Monday, March 31, 2014

Our House

What a game! UConn got off to a hot start with some great shooting by Boatright, Daniels, and Napier, while Michigan State had a hard time getting the ball to drop. The Huskies roared out to a 12 to 2 lead, but that didn’t last long as UConn’s offense grew stagnant and their jumpers weren’t dropping as the Spartans couldn’t miss from deep. The momentum turned an
d UConn’s lead quickly disappeared as MSU went on a 23 to 9 run to end the first half. They went into the locker room with a 25 to 21 lead and UConn needed to get reorganized.

Michigan State started out the second half like it ended the first with hot shooting from the outside. They soon ballooned the lead to 9 points and things looked ready to get out of hand, but UConn unleashed Napier. The senior point guard placed UConn on his shoulder and lead them on a 12 point run. They adjusted their game and attacked the basket, getting into the bonus early. They began getting to the line and were able to sustain their offense there. Seizing the lead, the crowd came to life and rattled the rafters of the Garden. Being a great team, Michigan State began chipping away, but Napier sealed the door shut with a clutch jumper and three free throws and UConn completed their magical run through the East Region and into the Final Four.

Adding to his already legendary status, Shabazz Napier has taken UConn on his shoulders and is carrying them to a place none, not even UConn fans, thought they could go, the Final Four. He came out with a furious start, hitting two 3-pointers, a lay-up, and did a masterful time on defense. His jumper was a bit inconsistent throughout the game, but he made clutch shot after clutch shot in the second half. He also adjusted his game and was able to get fouled three times while driving to the basket and sank all 6 of those free throws. Like he had all tournament long, he had the ball in his hand late and he made a key jumper in the lane and got fouled on a 3-point attempt which he promptly knocked them all down. It is hard to put in words exactly what Napier has meant to UConn basketball. He has brought stability to not only his team but to his conference and to see what he has accomplished in his four years in Storrs places him in very elite company.

One of the biggest reasons why UConn is playing in the Final Four is the rejuvenated play of Ryan Boatright. To say that he struggled late in the year would be an understatement. He sometimes found himself riding the pine in the closing minutes of tight ball games, but that has all turned around. He had a jumper, a dunk, and played great defense in the first half. He hit a 3-pointer late in the shot clock, went 4 for 4 from the line, and played disruptive defense in the second half. He still has some really bad shots and passes that lead to points the other way, but he has made significant impacts especially when Napier is on the bench. This team will need his improved play heading into the game versus Florida.

The other reason why UConn is moving forward is DeAndre Daniels’ improved play. UConn looked to feed him early and he hit a turnaround jumper, and had an offensive rebound and put-back. He played with high energy on both ends of the court, skying for big time blocks, getting steals, and playing through contact. He didn’t have as big of an impact offensively as he had in the game against Iowa State, but he still managed to hit a jumper, a turnaround jumper, and hit 3 of 3 from the line in the second half. This is a totally different team when he is playing with this amount of energy and the sky is the limit for him heading forward.

Giffey struggled with his jumper, though a few rolled halfway down, but he played through it and still was able to hit a hook shot and a massive dunk to seal the game. His biggest improvement in the tournament has been his ability to rebound in traffic. He’ll need to continue to battle for those boards with the lack of production from the frontcourt. Kevin Ollie went with a very short bench and Kromah and Samuel combined for only 14 minutes. Kromah flat out struggled when he was out there. He hit 2 of 2 from the line and played solid defense but he didn’t have his usual performance. Samuel played good defense but didn’t have the impact he had in the prior two games. It is amazing that UConn won this game with the little amount of production this unit provided. For UConn to beat Florida, they will need one of these three players to step up and provide a lift offensively.

When Nolan was able to stay on his feet, he did a great job. With the way college basketball has become, the center has become more of a perimeter oriented position. It put a lot of pressure on UConn’s big men but Nolan produced, especially in the second half. He had a lay-up and a big-time dunk. Brimah had a hard time defending without fouling and only played 10 minutes. Olander played a sparse 3 minutes. This unit only provided 4 rebounds in 40 minutes. They’ll need more then that against a bigger and more powerful Florida Gators team.

There’s a certain swagger around this team. They relish the underdog role and are thriving with a combination of excellent free throw shooting, fantastic defense, and clutch shooting. After giving up 16 offensive boards to Iowa State, UConn was able to hold the Spartans to only 6 offensive boards. They’ll need another effort like that against Florida to keep the Gators on their toes defensively. It will come down to UConn’s ability to get to the line and knock down 3-pointers versus Florida’s ability to get second chance points and knock down perimeter jumpers. Whoever can instill their strengths will win this game. It should be an interesting game with UConn already beating Florida, though that was a totally different team. Though there is no stat for magic and UConn might have found it at just the right time.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

UConn 2014 Desktop Background

UConn Prepares for Michigan State in Elite Eight

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Garden Grove

UConn came right out of the gates and gave Iowa State a taste of their own medicine. Napier, Boatright, and Daniels were able to knock down shots from deep and built up a three possession lead early, but this game was won on the defense end. UConn used great switching and got back on defense to prevent any Iowa State run to get back in this game in the first half. They really did a fantastic job on driving off the Cyclone's shooters around the perimeter. They only made six 3-pointers and the surprising number was that they took only 16. With the Huskies taking away the Cyclone's biggest weapon, they ended the first half with a double digit lead.

