hard time being in the right position, most notably when Napier had to shove him in the right direction in the National Championship game.

Looking Ahead: The biggest question heading into the new season is his ability to handle the leadership role. The offense will flow through him much more and he will need to be more consistent which means get into the offense quickly and allow time to reset. If he can find ways to get to the line to counteract those poor shooting days and play defense like he did at the tail end of last season then he should have a great season.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

UConn Alumni In The NBA

Ray Allen: With age catching up with him, his minutes have dropped as well as his production, but that doesn’t limit the fact that he is one of the best free throw shooters and clutch shot makers still in the game which gives him those late minute opportunities to contribute. His numbers have dipped in just about every category though. He only hit 37.5% from deep which is his worst since the 2009-2010 season. He is now contemplating retirement and if he does, he will be the first UConn Huskies player to be accepted into the Hall of Fame which places him automatically on top of this list.

Kemba Walker: Walker took a major step forward with his maturity this past season. He has improved his jump shot and with the addition of Al Jefferson, the Bobcats/Hornets finally found a legitimate low post threat which helps out the spacing on the floor and can create lanes for Walker to drive into. His three point shooting still needs to come up from 33% and he needs to get to the line more, attempting 34 less than the year before. The biggest improvement has been on his ball control. He cut down on the turnovers and has remained steady with the assists and is now hovering around four assists to one turnover.  His post season play was memorable, especially after Jefferson went down with an injury. He kept on fighting despite the lopsided scores and showed his major strength which is his heart.

Caron Butler: No other UConn Alumni had to go through what Butler had to this prior season. He was traded to the Bucks at the start of the season and was happy to play in front of his home crowd, but the team was dismal and traded him to Oklahoma City Thunder where he had a chance to be a contender for a Championship. While his numbers were pedestrian on the Bucks, once on the Thunders they sky rocketed in just about every category. He once again found himself on a different team though and landed in Detroit where the Pistons have been mired in mediocrity for almost a decade now.

Rudy Gay: Rudy still remains an enigma. He has all the tools to be a legit star in this league but hasn’t been able to rise to that next level. He has a silky smooth jumper but it is streaky. He has great ball handling but forces things too much and creates turnovers. He has hops that can rival anyone in the game but settles for jumpers. His defense has always been his Achilles heel and he doesn’t put the same intensity into that end of the court as he does the offensive end. He should be in the prime of his career but he yet again found himself traded from the Raptors to Kings. Where trade rumors are still swirling around him.

Andre Drummond: Drummond has improved in each and every season and has become one of the up and coming big men in the game. He has a natural ability to get boards and rebounds and looks to supplant Okafor as UConn’s preeminent double-double guys in the NBA.

Jeremy Lamb: Like Rudy Gay, Lamb has a silky smooth game and still has plenty of growth to go. He took a small step forward this year and showed that he could be an important second unit piece but he never showed the consistency to be in the constant rotation come playoff time.

Ben Gordon: This has to be one of Gordon’s most disappointing seasons. He was on a team that could use the talents he usually provides, but he just couldn’t find the consistency to break into the second unit. His price tag wasn’t worth his production so Charlotte let him go. It will be interesting to see where he goes after this. He still has plenty of talent left but if he doesn’t find a suitable team, he could be playing overseas.

Emeka Okafor: Okafor has been battling injuries for much of the past two years but this one put him on the sideline for much of the season. He’s an expiring contract and will have to make the veteran limit to probably land on a good team looking for depth.

Jeff Adrien: Jeff Adrien is that tough nosed and hard working player that teams just like having around, but he has yet to find a team that has shown him some commitment. He played the first half of the season on the Bobcats but found himself shipped off to the Bucks where he played that bruiser inside. He has just inked a one year deal with Houston.

A.J. Price: Price has hung onto his NBA dreams with the Timberwolves last season but only played sparingly. It is hard to find veteran point guards and Price has that but his solid playing days are now past him.

Hilton Armstrong: Armstrong is a testament to perseverance. He has bounced back and forth from the NBA to overseas to the D-league, but he never gave up and found himself on a Playoff team in Golden State where he was able to make a small enough impact to warrant a second look from teams.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Two Distinct Paths for Daniels and Napier's NBA Success

Now that the draft is over and Napier and Daniels have landed on NBA rosters, it is up to them to see how far they can go. They both were drafted right around where they were projected to. Napier is heading to a team that is the perfect spot for him while Daniels has settled on a team with no real sense of direction and isn’t known for keeping players around for that long. It will be interesting to see the direction of careers for these two young UConn stars.

The Miami Heat got the man that they wanted in Napier and he fits all the right metrics. His leadership, accountability, and work ethic put him on Riley’s radar, while his winning ways put him on Lebron’s. Shabazz couldn’t have landed on a better team. He’ll have all the talent around him, barring that the big three return which is at this point still looks to be a possibility. On top of that, he isn’t going to be asked to do much other then run the second unit. If he flourishes and begins getting starter minutes then that is fantastic, but as for now, he just needs to continue to improve his pick and roll defense, consistently knock down open jumpers, and limit his turnovers.

