UConn opened the month of December against a powerhouse in Florida. They pulled off the one point victory in the closing seconds of the game in what was one of the most exciting endings to any college basketball game this year. They followed that game up with a victory against Maine and then took off a long break for finals. After the twelve day lay-off, they came out sluggish against Stanford, whose zone confused UConn and placed their high octane offense into utter ineptitude. Their defense held them in the game but they suffered their first loss of the season. They then traveled across the country for their first true road game against Washington and put together a solid performance, winning by twelve. They arrived back in Connecticut and played at a brand new arena in Bridgeport. It took a good fifteen minutes, but UConn took care of business against Eastern Washington, defeating them by seventeen. They ended their month in disappointing fashion against Houston for their first conference game. They found themselves down by twenty-one on the road, but clawed themselves back into the game only to lose down the stretch for their second loss of the season.
On a team laden with talent, Napier has done it all: rebounding, scoring, and assists. Not to mention his play calling and ability to knock down clutch shot after clutch shot. If their is one thing that he needs to improve on is that he is taking too many jumpers early in the game instead of getting to the line but without him this team would have five losses already.
Boatright has done a much better job offensively this month but still dribbles too much and leaves his feet with no real plan. His turnovers usually lead directly to points on the other end. Despite his dribbling skills, he has a hard time getting into lanes when the defense is settled and he doesn’t apply contact. His defense has been tremendous though and he is doing a much better job of defending without fouling.
Daniels has had a rough month and struggled around the paint. He has yet to reach that elusive double-digit rebounding game and his shots near the rim that had been falling are rimming out. He isn’t taking those mid-ranged jumpers any more and is using those push shots that he loves. He gets lost in the offense sometimes and doesn’t demand the basketball or carve out space, especially on the post.
No one has had a rougher month than Omar Calhoun. His confidence in his jumper is near to non-existent. His shots are not even close at this moment and he has yet to adjust and attack the rim to get to the line to at least see the ball drop through a time or two. By the end of the month, he had lost his starting position to Giffey and his minutes are drastically dropping.
Teams have started adjusting to Giffey’s amazing 3-point shooting and are driving him off the line and not leaving him. He has yet to adjust and pump fake or take the mid-ranged shot. This team also needs him to rebound better then he has so far. He should be getting five to six boards a game but is hovering around two or three.
Nolan has also lost his starting job in the month of December because he hasn’t been able to rebound the basketball consistently. He’s done a much better job of defending without fouling but hasn’t shown improvement in his post play or ability to knock down that fifteen footer. This team desperately needs him to step up.
Brimah took Nolan’s starting job but it didn’t mean more minutes. In fact, Ollie has shortened his minutes if he doesn’t come out and rebound or play defense without fouling which he has failed to do in the month of December. His length has proven effective but he is still learning on the job and hopefully Ollie’s tough love will pay dividends down the stretch.
Olander has taken his role in stride and is coming in with energy in each and every game despite his inconsistent minutes. He isn’t going to give this team major rebounding or offensive numbers, but he will be in position defensively and make those hidden plays that don’t show up in the stats.
Kromah has provided this team a major lift in the month of December and has even surpassed Calhoun in effectiveness. He can get to the rim, plays solid defense, and can knock down an open jumper when needed. He's been the spark on numerous occasions that had restarted a stalled offense.
Facey, Tolksdorf, and Samuel barely found some court time and need to remain patient and buy their time. When Facey has gotten into the game, he was able to get a rebound immediately. If the frontcourt continues to struggle, he might even get himself into the rotation. Samuel on the other hand will be mired behind four guards and won’t get much playing time. Tolksdorf needs to rebound if he wants playing time and he has yet to do so.
UConn had some high moments and some low ones. The win against Florida will be a notch in their NCAA ballot but the loss to Houston will not be a positive. With a weakened conference, the ability to get profile building wins will be elusive and those bad losses like the one against Houston will be more prevalent. So the pressure will be squarely on them when battling these schools on the road. They'll need to come out with effort and cross their fingers that the frontcourt will eventually come around or it might be an early exit in these tournaments despite the backcourt's talent.