Both offenses started to heat up in the second half and they began trading baskets at a furious pace. UConn had no answer for Hogue and Iowa State couldn’t stop DeAndre Daniels. Both players carried their teams for the majority of the second half, but like they have all year long, Iowa State began making plays in crunch time. UConn helped them out by taking bad shots early in the shot clock, turned the ball over, created offensive fouls, and couldn’t keep Iowa State off the offensive glass. The once double digit lead shrank to a two possession game, but UConn used one of their biggest weapons, the free throw line, to keep themselves in the lead and hold on for the victory.

Napier came out on fire, hitting four 3-pointers in the first half which helped build a double digit lead. He didn’t have as big of an impact in the second half. His only offense was a lay-up and five free throws. He played sloppy defense at times and left wide open shooters, he also took bad shots, turned he ball over, and had two offensive fouls. This team will need a much more controlled Napier heading forward.

Boatright continued his superb play. He had two 3-pointers and two jumpers in the first half. He did have problems in transition and turned the ball over a couple of times, but he was in attack mode for much of the game and was able to drive into the lane and create contact. He also went 6 for 6 from the line in the second half. He still needs to work on his late game decision making and took numerous bad shots early in the shot clock that led to points on the other end, but he has stepped up his game in this tournament.

What more can you ask from DeAndre Daniels? He had everything working for him in this one. He started out playing great defense, blocking two shots, and then got to the line to see the ball sink into the basket. He then hit a 3-pointer, a turnaround jumper, and then a pretty crossover lay-up. That was just in the first half. He really put on a show in the second half. He hit a fade-away jumper, a 3-pointer, two lay-ups, another jumper, an offensive rebound put-back, and went 2 of 2 from the line.  On top of all that, he grabbed 10 boards. This is the DeAndre Daniels that has UConn fans drooling. The problem is that he rarely puts back-to-back displays like this one. For UConn to move forward, they’ll need this type of game from him to elevate the pressure on the guards.

Giffey had an early lay-up, but his outside shots looked rushed and they barely caught iron. He rebounded really well in traffic and played good defense, but it was his late 3-pointer that helped UConn pull off the victory. Iowa State looked primed for a comeback and had all the momentum but Giffey changed all that with his big time shot. Kromah had a rough game. He had an early turnover and had a hard time on defense. He only played eight minutes. Samuel continues to play like a junior. He has grown so much in such a short time and Ollie has tremendous faith in him, even getting a friendly slap after the game. He had three lay-ups, hit his free throws and played really good defense. He even created a charge. His new found role has created a much deeper bench and has allowed Napier and Boatright plenty of rest to be fresh down the stretch.

This was a tough game for the big men. Iowa State played a more perimeter oriented game and their big men were barely in the paint, so Ollie had to play more small ball to match-up. Brimah had an offensive rebound and put-back, two blocks, and a hook shot, but only played 20 minutes. Nolan only played 9 minutes and had a tough time rebounding and defending. Both players only had 3 rebounds in their combined 29 minutes of play. That’s not getting it done.

So far UConn has matched up well with all three of their opponents, but for them to head forward, they will need everyone on their A-game. Michigan State such a deep and well rounded team that can beat you in numerous ways. Boatright needs to finish plays around the rim, Giffey needs to hit the outside shot, Brimah and Nolan need to rebound, Daniels needs to remain hot, Kromah and Samuels need to play smart basketball, and Napier needs to bring some magic. If they play their game and use their strengths, 3-point shooting, half court defense, and free throw shooting, they will be in this game, but they need to find that right combination of taking outside shots but remain aggressive to get to the line. The one thing UConn fans have seen before is a team not expected to make a deep run be able to find that spark and ride it all the way to the Final Four and this team has a very similar feel to it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Moving On

Things looked dire for UConn.  Villanova came out on fire, hitting threes, getting to the rim, and shutting down UConn’s offense.  On top of that, Napier found himself with his second foul and was on the bench with more then eleven minutes to go until the half.  Credit this team and Kevin Ollie because they dug down deep and turned the game around.  Ollie mixed up defenses, and Samuel, Kromah, and Boatright caused havoc and attacked the seems of Villanova’s defense to either get to the line or sink some lay-ups.  Villanova went near eight minutes without scoring a basket and UConn surged ahead to take the lead on an epic run. In the closing seconds, Samuel gave up a flagrant foul and allowed the Wildcats to score four points to get within a point as the half ended.

Just like the first half, Villanova came out on fire and began drilling 3-pointers, but UConn responded back and both teams traded baskets.  That was until Napier took over and began draining shots from near halfcourt.  UConn built up a double digit lead and held on for dear life as the Wildcats desperately tried to claw their way back, but UConn used timely shots and spot-on free throw shooting to hold on to the victory.  Despite Napier’s output, this was a total team victory and credit should be sprinkled around to Boatright, Daniels, Samuel, Giffey, and Kromah.