DeAndre Daniels has a much tougher uphill climb. He’s on a team that is in flux and loaded with wing players from Terrence Ross, Steve Novak, Amir Johnson, and Landry Fields. They are also not known for the patience of keeping guys lingering on the bottom of their roster for long. He has already come to terms with this and has taken the unusual route to play overseas rather then in the D-league. If he can show some improvement then he will work his way up mid-way through the season. If he does get called up, he needs to show something on tape immediately so that he can land one of those lucrative roster spots, but for now it is not going to be easy for him.

Hopefully Daniels will be able to continue his development and transfer his ability to get points in the paint, extend his range, and handle screens, because it will be hard for him to break through the group of forwards ahead of him if he does not and there are plenty of athletic wings coming up behind him each and every year, but for now he has that coveted upside and should be secure for the next three years. Napier on the other hand has the greatest opportunity but also the highest pressure of producing in year one. There is no doubt that he has the will and tenacity to make it, but no one truly knows if their game will transfer to the next level. So far his summer league has shown flashes of brilliance, but these games sometimes produce fool’s gold.

These two UConn stars have their feet in the door. They both need to continue to work on their craft and show their respected teams that they need to play them more. Many UConn fans can remember these recent names like Majok and Oriakhi. Late round draft choices that are still trying to get onto the NBA court. It will be interesting to see if Daniels ultimately made the right decision to enter the draft early, but for now these two UConn stars have achieved their dreams to be drafted by and NBA team and for that we should be proud of them.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

American Conference Thinking About A Much Needed Change In The Shot Clock

Word came out recently that the American Conference was considering changing the shot clock to thirty seconds and they couldn’t be more right. This is exactly what this conference needs. They know that with the departure of Louisville this upcoming season that the strength of this conference will take a major hit, but by moving forward with a faster paced game that resembles more of the professional version, they are putting themselves at the forefront of what is an inevitable change in college basketball and one that is far more appealing to watch.

The NCAA has already instituted more freedom of movement around the perimeter in hopes to get scoring up, it doesn’t take a doctorate degree to know that giving teams more possessions will also do the trick, but for them to institute the change throughout the entire game is an uphill climb. Underdog teams use the shot clock to their advantage and try to limit possessions in hopes to get the coveted upset and resume building win. They are going to be resistant to any change in the game that is detrimental to their success and to be honest, they are right. On the grand scheme of things, there are only a handful of teams that this will benefit, even if it is for the good of the overall sport. So it is wise for he NCAA to let conferences take the lead in this one and it would be fantastic for the American Conference to take the leadership role.

First off it would lead to more scoring and more scoring leads to better games. No one likes to see games in the high forties to low fifties. It is just not fun to watch teams pass the ball around until the last eight seconds and then take a shot. With the new shot clock, teams will need to attack and then reset right into a play. There will be no double reset of the offense and then a possible trip to the line. It all adds up to a more pleasing and bettered tempo game which is a win-win.

The NCAA has always been a guard oriented game and it will only increase with a new shot clock. Once a team secures a rebound or in-bounds the ball, the guards will need to hurry into their offense right away. Teams like to take that shot around eight seconds to go, so it won’t limit great passing, but what it will do is limit the amount of resets or blatant passing of the ball just to waste time. It will important to have a point guard that can control the sets and that means the more experienced guards will have more of an impact. So those junior and senior guards will have even more of an advantage which is good for the sport.

There are some downsides to a quicker shot clock. The big man is slowly becoming phased out of the college sport. Teams are opting for either a point-forward or tall and athletic wings that can rebound and go with a three guard line-up. With the quicker sets, it will be hard for teams to run low-post sets and reset once a double team comes. It will also effect the offensive rebounding. Teams will have to be more conscious of protecting the outlet pass rather than crashing the boards. Another problem is it might effect American Conference teams from getting out of conference home games simply because teams might shy away from the shorter shot clock if it doesn’t suit their style. On top of that American conference teams will have to get used to playing two distinct styles, one with a longer shot clock and another with a shorter version. It won’t be easy, but the good certainly out ways the negative in this decision.  

This is a perfect opportunity for the new American conference. They have the National Champion in UConn but they are going to have to deal with a soft bottom to the league for the near future but with a new shot clock, they will have an uniqueness about them that will create some much needed buzz and attention. Not only that but it will change many of the styles of play to resemble more of a pro style which will only provide more incentive for high toted recruits. Those top recruits sitting on the fence might be drawn to a conference that plays a more NBA ready style and that infuse of talent across the league should hopefully create a more competitive bottom half of the conference.

Sure it is a bit selfish since a quicker shot clock does play into UConn’s play style which is more of a fast break first and pick and roll second, but for a young conference in American, it is important to not only stay relevant but to be on the forefront of what will be an inevitable change. Hopefully they can institute this change and show that it will be good for the league, because sometimes it is hard for coaches to be open to change if it is not ultimately clear if it is going to help a majority of them right away, but for those coaches they must come to the realization that the time is running out on this slow plodding style of play.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Monday, June 2, 2014

Grading The Huskies

Shabazz Napier: A+. What more do you want from your best player? 99% of the offense flowed through him and he delivered more than not. He hit big time shots, carried the team on his back when both Boatright and Daniels struggled, and proved all the doubters wrong. Add leadership and sprinkle in a bit of selflessness and toughness and you have one of the best players ever to wear a UConn jersey.

