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For those of you who don’t pay attention to such frivolities, Shabazz Napier just became the second player in UConn history to reach the coveted 1300-point, 500-assist, 400-rebound plateau, joining Doron “Iceman” Sheffer, everyone’s favorite Israeli point guard. This is one of those “random collection of stats” things where we make a player look more exceptional than he is buy creating arbitrary end points that fit him and (almost) no one else. This particular time, it becomes a little more interesting, at least for me, because the player he joins is Doron Sheffer.
Despite the similar stats, Sheffer and Napier have very little in common as UConn point guards. When Sheffer arrived on campus in 1993, he was basically a finished product. He turned 22 that season, and he’d already led Hapoel Galil Elyon to an Israeli League Championship, beating powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv in the process. Napier, on the other hand, had reclassified so he could come to UConn a season early. Sheffer was a disciplined and sharp player right away, beating out Ray Allen for a starting spot that first season. Napier, on the other hand, has given us the great pleasure of watching him turn into a great leader.
In addition, the two players are very dissimilar in how they acquired their similar stats. As a scorer, Sheffer did a lot of his work from behind the arc, and was an accomplished sharpshooter his entire career. Napier is no stranger to the three-pointer, but his accuracy didn’t approach Sheffer’s until last season (and this season, he’s been otherworldly from deep). Sheffer was a big guard, coming in at 6-5, so his rebounding prowess was no surprise. Napier, on the other hand, likes to pretend that he’s over 6-feet, but still manages to rebound effectively with exceptional positioning, aggressiveness, and some pretty impressive hops. Sheffer generally preferred to run the offense from higher above the key, finding cutters with crisp passes, and he loved the long outlet pass coming right off the rebound. Napier gets his assists by attacking the basket and moving the ball to open shooters when the defense sags to him. Not mentioned in the cavalcade of stats up top, both players are accomplished ballhawks (Napier passed Sheffer during the Maine game to move into third-place all-time in steals at UConn). Their defensive styles were very different, though; Sheffer was always a heady defender with quick hands, and he played passing lanes brilliantly. Napier is an aggressive on-ball defender who uses terrific footwork to force his opponents into bad situations which allow him to go for the strip.
So, in conclusion, Napier and Sheffer are very similar and very different players, all at the same time. I know I feel lucky to have gotten to watch both.
As the newly-minted #9 UConn Huskies take a break from the court to focus on their final exams, it seems as good a time as any check out some stats, about a third of the way into the season.
This exercise began with a hunch and a loaded hypothesis, that UConn shoots better on campus in Gampel Pavilion than they do in the XL Center in Hartford. While historically that might hold true, through nine games this season, that would be false. The team is shooting 53.4% in Hartford and only 50.3% in Storrs. Of course, when playing Maine, Loyola (Md.) and Yale, there is a pretty good chance you’ll shoot the lights out. Still, it is what it is.
On the year, UConn ranks 35th in the nation in field goal percentage at 49.1%. For reference, they shot 44.2% a year ago. They are shooting an average of 4.88% better than what their opponents typically allow. So, if an opponent was allowing 50% shooting on the year, UConn is typically shooting 54.88% against them. UConn’s offense has outperformed every opponent’s defense with the exception of that horrible Boston College game. Boston College allows opponents to shoot 47.4%. UConn managed just 39.3%.
UConn is also 21st in the country in scoring defense. Opponents are shooting just 37.7% against the Huskies.
On an individual level, senior Niels Giffey is 2nd in the country in three-point shooting at an insane 66.7%. Shabazz Napier is tied for 19th at 57.1%. It’s no wonder UConn is torching zone defenses this season, when you can bury threes, you’re pretty much unstoppable. Guess Syracuse escaped just in time.
Of course, most of these numbers are tainted by UConn’s usual cupcake schedule. The problem with playing teams like Loyola and Detroit is that you have to take the results with a massive grain of salt. Big wins against the likes of Florida and Indiana have justified the excitement around the state, but the going is about to get tough.
The final three non-conference games this month are against Stanford, at regular Washington and in Bridgeport against Eastern Washington. The results of those three games should tell us more about this UConn team that any of the statistics cited above.