It was a frustrating first half for Napier.  He found himself in early foul trouble with only four points and had to sit the majority of the first half on the pine.  He tried to force the issue when he finally got back into the game and he took a few bad shots and had some sloppy turnovers but then began to heat up.  He hit a fade-away jumper and three 3-pointers before banging his shin while trying to shake his defender.  UConn fans held their collective breath as he writhed on the ground and then limped off.  He eventually came back in and made a lay-up and hit 1 of 2 from the line. This was a gutty performance and adds to his growing legacy here at UConn.

Boatright had one of his best performances in a long time.  He had three lay-ups and was finally able to get the ball to drop around the rim.  He played great defense all game long and despite some bad fouls, he was trouble for Villanova’s guards.  This was a glimpse of UConn’s future without Napier next season and Boatright showed he can handle the assignment. This is a different team when he is attacking and making plays around the basket.

Daniels did a little of everything in this game.  He hit three 3-pointers and a had lay-up, but his biggest contribution was on the boards and on defense.  He battled hard around the paint and did all the little things that a team needs to pull off a big time game like this one.  He is still rushing shots in the paint, but he is taking the ball to the basket if he is singled up on a defender which is what he needs to do.

Giffey was the glue guy.  He didn’t make a 3-pointer all game, but he made several steals and deflections, while also battling hard on the boards. He also played really good defense.  Kromah finally had a bounce back game, hitting two much needed 3-pointers, a lay-up, 3 steals, and went 4 of 4 from the line. Samuel had a breakout performance and without his solid play this game might have had a different outcome.  He hit a floater, a lay-up, and went 3 of 4 from the line.  He did have a horrible flagrant foul late in the first half, but he helped break Villanova’s press and made the right plays when Napier was on the bench. There can’t be enough credit for this group here. Giffey, Kromah, and Samuel might not have had an explosive offensive output but they all made the necessary support to Napier and Boatright to carry this team to the victory.

Brimah had a quiet game though he had a few big time blocks and a dunk, but Ollie decided to go small in this game and he wasn’t used as much.  Nolan got an early charge call and had a hustle tie-up, but like Brimah, he had a quiet game with how Villanova stretches the court with their big men. They still did a solid job of keeping the Wildcats off the offensive glass.

This was a true team win.  Boatright showed leadership and Samuel matured in front of everyone’s eyes.  This team has it rolling pretty good right now.  Their jumpers are dropping and the defense is doing a great job of getting consecutive stops.  They’ll have a bit of a break before playing in Madison Square Garden and hopefully it won’t put a damper on their hot shooting because if they can hit their outside shots then they can hang with any team left in this tournament. The young players on this team are maturing at just the right time and this team is gelling into something special.  The competition starts to heat up from here on out and they can’t have these slow starts to the halves and expect to win, but with the way Napier, Boatright, and Daniels are playing right now, I like my chances.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Survive And Advance

This game looked reminiscent of the Iowa State game of two years ago that had ended UConn’s last trip into the NCAA tournament.  Like Royce White, Halil Kanacevic had his way throughout this game and found cutters, hit smooth hook shots and jumpers, and made numerous amazing passes.  Langston Galloway and the Hawks came out on fire and couldn’t miss a shot.  UConn on the other hand hit their first couple of jumpers and began settling for perimeter shots instead of attacking.  The free throws began to mount for Saint Joseph’s and UConn’s frontcourt found itself in constant rotation with the fouls piling up.  They kept themselves within arms length by hitting 6 first half 3-pointers and despite getting thoroughly outplayed, they only found themselves down by 5 at the half.

In the second half, UConn’s rotations were much crisper and the Hawks lights out shooting began to settle back down to earth.  But each time UConn made a big play to get within a possession of the lead, St. Joseph’s made one of their own.  Time began to slip away and Napier and Boatright struggled to make plays. Both took rushed and well defended shots early in the shot clock.  Surprisingly it was a Daniels’ 3-pointer and Amida Brimah’s clutch 3-point play that brought UConn back to tie the game up in the closing minutes.   After a last second miss by Napier, they went into overtime.

In overtime, Daniels changed the entire complexion of the game by driving the lane and getting Kanacevic to foul out.  Without their offensive cog, St. Joseph’s offense sputtered and UConn kept up the pressure, doing what they should have done from the beginning of the game, get to the line.  They used one of their strongest weapons, their free throw shooting, to create some separation, and St. Joseph’s didn’t have enough magic left to get back into the game as UConn built a three possession lead to get the victory.

Napier had a hard time making shots, going 7 of 22, but the good sign was that he took 22 shots.   He made two 3-pointers and 5 lay-ups with some of those shots in much needed moments.  He finally started getting calls late in the second half and when he did get to the line, he made them pay, going 8 for 8 from the charity stripe.  What was most amazing about his performance was his ability to snag 8 rebounds.  For someone his size, he has a knack for getting to the weak side for rebounds.

Boatright carried UConn early by hitting a jumper and two 3-pointers in the first half and continued his solid play into the second half where he made an incredible behind the back pass to Brimah and hit another 3-pointer, but then the bad side of Boatright’s game emerged.  He took two bad shots at the end of the second half and had a horrible foul in overtime.  He needs to be a more reliable player in late game situations, but without his great play earlier UConn would’ve been in deep trouble.