Ryan Boatright: B+. During much of the regular season, Boatright’s scoring numbers were down. To say he struggled would be an understatement. He reverted back to his dribbling into double teams, getting caught in the air, not finishing plays around the rim, and displaying a frustration on the court. His grade heading into the NCAA tournament would probably have been a C+, but something clicked. All those blemishes disappeared and Boatright became this lock-down, clutch shooting, and decision maker that UConn fans thrived to see from him.

DeAndre Daniels: A. The one knock against Daniels was his consistency. One game he would have NBA scouts slobbering and then come out the next game and lay a big egg. To his credit, he was the only low post threat on the team and the majority of the defensive schemes were directed his way. It wasn’t until the Louisville loss on the last regular season game that he found his groove and from there, he was unstoppable. He had everything going from turnaround jumpers, pick and pop 3-pointers, to slashes to the rim that culminated with monstrous dunks. His superior play in the post season moved up his grade from a B+ to an A.

Neils Giffey: B. Every good team needs a Giffey. They called him the glue of the team and his versatility allowed Ollie to play him in a multitude of situations. He could help break the press, had deadly though streaky range, battled down low for boards, and played great defense. He did all the little things that don’t always show up in the statistics but he was willing to do it.

Terrance Samuel: B. For much of the season, people questioned if Samuel would ever get a chance to play. With Napier, Boatright, and Kromah as the three guard rotation, Samuel got only a sprinkling of minutes late in blowouts, but that would soon change. Both Kromah and Boatright struggled at times and that opened the door for Samuel to step in and the freshman guard took full advantage. He showed a slashing ability that caught teams off guard and had numerous lay-ups in crucial situations that helped jump start a lagging offense.

Lasan Kromah: B-. It was a tale of two seasons for Kromah. He had a great start to the year and immediately established himself as the third wheel in the three guard rotation, but then his game tailed off. He no longer was getting those easy lay-ups or knocking down shots and that carried over to his defense. He left the door open for Samuel to take his minutes and the freshman took advantage.

Amidah Brimah. C+. The one word to describe Brimah is upside. He has a natural ability with the ball in his hands and has already developed a better offensive game then Thabeet had at the end of his. Brimah finishes plays strong and has a soft touch with the basketball that with practice should have him develop a 15-footer and a 70% free throw shooter. His biggest development will be on the rebounding department. He had problems holding and establishing good position for rebounds. Even though the new rules will hinder the big men in the NCAA, Brimah will need to control his hands on defense. It caused him too many needless fouls that had him in and out of ball games.

Nolan: C. Nolan looked primed to take the next leap as a big man. He showed promise at the end of last season and ended up being UConn’s best low post player, but he never took the step this year. His rebounding was below average and his post play was non-existent. The one thing he did great was rotate on the defensive end. He took charge after charge, giving up his body for this team.

Tyler Olander: D+. It is easy to pile on Olander. He felt more comfortable playing 15-feet and out but he was stuck in a big man’s body. When put in the game, he got pushed around. There is no denying his energy he put on the court, hustled, and never complained when his role diminished like other big men that had won a championship with this team had. In the end, he had the last laugh, winning two National Titles.

Kentan Facey: D+. Facey just couldn’t crack into significant minutes for a team desperate for someone to rebound. He did show flashes on the court but unlike Samuel, Ollie didn’t trust him in game time situations.

Omar Calhoun: F. This was supposed to be the bounce back year for Omar. He was coming off hip surgery and was finally playing without pain. He looked good early on and was even the second best player in some of those earlier games, but that disappeared. Be it confidence, unknown injury, or bad luck, but each negative play or miss began to snow ball until he couldn’t stop it. Ollie just couldn’t afford to have him on the court and he had to languish on the bench and watch UConn’s magical run.

Leon Tolksdorf: F. It wasn’t like he didn’t have a shot at getting minutes but Leon just couldn’t find the balance in his game. He kept taking ill advised threes and couldn’t rebound the basketball. It all added up to him playing in mop up time and not having a real defined role on the team.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Kemba Walker vs. Shabazz Napier

The comparisons are obvious. Napier and Kemba were both point guards that led two young squads that weren’t even on the radar to make deep runs in the tournament and took them all the way, but which UConn Husky was the best to wear the jersey? I breakdown each part of their game to see who really is the best Husky.

Jumper: Clear Winner Napier.

Kemba Walker has always had a hard shot, which means that it takes a high bounce when it hits the rim which doesn’t allow him the opportunity for a friendly bounce. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t a good jump shooter. He has steadily improved in this area and his outside shot is more of a weapon for him, but his major damage is on luring his defender to sleep with the dribble and knocking down something closer to the rim.

Napier has no lack of range and can knock down jumpers anywhere on the court at anytime. He isn’t Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant like, but who is? He has a soft jumper that gets friendly rolls and is deadly with both creating his own jumper off the dribble or pick and pop shots off the ball. He still takes some unwise shots from deep but that comes with some overconfidence.

Ball handling: Clear Winner Walker.

This is Walker’s clear strength. He has incredible ball handling and speed with the dribble. He can use both hands and can split double teams whenever and wherever he wants. This speed has caused him to thrive in the NBA which has better spacing and he creates havoc in the lanes.