Today, UConn Athletic Director Warde Manuel begins the most important task of his young tenure at the school: finding a new coach for his football team. This should have been Manuel’s second time making a crucial hire in a revenue-positive sport, as he also oversaw a critical coaching transition for the men’s basketball team. As you no doubt know, Manuel was robbed of his autonomy, first by Jim Calhoun’s stubborn and arrogant meddling, and then by Kevin Ollie proving Calhoun right.
This is a little different. First of all, Manuel doesn’t have a football version of Kevin Ollie, both extremely qualified and enthusiastic for the job. He also doesn’t have a plum job with loads of prestige, capable of attracting elite coaches from successful universities. He’s going to have to look a fair bit harder than he would have for a new basketball coach, and also a lot harder than Jeff Hathaway did to find Paul Pasqualoni.
The other day, my sister said to me that the football team needs to find their Jim Calhoun/Geno Auriemma. In other words, they need to find a qualified, relatively unknown head coach who will take over the program, lead it to success, and then stick around. I know a lot of UConn fans feel this way, probably due to watching Randy Edsall leverage his success at UConn into the head coaching job at Big 10-bound Maryland.
Unfortunately, candidates like this are hard to come by, especially in football. We aren’t likely to see a football coach who sticks around for 20 years at UConn, at least until they’re both more-established and in a better conference. At this point, if the coach is really successful, he’ll be a target for a bigger and better job. Unless you’re an elite program, if you have a candidate for whom your job is his “dream job,” it probably means that he isn’t good enough for it.
We give Hathaway a hard time for Pasqualoni’s embarrassing failure as head coach, but that serves to really illustrate how hard it is to find a head coach to run a major college football team. Hathaway had his own set of obstacles at the time, not the least of which was Edsall’s not-so-timely exit, which came after Steve Addazio, Hathaway’s rumored first choice, had already been hired to take over at Temple. After that, the top available candidates included Mike Leach, who had always demonstrated ample potential to embarrass his employer, Garrick McGee, who has since floundered at UAB, and Eric Mangini, who doesn’t need me to explain why that wasn’t a good idea.
Furthermore, we need to not expect the kind of immediate success that the school saw following Edsall’s hiring. The biggest factor in UConn’s quick development wasn’t Edsall’s coaching so much as it was an influx of money into an exciting new program, and a local NFL talent at the quarterback position who decided he wanted to stay close to home. As much as I’m excited about Casey Cochran, let’s not start lying to ourselves about his future.
That all being said, these last three games showed us what this team is capable of, provided it has adequate leadership. I don’t think that Cochran is Dan Orlovsky, but he’s definitely good enough to win in the AAC (and probably the ACC, when we finally get around to making that move). Add talented running backs Lyle McCombs and Max DeLorenzo and wide receiver Geremy Davis, and it’s clear that, whoever coaches UConn next year, he won’t have a bare cupboard to work with. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the candidates:
The first, and most obvious candidate, is interim head coach TJ Weist. I don’t know Weist, but he seems like a genuine, hard-working guy, and he’s gotten the team to play together down the stretch. Furthermore, he seems to really want the UConn job. That being said, he was also the offensive coordinator and/or head coach for the 0-9 start, and his resume isn’t particularly substantive. This job is the best job he might have a shot at, and I’m not sure that’s where we want to turn again.
My personal favorite candidate is Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. He’s the coordinator for one of the best defensive units in the country, and his stock is on the rise with yesterday’s Big 10 Championship win over Ohio State. He’s lauded as an excellent recruiter, and he’s a Connecticut native, having been born in New Haven. No, he’s probably not a permanent choice, being only 47, but Narduzzi is the kind of guy who could put the program back on the right track, establish UConn as a northeast recruiting power, and win a few bowl games before he snags a head coaching job at notable school in the Big 10. I also like the idea of bringing in a defensive-minded coach because it leaves open the option of keeping Weist around and in control of an offense he seems to have fixed.
Towson head coach Rob Ambrose is another option. Towson, you may recall, made UConn look awfully bad on opening day this season, and after two rough seasons after he was hired, Ambrose has guided Towson to a 27-9 record over the last three years, as they’ve started to establish themselves as one of the top teams in the FCS. More relevantly to UConn, he served as the Huskies’ QB coach and then offensive coordinator for 7 seasons (2002-2008). Given his ties to the region and Towson’s status as an FCS school, Ambrose would likely be a much easier get than Narduzzi.