Daniels had everything going but still disappears in long stretches.  He hit two 3-pointers in the first half but had problems getting rebounds and making plays in the paint.  That turned around in the second half where he was able to sink a floater, hit a lay-up and sink a clutch 3-pointer.  It was his lay-up in overtime that knocked Kanacevic from the game with 5 fouls that allowed UConn to seize momentum and pull away.

Giffey started off the game strong with an offensive rebound and put-back, but he had a hard time playing defense without fouling and was constantly in and out of the game.  He did make plays when he was in, getting steals, a lay-up, and knocking down two 3-pointers.  Kromah had two lay-ups, a 3-pointer, and an offensive rebound, but it was his defense on Galloway that was his biggest contribution to this game.  He rode Langston’s shooting hand and made him give up the basketball numerous times in the second half.  Samuels missed two easy lay-ups and Calhoun made a bad pass.  He hasn’t made a positive play in a very long time.

Brimah came out and had an early offensive rebound and put-back, but had problems defending without fouling and was pushed around in the paint for offensive boards.  It wasn’t until the second half that he began asserting himself.  He had a tip-back, a dunk, and two offensive rebounds, with one of those an & one that he promptly sank to tie the game up.  His energy sparked UConn’s comeback and eventual victory.  Nolan made some nice plays in the paint with two dunks, got to the line, and hit an up-and-under move.   His major problem was getting rebounds.  He needs to do a better job of clearing space and going after the basketball. Olander only played 3 minutes.

UConn will need to do a much better job defensively to beat Villanova.  They can’t have late rotations like they did in this game because the the Wildcats play at an incredible speed.  Hopefully UConn can ride the hot hand of Brimah and Daniels.  Having paint production changes the complexion of this team and allows Napier and Boatright to operate in space.  Luckily Ollie and the Huskies are familiar with Jay Wright’s team and are comfortable in playing them.  UConn will need a much more efficient night from Napier and Boatright to pull off the victory but the name of the game this time of year is Survive and Advance and they sure did that.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Monday, March 17, 2014

Breaking Down UConn vs. St. Joseph's

You’ve got to be kidding me.  Louisville, who has been dominating their opponents, is a four seed but yet ranked 5th in the country.  How is this possible? But the biggest disrespect to the AAC is to put the other three teams in the same bracket.  Why couldn’t they spread the teams around so that they don’t have to eat their own?  It is unacceptable.  The seedings for UConn, Cincinnati, and Memphis are about right.  Maybe there could be an argument on Cincinnati’s because UConn beat them 2 out of 3 times, but the Bearcats did have a share of the American title.

UConn lands in Buffalo, N.Y. which should provide them with enough fans to make it a good atmosphere as they take on St. Joes.  The Hawks are led by five really good players and UConn can’t head into this game and overlook them.  Langston Galloway, a senior guard, is their offensive powerhouse.  He leads the team in 3-point percentage at 43% and doesn’t turn the ball over.  Ronald Roberts is their anchor down low.  He’s a senior, 6-8 and 225 pound power forward that averages 14 points and 7 boards a game.   His downside is his free throw shooting which is around 59%.

They also have a high powered freshman in DeAndre Bembry.  He’s a 6-6 small forward that does most of his work in the paint.  He only made 36 of his 138 field goals from deep.  Like Roberts, Bembry is a poor free throw shooter, hitting just 57% at the line.  The X-factor to this game is Halil Kanacevic.  He’s a senior 6-8 power forward that averages 10 points and 8 rebounds.  Not only does he lead the team in rebounds but he also leads the team in assists and it isn’t even close.  He has over 50 more assists than any other player on his team.  It is imperative for UConn to be crisp on their rotations especially if they send help to him because he has a great feel for the game and can create easy shots for his teammates.  Chris Wilson is a junior guard that isn’t a great shooter but has a knack for getting points though he only averages 9 a game. Half his shots are from deep and he makes 35% of them.  Coach Phil Martelli uses a short bench and the minutes drop off drastically after the starting five.  Papa Ndao and Daryus Quarles average 11 minutes and Isaiah Miles averages 9 minutes.

St. Joes was average in both scoring and defense in the Atlantic 10.   They ranked 8th out of 13th on offense, averaging 71.5 points per game and 6th out of 13th on defense, letting opponents score 67.1 points per game.  Their Achilles heal is in their free throw shooting, ending up dead last in the league and shooting a measly 64% from the charity stripe.  That allows UConn to feel comfortable in playing aggressive defense and they should send the Hawks big men to the line instead of giving them easy buckets. They also are prone to coughing the ball up while not turning their opponent over and are second to last in their conference in turnover margin. The one thing UConn needs to focus on is protecting the perimeter because this St. Joes team can light it up and leads the A-10 in 3-point shooting, hitting 38% from deep.