Napier has a really good handle but it doesn’t compare to Kemba’s. He still has a knack for utilizing the pick and roll and can dribble in and out of trouble though he doesn’t overuse it like Walker does sometimes.

Crossover: Clear Winner Walker.

Walker has a nasty change of directions and has one or two field goals a game by shaking his defender free in this manner. He has such a command of the dribble and deceptive speed that he utilizes it to his advantage.

It is isn’t that Napier doesn’t have a great handle, but it isn’t Kemba Walker like. Whenever Napier starts dazzling with the dribble, it tends to be when the shot clock is winding down. He doesn’t use it on as frequent of a basis like Walker does.

Fast Break: Slight Winner Walker.

Kemba is a one man fast break and in the open court, he is in attack mode. If he has a step on you then it is a lay-up.

Napier isn’t as quick as Walker, but he has better court vision and will see that wing man spotting up for a 3-pointer or a trailer behind him on the break. He is looking more to deliver the ball then attack.

Free Throws: Clear Winner Napier.

Walker isn't a bad free throw shooter but his shot doesn’t get the friendly bounce because it hits the rim with more force than Napier. Kemba does have an edge though because his game tends to get him to the line and he will have more of an opportunity to get free throws than Napier.

Napier is one of UConn’ s best free throw shooters ever and it will definitely transfer to the next level. He isn’t afraid to take and make pressure free throws. It will be interesting to see how his game translates to the NBA and if he will get to the line as much as he did in college.

Dribble Penetration: Clear Winner Walker.

No disrespect to Napier, but this is Walker’s strength. He can slip past a screen and get into seams with the best in the NBA. It puts a lot of pressure on defenses to try to keep him bottled up.

Napier isn’t as fast as Walker so it will allow teams to wall him from the lane more, but it isn’t like he can’t get there. With Kevin Ollie’s use of the pick and rolls, Napier has plenty of experience to get the job done but Walker is one of the best at it.

Court Vision: Clear Winner Napier.

Walker’s one weakness is his court vision though he has steadily been working on it. He tends to miss some open players or pass the ball a second too late.

Napier has more of a command of the floor with the ball in his hands and can see the open man before he gets open. It should translate better at the next level where the talent around him is ratcheted up a notch.

Passing: Clear Winner Napier.

Like Court Vision, Walker is still working on his passing skills. He is more of a scoring point guard and his passes come more from his drawing in defenders and then kicking the ball out.

This is Napier’s strength. He sees the floor so well and has a variety of passes, though he tends to get a bit too fancy at times. With better spacing in the NBA, Napier should thrive and become a dependable NBA point guard.

Steals: Close Winner Walker.

Both players do a great job of defending and timing dribbles. They are pretty much a mirror of each other which might be a product of UConn’s development, but Walker edges out Napier by a hair because of his shear speed and lateral quickness. His ability to stay close to the ball allows him with more opportunities to get steals, but it isn’t like Napier doesn’t have the knack for it. Shabazz does a great job of timing the dribble, but it felt like he made more of an impact with steals during his freshman season then he did in the other seasons even though he made some key steals in the most recent NCAA tournament run.

Deflections: Close Winner Walker.

Just like in Steals, Napier and Walker both are mirrors of each other and are very active on the defensive end, but again Walker’s speed gives him the edge here. He is connected to his man more especially when his opponent is playing off the ball. Napier has a tendency to give a cushion when playing off the ball.

Man-to-Man Defense: Edge Walker.

Once again it comes down to speed and Kemba has the advantage that helps him get to the spot before his opponent does. Napier is a very good defender, but does sometimes shy off his man a bit, especially on the wings.

Rebounding: Clear Winner Napier.

Walker isn't known for his rebounding and usually hovered around the perimeter for the outlet passes which didn’t allow him for rebounds.

Napier has a knack for getting those weak side rebounds and isn’t afraid to battle in the paint for boards. This is one of Napier’s major strengths. It will be interesting to see if he can carry it over into the NBA

Clutch Shooting: Close Winner Napier

The ice water runs strong in these both Napier and Walker. Everyone remembers Walker’s amazing shot against Pittsburgh in the Big East Tournament and that moment will forever be immortalized but Napier has time and again hit clutch shot after clutch shot in key situations be it Florida or Villanova. UConn has been spoiled for the last seven years with two players that feel comfortable with taking the last shot in huge spots.

Winner: Kemba Walker.

It was closer then expected but it was Walker’s quickness that ultimately outdid Napier’s floor awareness. While Kemba won the head to head challenge, Napier does get credit for being more vital to UConn’s ultimate future. He stuck around during a period where UConn basketball teetered on the brink of disaster. They were academically ineligible and their once daunted league fell apart, but Napier stayed with the program and not only made UConn relevant, but planted the UConn flag back on top of the college basketball Mount Rushmore as one of the elite programs in the country. For that UConn fans have to tip their caps to.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pros and Cons to DeAndre Daniels' Decision to Enter NBA Draft

There is a lot that had to go into DeAndre Daniels’ decision to put his name into the NBA draft but was it the right decision for him? It is an incredible gamble on his part. First off, it shows that he doesn’t truly have confidence that he could improve on this season and is grabbing an NBA opportunity just because it is there for the taking. There is no telling if this is a good or bad move until all the cards are on the table and when we all see where Daniels gets drafted. If he goes to a good team late or goes in the top-teens or low-twenties, then it is a great decision, but if he slips and gets mired on a bad team and has trouble developing, then it could be a costly gamble. Only time will tell, but there are certainly pros and cons to this decision.