I’ve heard several other options, such as Ball State head coach Pete Lembo and UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, but Narduzzi and Ambrose are definitely the two best options from where I’m standing. Regardless of who ends up taking the job, Manuel needs to make an exhaustive search, or we could be looking at a middling athletic program for a long, long time.
Shabazz Napier never had to look far for inspiration. During a freshman season at UConn that culminated with a national championship, a young Napier was witness to a blueprint for success, as junior Kemba Walker masterfully guided, coached and ultimately dragged his teammates over the finish line.
Everyday in practice, and for 24 minutes per game, Napier was watching, studying and occasionally imitating Walker, often at his own detriment. As Walker’s UConn career ended and the reigns were passed to Napier, it became obvious that the blueprint wasn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. Napier tried to forcibly insert himself into a leadership role to fill the void Walker had left. His teammates never quite bought in, and the squad famously underachieved — losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The statistical similarities between Napier’s and Walker’s first two seasons:
Freshman Year (per game):
Walker: 25 minutes | 8.9 points | 3.5 rebounds | 2.9 assists
Napier: 24 minutes | 7.8 points | 2.4 rebounds | 3.0 assists
Both played behind future NBA point guards on Final Four teams.
Sophomore Year (per game):
Walker: 35 minutes | 14.6 points | 4.3 rebounds | 5.1 assists
Napier: 35 minutes | 13.0 points | 3.5 rebounds | 5.8 assists
Both teams underachieved as the young point guards struggled with their leadership roles.
Like Napier, It took Walker until his junior season to fully combine his leadership with his talents. Walker’s unprecedented success was borne from an overwhelming work load, playing over 37 minutes per game, and scoring the most points in a season (965) in UConn history.
When Napier began to fully harness his abilities last season, his talents manifested themselves much differently. While still handling the scoring load (17.1 ppg), Napier also became very aware of his on-court impact on his teammates. It took him the better part of three seasons, but Napier had figured out how to apply the lessons he learned from Walker and put them to use within his own unique set of on-court talents. He currently leads the Huskies in scoring, rebounding and assists and is the unquestioned leader of the team.
“I try to do what’s best and what I learned was to lead by actions. Kemba did that tremendously,” said Napier. “He took care of me ever since I walked into the door, so I want to do the same thing. Hopefully I’m doing that.”
Napier is also keenly aware of the tradition the point guard role holds in UConn history. It would be hard not to be. After playing alongside Walker, Napier is now coached by two of the most successful point guards from the program’s past. Head coach Kevin Ollie was never a star for the Huskies, but was a starter and a leader during UConn’s rise to national prominence — playing alongside both Donyell Marshall and Ray Allen. Assistant coach Ricky Moore was the starting point guard on UConn’s first national championship team — playing alongside Allen and Rip Hamilton. The lineage is hard to escape.
Napier feels a responsibility to continue that legacy, and in doing so, has taken a personal stake in the development of his friend and backcourt-mate Ryan Boatright as their careers have progressed.
Boatright, now a junior, was always an eager student, and is learning that the craft of a point guard takes place both on and off the court. While his game has improved, Boatright now joins Napier in their effort to prepare their future successors — namely freshman guard Terrence Samuel and redshirt transfer Rodney Purvis.
“I learn something new from them like everyday,” said Samuel. “[I’ve been] learning how to play the point guard position, how to play pick and roll D. Basically, everything.”
While Samuel hasn’t seen much court time this season, his elder teammates are supportive. “He’s playing good,” said Boatright. “He’s not trying to force it. He’s doing a good job handling the ball. And he’s learning. What [Samuel] doesn’t know, he asks. He’s coachable. He’s a good student of the game. Anything he doesn’t know, he asks me and Shabazz and we help him out.”
Purvis has been given a different perspective. After a year at NC State, the transfer is being forced to sit out this season. He is using the opportunity to learn about basketball, and about leadership. “Ryan is a lead-by-example type of guy,” said Purvis. “And Shabazz is a really talkative person. He just loves to help. He’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever been around.”