On paper, UConn has the upper hand in this match-up, but they’ll need to do a few things to make sure that they move on.  They can’t allow open shooters.  They’ll need to run them off the line and funnel them into Brimah or Nolan.  St. Joes isn’t a great offensive rebounding team, which is one of UConn’s weaknesses.  UConn needs to focus on pushing the ball once they secure the rebound and attack, attack, attack.  Get to the line and get St. Joes into foul problems early.  Make those unused bench players play in this game.  The one thing UConn can not do is look ahead to the next round and let this team stay into the game.  If UConn plays their game, they should be able to pull away and win it, even if they don’t have their jumpers working.   Kevin Ollie will have this team focused and ready to play.  This will be Napier’s last run and UConn fans should be prepared for something special.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Not Enough

UConn needed to bring their A-game but with their 3-point shooting drying up, they couldn’t keep pace with the hottest team in College Basketball.  It was frustrating to watch.  UConn had too many unforced errors, especially late in the first half that fueled Louisville’s run and eventually put the game away.  Ollie tried a bunch of odd combinations like Samuels and Calhoun or Nolan and Brimah on the court together.  Nothing worked and UConn couldn’t sustain the right combination of defense and offense to stand toe-to-toe with Louisville.

It looked good early on for Napier.  He hit a floater, had a couple of steals, and a much needed 3-pointer, but then he hit a wall offensively.  His outside shot dried up and without that, he had a hard time navigating Louisville’s zone.  He once again played sub-par defense and laid off his man.  This team needed a much more aggressive Napier but credit Louisville’s defense for putting him under wraps.

Boatright struggled.  He had a poor pass, a bad shot, kept picking up his dribble for no reason, had an air-ball, and dribbled the shot clock away with no real purpose.  That was just the first half.  He continued his sub-par play into the second half with only a 3-pointer as his only offense.  This team needs more from him then this.

Daniels was simply fantastic and was the only bright spot on what was ultimately a dismal game.  He had a block, a lay-up, a 3-pointer, three jumpers, a put-back, and a massive dunk.  This is the type of game that UConn needed from him throughout the year.  Hopefully this run he has been on continues into the NCAA tournament, because when he is making plays in the post it makes the backcourt's life much easier.

Giffey’s hot streak finally came to an end and he didn’t even record a 3-pointer.  He did do a good job of attacking the glass and had two lay-ups and a put-back, but they needed a repeat performance from him to make this a game and they couldn’t get it.  Kromah flat out struggled.  He had two bad passes, lost his dribble, slipped on the court, and had two quick fouls.  Samuel once again had a hard time with his dribble and didn’t play much.  Calhoun got a chunk of playing time in this game and had a lucky pass to Brimah after loosing the ball, had a bad pass, a travel, and a turnover.  He continues to miss wide open shots.  This unit was a big fat no show.

Brimah had a fantastic game.  He had two hook shots, three dunks, a put-back, a lay-up, a nifty pass, and hustled to the floor to save the ball.  It is in these games that show his ultimate potential.  Nolan was on the opposite end of that spectrum in this game.  He struggled to rebound, to get shots, and defend.  He did get one of his patented charges, but he couldn’t provide some defensive intensity.

UConn needs to keep their heads up.  Sure they lost this game and it wasn’t even close, but they need to see the big picture.  They came into the tournament playing some of their worst play of the year and they beat Memphis in Memphis, a tough nosed Cincinnati team for the season series, and came up short against Louisville, who should be a one seed in the NCAA tournament.  While this loss hurts, it doesn’t hurt their overall seeding and this run through the tournament should actually bolster them.  They’ll need to play much better heading forward but when their jumpers are falling, this team can hang with any in the league.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Mere Inches

UConn knew heading into the game against Cincinnati that scoring wouldn’t be easy, but unlike their previous game against them, UConn had regained their offensive swagger and just in time.  They jumped out to an early lead with some hot shooting, but then the sloppy play that had plagued the Huskies during the past couple of weeks started to creep in.  They rushed shots, couldn’t secure defensive rebounds, and had numerous unforced errors that left them with empty possession after empty possession.   UConn leaned heavily on their defense.  Their rotations were spot on and their switches kept Cincinnati out of the lanes.  Eventually the offensively challenged Bearcats hit that drought that happens periodically to them and the Huskies seized control of the game with some deadly outside shooting.  Like many times this season, UConn had trouble in end of game situations and had problems in-bounding the ball, making free throws, and playing defense without fouling.  Cincinnati made a late run and had a chance to tie it up on a last second basket, but UConn held on by mere inches.

Napier had his highs and lows in this game.  His jumper was there for him early, hitting a deep jumper, but he took numerous bad shots, had some sloppy passes and was lackadaisical on the defensive end.  When it came down to crunch time though, he hit a big time jumper that helped create a big enough cushion to hold on to the lead.

Boatright also had an up and down game.  He had several unforced errors, continues to dribble into trouble, is not aggressive on the break, and had some poor passes, but his jumper came to life in this game.  He had two 3-pointers, a jumper, and was fouled on a 3-pointer.  He also was very active defensively and caused havoc.  This team needs him to play a more controlled game, especially in late-game situations.

Daniels was simply amazing.  When this team needed a play, he was there.  He hit a turnaround floater, two 3-pointers, a hook shot, another floater, and he did a great job on the boards.  His rotations are a bit late though and that is where he is getting a lot of his fouls on.  He needs to get to his spot early and seal the lane for the charge.