Pros: He has an NBA game already from a deep range to post moves which will easily translate over to the next level. Many a NBA prospect has used a great NCAA tournament to springboard themselves up the draft board and DeAndre Daniels had a fantastic tournament. He’s projected as a late first or early second pick, which means that he has the opportunity to land on a really good franchise that has the luxury to put in the time to make sure that he progresses without throwing him to the wolves and hoping he can cut it. Coming back for your senior year isn’t a guarantee, just ask Marcus Smart. Things can go wrong, be it an injury or just a step back on the development, striking when the iron is hot is always a good move.

Cons: This is one of the strongest NBA drafts to come around in some time and there is a lot of depth that could possibly push Daniels back far enough that he will land on a bad team in the second round. He could possibly be losing millions of dollars on this gamble, because if he stuck around and continued his development that he has shown in each and every season then he could be a top ten pick next year instead of a twenty to thirty pick this year. In terms of money, that movement up the board is enormous. The biggest question for Daniels will be his size. He still needs to add twenty pounds to his frame to compete against the men in the NBA and he doesn’t have the bounce that can overcome his lack of size.

From a selfish fan perspective this seems like a bad move for Daniels. He has developed each and every year and there was no doubt that he would continue his uphill trajectory. The only thing that would bar his draft status from rising would be an injury, but which one of us would not take the guarantee of getting a chance at a dream job. He can now get paid and develop on a NBA team. Daniels upside is very alluring and a team will snag him up. The biggest obstacle for him at this point will be his workouts with teams. He will need to impress these NBA front offices with some stellar performances. If he does so, he has the opportunity to slide higher in this draft and anything lower than the 18th pick will be an improvement. No matter what happens, UConn fans have to be happy with Daniels because here was a kid that had little hype coming into his freshman year and through hard work and relentless progression, he developed a NBA game. That type of characteristics needs to be applauded and hopefully he lands in the right situation to continue his maturity.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

UConn's Magical March and April

UConn started off March with an impressive win against Cincinnati where they held the Bearcats to just 45 points. They backed that game up with an inconsistent effort against Rutgers at home where they let the Scarlet Knights hang with them for much of the game. Things went quickly down hill when they traveled to Kentucky and faced a red hot Louisville team for the final game of the regular season. The Cardinals tore UConn apart left, right,and center and handed them not only their worst lose of the season, but the 33 point deficit was one of the worst losses in UConn history. Ollie had to regroup because they had to take on a Memphis team that he had already beat twice this year and to do it a third time, on top of that it was in Memphis which would be a daunting task. The Huskies put together one of their better games of the year and beat the Tigers by nineteen points. Riding the momentum of that game, UConn geared up for the tie-breaker against Cincinnati. This game was a heavy weight defensive battle that went back and forth but UConn had the more consistent offense and pulled out the two point victory which set them up  a rematch against the very team that had destroyed them in the final regular season game. This time UConn was better prepared, but Louisville’s defensive intensity and deadly outside shooting gave the Cardinals a double digit lead that UConn couldn’t overcome and the Huskies lost by ten.

Many fans wondered just what team would show up in the NCAA tournament and no one expected the lightning in a bottle that UConn discovered. They might not have been happy with UConn earning a seven seed, but Husky fans were ecstatic for them to be in the eastern region and to have favorable match-ups with the higher seeds. St. Joseph’s played a fantastic game and the combination of Galloway and Kanacevic were almost enough to shatter UConn’s destiny but that changed as soon as Kanacevic fouled out. With Brimah’s three point play, UConn headed into overtime and soon seized control of the game and pulled away for the victory. That set them up with a familiar foe in Villanova. Jay Wright’s team had been reeling with a shocking loss to Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament and UConn caught them at the right time. Shabazz Napier was masterful in the game and led UConn with 25 points, hitting 4 of 8 from deep and 9 of 13 from the field. They pulled away in the second half and never looked back.

Their next foe, Iowa State had lost their big man, Georges Niang, with a broken foot. With UConn’s biggest
weakness in the frontcourt, the loss of Niang played a pivotal role. Led by Daniels spectacular play where he hit 10 of 15 from the court, UConn led by double digits by halftime, but Dustin Hogue helped Iowa State claw back into the game with his own superstar performance. But UConn proved too much and they moved on to face what everyone thought to be the sleeper team of the tournament in Michigan State. Tom Izzo had his team playing extremely hard, but UConn’s defense were hitting their stride. They frustrated the Spartans and created 16 turnovers which helped fuel their fast break. Despite shooting just 34 percent from the field, UConn used pinpoint free throw shooting, 21 of 22, to keep themselves at arms length to pull off the epic upset and send themselves to an improbable Final Four appearance.

They now faced their biggest competition in the overall number one seed in Florida who were riding a 30 game winning streak that had started after their loss to UConn in Gampel Pavilion. With the entire country besides the little old state of Connecticut picking Florida, UConn put together a game for the ages. Their defense frustrated Florida and the offense shot 55 percent from the field. Florida’s only weapon was to get to the line or score around the rim, because UConn only gave up one 3-pointer the entire game and that occurred on Florida’s first possession. They shocked the overall number one seed and found themselves in the championship game against a very talented and equally hot Kentucky team.