Napier and Boatright’s caring approach, and the open arms of Ollie and his assistants, have created a noticeably familial atmosphere around the program. Something not lost on Purvis. “Different people accept guys different ways. I never expected them to be as level-headed as they are, and two really passionate guys who love the game of basketball,” he said. “I’m learning from them everyday.”
Part of that education involves tradition, and a lineage that every guard on the roster is very much aware of, and eager to continue.
Assistant coach Karl Hobbs. Tate George. Chris Smith. Doron Sheffer. Kevin Ollie. Ricky Moore. Khalid El-Amin. Taliek Brown. Marcus Williams. AJ Price. Kemba Walker. Shabazz Napier. Ryan Boatright.
“It’s an honor to be next in line with that group of names,” said Purvis. “UConn only gets the best point guards. It’s an honor for me and Terrence.”
“It’s always fun to be mentioned with those names,” said Boatright. “To have your chance to leave your mark on this program is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
As UConn continues their season, aimed at another national championship, their two leaders, their starting backcourt, refuse to look at their individual places in UConn history. Asked if he wanted to record a triple-double, Boatright said it didn’t matter to him. He just wanted to win. Asked if he was aware of his climb up the career assist leaderboard, Napier said no. He just wanted to win. Yet both guards are seemingly aware of the ticking clock of their college careers. Napier will be gone after this season — a graduate. Boatright may follow him out the door, hoping for an early shot at an NBA career. But both men are sure that their contributions at UConn will live on in the guards that replace them, just as they proudly carry the torch passed by Walker and Ollie.
“I understand that this is a tradition, “ said Napier. “I don’t want to leave this school in bad hands, because I didn’t take care of them. Hopefully I’m doing that, and hopefully years down the line, Terrence and Rodney will just tear it up, knowing they can. To be a part of that is tremendous. It’s something special.”
Athletic combo guard Prince Ali tweetnounced today that he’ll be attending our very own University of Connecticut (#bleedblue). I’ll give you a minute to get over how awesome that name is, and then we can get around to what that means for our on-court product.
— Prince Ali (@Princesmoove23) November 25, 2013
Prince Ali (you have to use his full title, or it’s rude) is an explosive combo guard who loves to spin and scores a lot of points from the jump stop. If you’ve seen highlights of him, you’ll notice more than a few similarities to former Husky Jerome Dyson. He’s lanky, he gets off the ground in the hurry, and he’s got a knack for getting to the hoop. He’s also highly-regarded as a defender.
He needs more work as a playmaker, as most of his assists seem to be the “desperate heave across my body while I fly through the air” type, which don’t lend themselves well to consistency. He also needs to continue to develop his jump shot, which currently tends to run somewhere between “streaky” and “whoops.”
He’s rated as a four-star prospect on most of the mainstream independent scouting services, but if you look at the schools that have been recruiting him (he turned down offers from Georgetown, Nebraska, Illinois, and UCLA), it’s clear that scouts see something in there.
It’s not hard to guess what. Ali is a confident, aggressive scorer who can defend multiple positions and who possesses a point guard’s handle. Also, I heard that he’s strong as ten regular men, definitely.
UConn won another nail biter in The House That Kemba Built, beating a talented Indiana team 59-58 in the finals of the 2K Sports Classic in truly MSG-appropriate fashion.
Shabazz Napier won the 2K Classic MVP award, surprising absolutely no one, as he scored 27 points on 10-for-14 shooting, including 4-for-6 from behind the three-point line. He also pulled down six rebounds, had three assists and a block and just generally won the game all by himself.
“Every big shot, he made,” Coach Kevin Ollie said.
For the second time in two nights, the game went down to the final seconds. Despite leading for nearly the entire evening, the Huskies were down five with 5:15 to play, until DeAndre Daniels and Napier hit a pair of three pointers. The lead changed hands repeatedly, and it was all Bazz down the stretch, as he drove into the lane, getting fouled, or stepping back for jumpers with defenders in his face. His jump shot with 1:02 to play put the Huskies up 59-58.