Giffey continues to shoot lights out like he had at the beginning of this season.  He hit 3 of 4 from deep and even dribbled into a 3-pointer.  His passing was a bit off and he needs to make safer passes, but he is playing with so much confidence right now.  Kromah needs to get back on track and had problems making crisp passes.  He missed all of his shots.  Samuel had a freshman like game and had an early turnover while trying to split a double team.  He was quickly pulled for Calhoun and only played 3 minutes.  Calhoun also only played a sparse 3 minutes but at least he got into the game.

Brimah has come a long way since the beginning of the year.  He was fouled on a dunk and hit both free throws, had 4 blocks, made some nifty passes, and had a great dunk.  It was his rebounding that was the most impressive, pulling down 7 boards.  Nolan struggled to get anything going and is so foul prone at the moment that he is playing a very timid defense.  He also hasn’t gotten the charge calls he had been getting earlier.  Ollie shrank his bench in this one and didn’t play Olander or Facey.

If UConn wants to win the Championship against Louisville, they will need to play with more respect for the basketball and also get the ball into the middle of the court while in-bounding the ball.  They found themselves trapped too many times in this game and the intensity will only increase.  When they do break the press they need to continue to attack the rim instead of slowing down and getting into their halfcourt sets with ten seconds to go in the shot clock.  The one thing that they have going for them in this match-up that they hadn’t in their previous meeting is their jumpers.  If they can knock down some shots over that zone, they will be in this game and with Napier on their side, they’ll always have a shot if they are within a few possessions, but they’ll need to play their A-game because no team in America is playing better right now than Louisville.

Friday, March 14, 2014

On Track

It is hard enough to win on the road but to do it twice and against a tough Memphis squad seemed daunting, especially with how UConn has been playing, but they were up for the challenge.  After two weeks of dismal offense, it finally turned around for them.  They shot the lights out from behind the arc, led by Giffey, who torched Memphis by draining six 3-pointers, but Napier, Boatright, and Daniels all chipped in as well.  It was their defense that clamped the Tigers’ high powered offense down and won this game for them, holding Memphis to just 26.4% shooting.  It also helped that Memphis couldn’t take advantage of the free throw line and they had plenty of opportunities there. They only hit 20 of 37.  It was a get right game for UConn and something they certainly can build on heading forward.

Napier had a great start to this game and was aggressive early on.  He hit a crazy lay-up that got him going and then found his range, hitting a 3-pointer.  He struggled hitting his free throws in the first half though and only made 1 of 3.  He hit a 3-pointer in the second half that helped balloon the lead and really played the floor general game.  He let the game come to him which seems to be when he plays his best.  The bad shot Napier has started to emerge again and he needs to keep that impulse shooting to a minimum.

Boatright kept dribbling into trouble and had a rough start to the game.  He found himself on the bench and watching much of the first half from the pine.  When he got back in, he still found it hard to find an opening to score until the very end of the first half where he was able to get to the line and hit a 3-pointer.  His second half was much better and had several steals and a lay-up but is still missing shots around the rim.  He is working too hard to get anything going and needs to attack more downhill instead of laterally.

Daniels had an early 3-pointer and a steal, but had a hard time rebounding and defending without fouling.  He found himself with two fouls around the six minute mark and had to sit out the rest of the first half.  His second half was much better and he had a dunk, two jumpers, and a sweet turnaround jumper.  This is the second game in a row that he has made a significant impact on the game.  This team will need him to continue to play this way heading forward.

Giffey was simply amazing and lit up Memphis in the first half with four 3-pointers, an offense rebound, a lay-up, and a steal. He remained hot in the second half and knocked down two more 3-pointers and two lay-ups. Kromah played good defense and had a lay-up.  Samuel has slowly garnered Ollie’s trust and he found himself coming in for a struggling Boatright.  He immediately made an impact with a jumper, a save, and got to the line, but struggled in with ball handling.  Calhoun didn’t play.

Brimah made a pretty hook shot and a sweet pass to Napier, but it was his second half defense that really made the difference. Nolan had a tip-in, a dunk which he made a bone-headed play by holding onto the rim and smacking the backboard.  He played sub-par defense and eventually fouled out.  Facey came in for a minute.  Olander took a horrible 3-pointer and a travel but did have a nice tip-back. This unit only provided 8 rebounds and that’s not good enough, especially with all of Memphis’ misses.

This was the type of performance that Ollie’s team thirsted for.  They needed to have a game where their jumpers were dropping to build their confidence up before heading into the Big Dance.  They now have to take on a tough Bearcats team looking for the tie-breaker.  Hopefully UConn’s jumpers continue to fall and they keep their defensive intensity though with a little less fouling because this game will be a slugfest.  It will be the first team to sixty will win and if UConn can hit those outside shots, it won’t even be close.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Rock Bottom

It doesn’t get much worse then what UConn displayed in Louisville.  Their jumpers weren’t dropping, they couldn’t rebound,  they turned the ball over which instantly led to points, they couldn’t defend without fouling, and they couldn’t sustain a combination of offense and defense. It led to one of the worst performances by a UConn team in many a seasons and they did it on the last game of the regular season. There’s not much to break down in this game because the poor play was spread throughout the line-up.  Now they go limping into the AAC tournament, having to play Memphis at Memphis and try to beat a team three times in a row which is not an easy task to accomplish.