The game looked to be UConn’s to lose as the Huskies jumped out early and scored easily and often, but Kentucky switched to a zone which derailed UConn’s offense. It ended up being a sloppy but tough fought battle with UConn making just enough plays to keep the pesky Wildcats at within a possession of the lead. They found themselves in the improbable position of cutting down the nets for the 4th time in school history, book-ending Giffey, Napier, and Olander’s careers at UConn.

Napier was everything this team needed down the stretch of March and into early April. He hit his jumpers, got to the line, found the open men, and commanded the halfcourt sets. His leadership ability and humble off the court demeanor was contagious and the team solidified around him. Make no doubt about it, this all started back in 2011 when he tutored under Kemba Walker. Walker showed him what it took to lead a team not expected to amount to much and willed them to the National Title. It will be interesting to see who takes the torch from Napier.

For this team to go as far as they did, Ollie needed Boatright to step up and the junior shooting guard did just that. He didn’t fare so well in early March. His jumper eluded him, he turned the ball over in critical situations. His struggles had him sitting on the bench in crunch time on several occasions and it looked like his confidence was on an all-time low, but he would soon prove everyone wrong. Once he stepped into the NCAA tournament, he was a totally different player. His jumpers were dropping and he carried UConn offensively for much of the St. Joseph’s game. He was masterful against Villanova, frustrated Iowa State, was a defensive juggernaut against Michigan State, knocked down shots around the rim against Florida, and though he had a sub-par game against Kentucky, his defense controlled the perimeter and made the Wildcats into a one dimensional team. He is still rough around the edges, but the glimpses he showed, especially with Napier on the bench, has given UConn fans some confidence heading into next year.

Even though Boatright’s improved play helped UConn cut down the nets, DeAndre Daniels’ spectacular performance in the tournament was the overall difference maker. He was in a bit of a funk in early March and struggled against Cincinnati and Rutgers, but he was the only shining spot in that egg of a game that they suffered against Louisville and he never looked back after that.  He made plays in the post, rebounded the basketball in traffic, hit the outside shot to help elevate pressure on the pick and rolls, and played solid defense. His only bad game was in the title game where he had a hard time hitting his jumpers, but he still battled hard, grabbed boards, and made an important lay-up late in the game. With the depth of the draft class this year, he should stay in school, add ten to fifteen pounds to his frame, and continue to play around the rim. If he can do this then he should be a top ten pick come next year.

Giffey had an up and down March and April. He had two really great shooting games throughout the two months, but he was the glue guy of the team and he did the little things that Ollie needed him to do, especially when UConn had to go small. He rebounded the basketball, defended bigger and more agile players, and made plays around the rim. Even though he might not make the NBA, he will have a very long European career, because of his maturity, range, and defensive ability.

Like Giffey, Kromah had an inconsistent two months offensively, but his defense never dwindled. He was pivotal in several games with either Napier or Boatright on the bench. He helped alleviate some the full court pressure and also had the task of covering the opponents best slashers. For some reason, he went into a shell offensively in both tournaments and that once reliable jumper wasn’t there for him and his confidence began to wain.

UConn needed some of the freshmen to step up and contribute and Samuel was up for the challenge. There is no denying the importance of his role and how it contributed for UConn’s success. There were many times when this team’s offense hit a wall and the unheralded freshman beat a double team or broke the press to get to the rim for a lay-up. He has a bit of a Taliek Brown in him and has that knack of getting to the rim with ease. Hopefully he can build on this new found confindence heading forward.

Brimah had that one shining moment when he hit an important 3-point play to tie the game up against St. Joseph’s but that masked what was a pretty disappointing two months. He had a hard time staying on the court for consistent minutes. While his footwork has improved drastically from the start of the season, his hands were getting him into trouble defensively. They would snake around when defending on the post or wouldn’t be straight up when a player drove into the lane. That should improve with experience, but he makes such an impact when he is on the court that he needs to limit those needless fouls.

Nolan had major issues rebounding, defending without fouling, and finishing plays around the rim. He does get into good defensive position and led the team in charge calls this season, but he will need more improvement in rebounding and finishing plays around the basket next season. He didn’t take as big of a leap in development from last season to this one and hopefully he can not only bulk up but become a great compliment to Brimah down low.

Olander’s role diminished in March and April in his limited stints. He just wasn’t strong or skilled enough on the post to make a big impact and was mostly there to clog lanes and buy time for the other big men to return. He was the punching bag for many UConn fans that saw many of his flaws, but it is a bit unfair. He was undersized for the center position and would have been more qualified for that power forward role like Jeff Adrien played, but with UConn’s strength in the backcourt, Ollie utilized a more 3-guard line-up and he was forced to play the center role.

Calhoun flat out disappeared in March and April and it is hard to come up with a single positive play that he made in the month in a half of basketball. It will be an important off season for him to improve his jumper. It was awkward to start with but Ollie could deal with it when it was falling for him but now that it hasn’t, changes might be in order. He right now is the biggest question mark heading into next season.