Lasan Kromah and Tyler Olander (Yes! Tyler Olander!) each got a steal, but the Huskies couldn’t capitalize, and Bazz was called for a heinous charge with 22.4 seconds left. And just like against BC, Indiana had the final possession. Yogi Ferrell took the final shot, which bounced off the rim and resulted in a scrum on the hardwood. Giffey slid out of bounds with the ball, and Indiana got to inbound the ball with 0.7 seconds left. Indiana wasn’t able to get a shot off before the buzzer sounded, and UConn left Madison Square Garden with another championship trophy.
It was another slow start for the Huskies, as UConn struggled to find its offensive rhythm. With 11:39 to go in the first half, the score was tied at 8. Eight. The good news is that UConn held their own on the glass, tying Indiana with 19 first half rebounds, and pulling down seven offensive boards to the Hoosiers six.
Things finally got exciting at the end of the first half. The score was tied 24-24 with a minute to go, when Bazz decided to put on a show. He sank a three with 45 second to go, putting UConn up by three, and with just seconds left drained a shot from somewhere in Times Square. It was reminiscent of the ridiculous shot he hit in overtime against Villanova in 2012. Good ahead and watch it. We’ll wait. The Huskies went into the half up six, 30-24.
Despite some offensive woes, UConn’s defense was in fine form, particularly in the closing minutes. The Huskies got 12 steals and forced 19 Indiana turnovers.
This was a big, early season win for the 6-0 Huskies, who face Loyola-MD on Tuesday, and then the 16th ranked Florida Gators on December 2.
- Fouls were a problem for UConn (again); Amida Brimah, Philip Nolan and Neils Giffey all picked up two first half fouls. This brought in the little-used Tyler Olander, who played better then anyone remembers. He went 2-for-4 from the floor (though he missed two three-point shots. Yeah. I know.) and pulled down three boards, including a big offensive rebound, which he followed up with a nice put-back.
- Unfortunately, that didn’t carry over to the second half. Nolan picked up two quick fouls to start the second half, and Olander made another appearance. But the inside defense and rebounding suffered greatly. At the end of the game, Nolan and Brimah both had four fouls, Giffey had three and Olander had two.
- Rebounds! We got them! Indiana came into this game out rebounding its opponents by more than 20, but UConn managed to stay close to the Hoosiers on the boards, only getting two fewer, 33 to Indiana’s 35.
- There were, inexplicably, two (TWO!) carry calls against UConn. One against Bazz in the first half that even on close inspection during the replay was totally ridiculous. Ollie got about as mad as anyone has ever seen him after that call. Boat got called for one early in the second half. Also made no sense. Apparently Bazz and Boat are too fast for both defenders and refs’ eyes.
- UConn racked up 17 turnovers. Against Boston College on Thursday night, UConn only turned the ball over three times.
- DeAndre Daniels inconsistency was on display again. After two good performances against schools from Boston, he only scored seven points in 31 minutes. Omar Calhoun’s shooting was ice cold, as he scored only two points on 1-for-7 shooting, including going 0-for-5 from three.
Next up: UConn faces Loyola-MD on Tuesday, November 26 at 7 p.m. at the XC Center in Hartford. The game airs on SNY.
In high school, my brother was in a production of a Midsummer Night’s Dream. He was the woman in the play within the play. And he was the ugliest woman you’ve ever seen. This game. This effin’ game was uglier than my brother dressed up in a pink muumuu and a blonde mop wig.
For the first time in nine years, UConn faced old rival Boston College in Madison Square Garden in the 2K Sports Classic tonight, and it was not pretty. UConn squeaked past the unranked Eagles, winning 72-70 in a game that literally went down to the final second.
“That was like an old BC-UConn rivalry,” said Coach Kevin Ollie said. “Coming down to the last possession like that. We gutted out a win.”
The Eagles pulled within one with under a minute left. Shabazz Napier uncharacteristically missed some late three free throws, including the first of a pair with UConn up one with 2.3 seconds on the clock. He made the second, putting the Huskies up two, and giving BC time to set up for a homerun play. The Eagles inbounded the ball, and made a quick pass to Lonnie Jackson. And Ryan Boatright, six-foot-nothing Boat Show, stuffed the potentially game winning three-point shot. And Husky nation breathed a collective sigh of relief. This one was much too close for comfort.