With the offense going south for the past two weeks, Napier has had to shoulder the scoring burden and has been forcing thing.  Against a tenacious defense like Louisville, he turned the ball over early and often.  He also took numerous bad shots and had a hard time getting open looks.  He’s been letting the team’s poor play get the best of him and has been pointing fingers at his teammates.  His trust in his teammates is slowly waning and it could spell disaster heading forward.

Boatright’s jumper has continued to elude him but he was able to get into the lane numerous times but had problems scoring around the rim.  This team needs him to play a more controlled game and do a much better job on the defensive end.  He has begun to trail his defender and needs to remain in front of him.  Unless he returns to form, this team is going to struggle in the tournaments.

If there is one good thing to get out of this game it is how Daniels performed.  He hit a jumper, two floaters, two dunks, and a 3-pointer.  Hopefully this will jump start his offense again because this team needs someone on the block to help elevate the pressure on the ball screens.

Giffey had a hard time getting open looks and only took one shot with his feet set.  He also missed an easy lay-up.  Kromah had a steal, a lay-up, an offensive rebound, a put-back, and got to the line, but he also had a couple of costly turnovers.  Calhoun missed an open shot and also gave up the basketball to Nolan before half court because he lost confidence in his dribble.  It led to a turnover.  Samuel had a freshman game.  He made some poor defensive plays, had a boneheaded foul in the closing seconds, and then shot the basketball with the clock running out.  It could cost him minutes in these last couple of games.

Another bright spot in this ugly game was Brimah’s performance.  He showed for the first time this year the ability to put the ball on the floor, take a dribble, and slam it home.  He had a hard time rebounding though and struggled putting a body on a man.  Nolan turned the ball over numerous times and also had a problem rebounding the basketball.  Olander fouled out and other then a 3-pointer late, Facey struggled defensively.  This unit had a hard time keeping Louisville off the offensive glass.

There is no sugar coating it.  This team has hit rock bottom and the offense isn’t where it needs to be to make any run in either tournament.  They look so tight right now and are working incredibly hard to even get thirty points in each half.  The defense kept them in this game until midway through the second half, but without any offense and Louisville’s incredible outside shooting, it ballooned out of control.  It is really hard to tell if this game is just an anomaly or a culmination of the past two weeks of games.  Unfortunately the only way to tell will be how short this season will be.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Turbulent Waters

It feels like ages since UConn has had this many jumpers fall for them.  The offense had been in a rut for so long now that it felt like a weight had lifted off their shoulders when Napier and Giffey began knocking down shots in the first half.   The downside to hitting so many jumpers was that they went to the well one too many times and weren’t attacking the lanes or getting to the line.  They only took 13 free throws and many of those were late when Rutgers had to foul.  Eventually those jumpers weren’t dropping and without those vital points at the line, the offense dried up.  Also credit Rutgers, they made a bunch of tough shots, banking in threes and turn around jumpers.  They answered every UConn run with one of their own and kept the game within a couple of possessions. Once again UConn had a tough time making good decisions in late game situations and opened the door for Rutgers.  Luckily they didn’t take advantage and UConn held on for the victory, but they can’t keep doing this and expect to win especially in a one and done situation.

Napier looked primed to put on a show for his last home game.  His jumper that had eluded him for the past couple of weeks was dead on, hitting 8 of 13 from the field.   Sometimes he falls in love with the jumper, especially if he knocks down a couple early and then he doesn’t get to the line.  It wasn’t until midway through the second half that he got fouled heading to the basket.  He’ll need to be much more aggressive heading into Louisville and beyond.

Be it coming off the bench or dealing with injuries, Boatright just didn’t look himself.  He hit only two jumpers, had a few unforced turnovers, and took some ill-advised shots that had Napier chirping at him.  This was the second game in a row that he has been riding the pine in crunch time in the second half.  This team desperately needs him to return to form.

Daniels was in a funk all game.  He hit an elbow jumper early but then had two quick fouls and sat out the rest of the first half.  Other then an offensive rebound and hook shot, he was a non-factor offensively.  His help defense was a little late, he missed badly on a dunk, had two costly turnovers, and an air ball.  Despite all that, he did make a key block/tie-up to put Rutgers comeback hopes to bed, but like Boatright, UConn needs him to step up and be productive in the post to have a legitimate shot of heading deep into both tournaments.

Giffey had a fantastic senior day, hitting 6 of 9 from the field and 4 of 7 from deep.  His defense was also impressive and came up with several deflections.  Kromah also came out with tough defensive intensity.  His offense wasn’t there for him and other than a lone 3-pointer, he struggled to get things going.  Calhoun continues to search for answers to his game but at least he is still shooting instead of going into a shell.  Samuel has been impressive in his late season run to get more minutes.  He pushed the ball hard and got a coast-to-coast lay-up and is always looking up the court to reward the players running hard.