Facey didn’t get much playing time in March and April but he has shown enough versatility to become a main piece to next year’s squad. He is a versatile player that has a knack for the ball coming off the rim and also can put it on the floor and hit jumpers. He will need to focus on the fundamentals next season and become a consistent rebounder. That should allow him to get minutes which should lead to opportunities to showcase some of those skills, but it starts and ends with rebounding.

What a magical month. It hasn’t truly settled in yet what this team accomplished. In truth, we are very spoiled as a fan base and sometimes have a hard time grasping in total what UConn has been able to do these past fifteen years. This is the one sport that can allow a team to get hot at just the right time and win it all. Most sports only allow the top ten or fifteen teams into their playoffs, but to allow 64 teams to via for that title is incredible and for UConn to be underdogs in just about every match-up and not only win those, but to win seven of the eight games convincingly was unimaginable. Can you believe it? Four National Titles. Simply incredible, especially when two of them came out of nowhere.  Who says lightning can’t strike twice?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

UConn Huskies 2014 National Champions

First off, wow. Did this really just happen? Now that that is off the table we can get into the game. It was a battle of two wills. UConn wanted to use their defense to create easy and early offensive opportunities. While Kentucky wanted to use their brute force down low to put UConn into foul trouble and get second chance opportunities. UConn won the battle early on, jumping out to a 15 point lead with Napier, Daniels, and Boatright all getting whatever looks they wanted, but Kentucky’s aggressiveness put Daniels and Boatright on the bench with two fouls each. The momentum immediately switched as Kromah and Samuels made costly turnovers and Napier settled for jumpers. They treaded water, making one play for every two of Kentucky’s and the Wildcats slowly chipped away, closing out the half to get within a possession of the lead.

The second half started out like the first half ended. UConn had a hard time getting their offense going and the defense struggled to keep Kentucky off the line, but luckily for them, the Wildcats had a hard time knocking them down, which ultimately cost them the game. UConn made just enough plays down the stretch to keep the lead, even though Kentucky came within one possession several times. With UConn’s big men in foul trouble, Ollie went small ball and mixed in the zone. The small unit more than held their own on the boards. That helped space the floor and they made just enough jumpers to stretch the lead to two possessions and held on for the victory. It wasn’t a well played game. Give Kentucky credit. They frustrated UConn with the zone, but many of Connecticut’s errors were self-inflicted. They were the best team out there right from the tip and it seemed like they would either win this or lose it on their own accord, but this team never gave in to the frustration and stared defeat in the eyes several times and made just enough stops to hold onto the lead for the improbable victory.

Napier looked aggressive early on. He took every open look and there were plenty. He knocked down three 3-pointers, had a nifty lay-up in traffic, and had two of his shots goal-tended, but once Boatright and Daniels were on the bench, he began to settle for jumpers. His frustration level grew in the second half and it began to effect his game. He had some sloppy turnovers, bad passes, but like a true champion, he fought through it and made some crucial plays down the stretch. It wasn’t his best game, but he was the catalyst and UConn rode him to the finish line.

Boatright came out with contagious energy. In the first half, he had two lay-ups, a jumper, and hit two free throws on a hard foul, but he also had a lazy pass that led to a dunk. His defense frustrated Kentucky but he soon found himself in foul trouble and had to sit on the bench. He came out in the second half with an early jumper, but then rolled his ankle. It didn’t look good, with him hobbling to the sidelines, but he fought through it and hit a crucial jumper. With being at half strength, he still did a great job defensively and helped elevate Kentucky’s pressure in the half court.

Daniels had a nice but brief stint in the first half. He had a massive dunk and a step back jumper, but had his second foul with almost five and a half minutes to go in the first half. When he finally got back into the game, his jumpers were all off and other than a lay-up and a put-back, he never got it going. Despite all that, he did all the little things like boxing out and battling for rebounds, especially when Ollie went small. If it wasn’t for his contributions in the paint in this game, this would be a ten point Kentucky win.

Giffey had an early lay-up, had an offensive rebound, and went two for two from the line. He finally got two 3-pointers to drop for him and was the spark UConn needed in the second half to help elevate the zone pressure Kentucky applied. Kromah hit a jumper but also had a horrible turnover that led to a 3-pointer on the other end. He had a key jump-ball and hit two crucial free throws late in the ball game to help UConn stretch the lead three possessions. Samuels came out and provided an immediate lift with a steal and a lay-up, but then went under a screen that led to points and also had a turnover. This unit was key to the victory and without them, it wouldn’t have been close.

Brimah started out strong with a block and rebounded with strength, but struggled to defend without fouling. Nolan had an early offensive rebound and a block, but also had trouble containing Kentucky. They couldn’t get anything to drop around the rim and had trouble with Kentucky’s length. With both of them getting into major foul trouble, Ollie had to sit them both and go small.