The game got off to a slow start. With 8:30 to go in the first half, UConn led 18-16. Yes, you read that right. 18-16. The Huskies pulled away briefly, leading 31-20, when BC went on a 9-0 run. UConn went into the half up only three, 37-34.
The second half started off better, and the Huskies again went up by 11, but the pesky Eagles just would not go away. UConn’s shot selection was questionable late in the game, and, much like the Maryland game, the Huskies let the Eagles sneak back in down the stretch. The Huskies will have to work on their mental toughness late in games if they want to fair well in the post season.
But as ugly as this game was, the important thing is that UConn beat BC. And, really, what else matters?
- DeAndre Daniel carried over his performance from the BU game, scoring 15 of his game-high 23 points in the first half.
- Niels Giffey got his first second-half points of the season, hitting a three. His minutes were limited because of foul trouble.
- Phil Nolan got the hook early in both halves because of foul trouble, and played only 20 minutes. He had four fouls and two rebounds.
- Despite missing some free throws down the stretch, UConn shot 86.2 percent from the charity stripe.
- So. Many. Fouls. The second half was marred by foul call after foul call. Both teams committed 20 fouls each.
- Bazz scored 20 points, but did not lead the team in rebounds. That honor went to fellow guard Boatright, who pulled down seven.
- Ryan Anderson led the Eagles with 22 points and seven rebounds.
Next up: UConn faces Indiana tomorrow at 7:30 at Madison Square Garden in the finals of the 2K Sports Classic.
A funny thing happened to me the other day. I was watching the replay of the UConn-Hartford game, and I suddenly couldn’t remember if UConn had won the national championship last year. My team, the school of which I am an alum, won a national championship, and it had such a lasting impact on me that I couldn’t remember if it had happened 7 months later.
And here we are, #1 again, the favorites to win our 9th national championship, and it couldn’t feel more routine. In the first four games of the young season, these girls already boast a 19-point win at home against #3 Stanford, an 18-point win at #8 Maryland, and a 19-point win at #15 Penn State. That’s without mentioning the 55-point drubbing against local non-rival Hartford, or that the last two wins came without Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Morgan Tuck.
How does this keep happening? How does Geno Auriemma continue to consistently recruit the very best players, and then consistently turn them into a dominant team, every season? Is it just good coaching and scouting? How come UConn is so much better at it than anyone else?
Not that I’m complaining, but it does produce some very peculiar coverage. With the men and women playing concurrently, I was watching at my computer, with one game on each screen (because we live in the future and the future is amazing). So while I’m sitting and wondering if there’s ever been a team to make the Final Four with a point guard as its leading rebounder (excluding ones whose nicknames were “Magic”), I’m also treated to the B1G Network’s coverage of UConn-Penn State. Thanks to some timely three-point shooting and some questionable refereeing, Penn State had gone on a bit of a run. At the timeout, the crowd is going crazy, screaming excitedly. The very objective and measured announcers are discussing all of the ways in which UConn appears to be struggling at the moment.
It was an 11-point game. Admittedly, there was a moment where the difference briefly went to nine points, but it was short-lived and it went away quickly.
So here’s Penn State, the #15 team in the country, a team who should, ostensibly, feel like they have the potential to reach a Final Four this season, celebrating being down double digits – at home – to a team that is without its leading scorer AND her backup, both of whom were high school All-Americans. When did merely not being embarrassed at home by UConn become a moral victory for good teams?
So here we are. We’ve created such a culture of dominance that people don’t even understand how to react to it. I’m not even sure what the answer is here. Should UConn play in the WNBA?
The college basketball season has barely started, yet already, the nation is in a frenzy. College hoops has surpassed the NFL in terms of popularity. NBA ticket sales have plummeted as fans from across the country flock to college campuses instead. Yes, the plan is working. The new “freedom of motion” rules, instituted this season by the NCAA, have catapulted scoring so high that the fans who abandoned college basketball 15 years ago have returned for those sweet, sweet free throws. Offense!
You’re probably reading this, thinking, “but I thought the popularity of the college game eroded when they shit on the very notion of amateur athletics, as the universities and NCAA officials figured out how to get exceedingly rich and the student-athletes figured out that only half of that hyphenated term truly matters now.”