Olander got the start and started the game out strong with a block, rebound, and a steal.  He battled hard and had a nice tip-in.  Brimah had a nice one-handed rebound and a couple of blocks, but struggled handling the basketball.  Nolan has to have taken the most charges on this team and provided UConn with two more.  On top of that he had two back-to-back dunks.  Facey got some playing time in the first half but struggled to defend without fouling.  This unit provided just 9 points and 7 boards in 43 minutes.  Not good.

This game was a step forward offensively but a step back defensively and on the boards.  The frontcourt desperately needs to step up and rebound,  Daniels, Boatright, and Calhoun all need to return to form, and the rotation on defense needs to be much crisper.  It is really amazing if you think about it that UConn sits where they are in the conference standings since they started 0 and 2, especially since this is one of the best conferences in the NCAA.  Be proud of this team and of Napier, Olander, Kromah, Watts, and Giffey.  These seniors stuck through some turbulent waters to help right this program and keep itself in good hands.  For that this program should always have a warm embrace for them.

Monday, March 3, 2014


UConn was a bit bipolar in the month of February.  They opened the month with a tough loss to Cincinnati where they faded down the stretch and lost by five points.  They then went on a four game winning streak where they played their best basketball of the season and beat UCF, USF, Memphis, and Temple.  After that they played a rematch against SMU and for whatever reason the Mustangs had UConn’s number this season.  UConn had no answer defensively for them and SMU’s stout defense held them in check.  They finished up the month with a the rematch against USF but unlike the 40 point blowout that UConn thumped them with, the Bulls made it a game.  UConn used a second half spurt to finally pull away and secure the victory.

Napier struggled versus Cincinnati, Temple, SMU, and USF.  He had a hard time finding his range in these games and forced a lot of shots.  His best game of the month came against Memphis where he was aggressive, taking 21 shots, and hitting five 3-pointers.  He has been playing much better defense and has been getting more steals that helped fuel their transition game.  His offense hit a snag down the stretch of this month and he needs to find the range once again.

Boatright has been a warrior during February.  He entered the month with a sore shoulder and it might have effected his jumper because it has been a bit inconsistent during this month.  He continues to have problems scoring on the break and tends to rush things or slow down to allow his defender to make up the space.  He has done a much better job of getting to the line this month which has allowed him to sustain offense despite his inconsistent jumper.  He needs to do a much better job of facilitating the offense when Napier is on the bench.

Daniels didn’t play against Cincinnati due to back spasms.  He came back and played two great games versus UCF and USF but struggled after that.  His post game is awkward and needs to find a go to move. Instead he brings the ball into his defender and releases it with his body not square to the basket.  His disappearance in the last four games have exacerbated UConn’s offensive rut they have been in.  This team desperately needs him to find his game and soon.

Kromah had a great game against Cincinnati, UCF, and USF but then hit a snag for the rest of the month.  He wasn’t getting those lay-ups or jumpers to fall for him and found himself in and out of the lineup in the second half.  He still means so much to this team and is a player that can easily drop 15 in the right circumstance.

Giffey had a rough start to the month but turned it around in the final couple of games.  He developed a pump fake and drove to the basket more which allowed him to get to the line.  His jumper has been a bit erratic during the month but he still manages to hit one or two 3-pointers a game.  His defense is a bit under-rated and has been doing a much better job on the boards.

Calhoun had to deal with a concussion that held him out of a couple of games.  When he did get back he still had a hard time of hitting his jumpers.  It is amazing that nothing is dropping for him.  If there is anyone who needs a jumper to fall, it is Calhoun.  Hopefully he can have an impact performance before the end of the year so that he can have something to build on for next season.

Samuel got some playing time with Calhoun’s absence with a concussion and a blowout win versus USF.  He showed Ollie something.  He progressively got more minutes and made a few key plays that helped jump start UConn’s offense against the Bulls in the rematch game.  He’s done enough in this month to give Ollie confidence to put the freshman in critical game situations.

Brimah played hard but found himself with limited minutes.  His best games were against USF and Temple where he was able to score on put-backs and dunks.  Ollie usually pulls him if he isn’t rebounding the basketball and he had a hard time doing so in February.  There is still plenty of good things for UConn to be happy with heading not only into March but into next season.

Nolan had a good game versus UCF but had a hard time defending without fouling.  He does rotate well and has taken a majority of UConn’s charge calls this season.  His rebounding is a bit inconsistent which leads to the fluctuation in his minutes.  It is his lack of any post game that is disconcerting and he has yet to develop any go to moves in the paint.

Olander continues to be the third man in the frontcourt rotation.  His size is his downfall and he gets pushed around in the paint.  He did have a good game against Memphis, but his rebounding numbers are atrocious.  He is relegated to a sprinkling on minutes in the middle of both halves.

Facey gets a handful of minutes a game and does make an impact when in there.  His best game was against USF where he played his most minutes in many a month.  UConn fans have to be excited with his play so far this year and he looks to be an up and coming big man for them.

While UConn played their best basketball of the year during this month, they began to play some of the worst offense all year.  It really is amazing how it could all being going so smoothly and then disappear at the drop of a dime.  They’ll need it back as soon as possible because March is the time of year when you need to be peeking and hopefully they didn’t bloom to early.