It is hard to put into words what this team just accomplished. Sure they did this before in 2011, but this was something totally different. That team won its Maui Tournament, Big East Tournament, and headed into the NCAA Tournament with a head of steam. This team lost to Louisville three times, with one of those by an embarrassing margin. No one gave them a shot, not even 99% of UConn fans, but this team did what makes this sport so special, they became one. Everyone stepped up collectively and fulfilled their roles which was beautiful to watch. UConn nation should be proud of this team and what it has not only accomplished on the court, but what it has done to stabilize itself for the foreseeable future. There has been many a great franchise to have had their culture of winning wane and never be seen again, but this team stuck through that ban and are now College Basketball royalty. You could use many words to describe this team. Heart, toughness, together, but the one word that truly describes this team is loyal and for that every UConn fan has to say Thank You.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Overlooked But Not Outdone

They said that UConn was too inconsistent, flawed in the frontcourt, and not talented enough. They gave them no shot against St. Joseph, Villanova, Michigan State, and Florida, but long time UConn fans know that this is exactly how UConn likes it. They relish the underdog role. They thrive on the disrespect and now they stand on the precipice of an impressive 4th national title. It didn’t look good from the start. Florida jumped out to an early lead, hitting several jumpers right off the bat and for the first time in the tournament, UConn had one of their slow starts. The Gators built up a 16 to 4 lead and looked ready to put the Huskies away before the half ended, but UConn had other plans and it started by the insertion of an unheralded freshman. Terrence Samuel came in and it changed the flow of the game. The lanes opened and they began driving and dishing to open shooters. Daniels and Boatright knocked down jumpers while Samuel and Giffey found ways to score inside. They clawed back into the game and the defense began to tighten up. Florida had a hard time rotating the ball and kicking out to open shooters. The half ended with UConn holding on to a one possession lead.

UConn came out in the second half in attack mode and despite the disparity of calls in the paint, they built up their lead to four to five possessions on the backs of their inside scoring. The defense, the best in the tournament, frustrated Florida. Kevin Ollie did a masterful job in substitutions and had to deal with his frontcourt in foul trouble throughout this game. While Florida did win the offensive glass battle, UConn held their own on the overall boards, which was their biggest concern. With the defense stifling Florida, UConn’s offense broke apart Florida’s unheralded defense in the second half for one 3-pointer, 7 lay-ups, a floater, 2 jumpers and 3 dunks. This team is playing at such an elite level right now and are winning games in different fashions, which a team needs to do to reach this level, but the one thing that has been there from the tip has been their defense and if they continue to play at this level, they have a great chance to win their fourth title.

Napier didn’t have his jumper in this game but he didn’t need it. His biggest contribution was on his dribble penetration, passing, defense, and ability to beat the press. He had several key steals that immediately led to points on the other end. He did sink two 3-pointers, a lay-up, and hit 4 of 4 from the line but he didn’t need to be aggressive because others were getting open and knocking down shots.

Boatright has been nothing short of fantastic in this tournament and it hadn’t changed in this game. He had a slow start offensively, hitting only a 3-pointer, but he skied for several big time boards and did a fantastic job of fronting Florida’s guards. He started getting things going in the second half. He had a dunk, 2 lay-ups, a jumper, and hit 2 of 2 from the line. The biggest adjustment for him has been his ability to score around the basket and knock down mid-range jumpers. If he consistently hits those elbow jumpers, he will be unstoppable.

Talking about unstoppable, Daniels has been nothing short of incredible. He not only is knocking down 3-pointers, but is sprinkling in an unguardable turnaround jumper, a monster dunk, a jumper, and lay-up after lay-up. On top of all that, he is banging for boards and blocking shots on the defensive end. UConn fans have seen this from Daniels in fits and starts throughout the season, but he has strung together several games in a row of this top tier performances. This next game will be a huge test for him. He will be going up against superior athletic wings that have given him problems in the past. If he can be as effective against Kentucky as he has been against every other team in this tournament, then he might be playing his last game in a UConn jersey.

Giffey’s jumper just isn’t dropping for him, but he can’t go into a shell because of it. He is too good of a shooter to stop putting them up. The good sign is that he is making plays in other areas, like crashing the boards for put backs and running the court for breakout dunks.  He is also playing very good defense. Kromah has been in a mini slump. He had a horrible pass and found himself on the bench. He needs to keep himself involved though, because he could be that breakout player against Kentucky. The true X-factor for this team has been Samuel. There is something about him that changes the tempo of this team. They went from stagnant to attack mode when he came in. He only made two lay-ups, but his energy and ability to break the press allowed UConn to change the momentum of this game.

The Frontcourt had to deal with a quick whistle from the referees and they weren’t calling it the same on both ends of the court. Brimah had a dunk, a lane violation, and a block, but never got into the flow of the game. Nolan also had a hard time staying on the court for extended periods of time. He had a costly turnover and a block, but like Brimah, he kept coming in and out of the game. Olander had a hard time on defense and was manhandled down low. Luckily for them, Daniels, Napier, Giffey, and Boatright picked up the rebounds or this game could’ve been different. They will need to do a much better job against Kentucky. The Wildcats are probably salivating at getting to play against them and they need to play at their best to have UConn in this game.

It is still hard to believe the run that UConn is on right now. Everyone is playing their role to perfection and the defense is so in sync. The rotations, ball denial, and close outs are a beauty to watch. They have stifled every opponent in this tournament and they need to do the same to one last opponent. This Kentucky team is gelling as well. They are so talented across the board and their biggest weapon is UConn’s biggest weakness. So it is imperative that UConn’s frontcourt hold their own and not back down. On paper it looks like a miss match, but that is exactly how UConn likes it. Let them be overlooked, because that seems to be the fuel that has guided this core group to where they are right now which is an unprecedented second National Championship.