You may be hearing breathless reports about how calling more fouls will spur offensive production, similar to the NBA game that has been rejuvenated in the public eye and thinking, “but I thought the offensive differences were caused by a game that is eight minutes shorter but a shot clock that is 11 seconds longer. I thought perhaps that collegiate players who don’t stay on campus may just not develop quickly enough to lead a true offensive renaissance. Perhaps coaches fleeing for better opportunities and leaving the players they recruited to start over might hamper offensive development. And maybe playing a 30-game season instead of an 82-game season means that you can afford to expend your energy playing defense, where you don’t need to save your body for tomorrow night’s game.”
You would be wrong.
Look no further than the early returns from UConn’s first two games. The Huskies averaged 16.2 fouls-per-game last season. They notched 22 in a win against Maryland, followed by 23 against Yale on Monday. Last year’s squad topped 22 fouls only three times in a 30-game season.
Late against Maryland, when Shabazz Napier — UConn’s best player — picked up his forth foul, hit the bench as the Huskies struggled to score and returned only to foul out, that was exciting. Sure, the only points UConn would score during the last 4:48 of the game (when Napier was called for number four) were on a three-pointer by third-string center Tyler Olander, but that just adds to the intrigue. The viewers at home tuned in because they wanted to watch the game in the hands of the tenth player in the rotation as the star players either ran around trying not to touch each other or were strapped to the bench in foul trouble.
In the first half against Yale, Ryan Boatright, DeAndre Daniels Niels Giffey, and Phil Nolan each picked up two fouls and were forced to sit. Boatright and Daniels are two of the team’s best scorers, Giffey was 5-5 on three-point attempts at the time, and Phil Nolan was the starting center. The surest way to increase offense in the college game is to ensure that four of the best seven players on any roster are forced to sit.
The success isn’t limited to UConn. On Tuesday night in Columbus, Ohio St. thrilled the crowd by attempting 51 free throws. Sure, they only attempted 44 shots from the floor, but that’s just smart marketing. Chicks dig the charity stripe. Their opponent, Ohio, showed championship potential of their own, being whistled for 34 fouls.
Not to be outdone, Seton Hall and Niagra combined to attempt 102 free throws in their November 9th matchup. The referees are expected to be in high demand, calling a total of 73 fouls in the game.
Yes, we have turned a corner in college hoops. Last season, Morehead St. led the nation averaging 24.7 fouls-per-game. Pathetic.
Although it’s still early, 57 teams are currently ahead of that pace.
NCAA administrators should be lauded for their leadership in addressing the only real problem facing college basketball. No not academics, or financial inequality, or outdated recruiting practices, or NBA prospects treating college campuses like a bus stop on their way to the league, or coaches abandoning their players on a whim for a better opportunity. Offense! Enjoy this season, fans. For we are truly witnessing a revolutionary moment that will change the way college basketball is played.
Greetings from the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut, United States of America. We are gathered here today to pick which dog is best, as the UConn Huskies take on the opulent Bulldogs of Yale.
The matchup is the first between the two schools since a 2003 bout in the preseason NIT. UConn prevailed in that game, despite a generally terrible performance. The clear highlight was the boisterous Yale continent in the Gampel Pavilion crowd chanting “Pump Our Gas!” to their public school rivals — who countered with the always popular “Daddy’s Money!”
UConn was the number one ranked team in the nation in that 2003 game, today they are ranked 18th (AP). Yale is shockingly unranked.
Sophomore forward Justin Sears was Yale’s best player in their season-opening win vs. Central. He scored 26 points and 13 rebounds in a 93-57 victory. Unsurprisingly, the Bulldogs do not feature an especially big roster. No one over 6’8” has seen playing time. Once again, UConn won’t have an excuse for poor rebounding.
The Huskies are coming off a win of their own against Maryland last week. Shabazz Napier was the star, but was aided by strong efforts in the front court by the troika of Phil Nolan, Amida Brimah and Tyler Olander.
Look for DeAndre Daniels to get involved early today after being a bit too passive against Maryland. Coach Kevin Ollie will also look to limit the foul trouble that plagued the Huskies — and to maintain consistent effort throughout the game.
Tip is at 3:30pm and the game will be televised on SNY.