* Can someone explain to me why this game was tipping at 9:37PM EST? Especially when the previous game was the Bulls-Hawks debacle? I could understand relegating UK-UConn to 2nd-banana duty if the first game was UNC-Purdue, but to bump to top-15 teams to a late start at Madison Square Garden for the Chicago Bulls is ludicrous.
* The first 8 minutes of the game told you everything you need to know about the Huskies this season. First 4 had nothing but turnovers, missed shots, bad transition defense, no rebounding, and a 12-0 deficit; the next 4 had better defense and rebounding, transition baskets, slashing to the rim, crashing the offensive boards, and a 16-4 run to tie the game. There's no middle ground with this team this year, it's nothing or everything.
* He's laying it on a little too thick with this "we're actually 4-5"-routine, but John Calipari's assessment of his team is spot on. Their inability to run a half-court offense and consistently knock down shots helped nurse UConn back into the game by playing right into the transition game that the Huskies want to get into. If that's a more experience team on the floor, UConn goes into the half down 20.
* That being said, the Huskies' half-court offense, if that's what you want to call it, is exactly why they couldn't pull away and hold the lead they gained in the first half; there's no ball movement, even less player movement, and too much dribbling around the perimeter. If you aren't going to even attempt jump shots because you know you can't make them, you better damn well get some inside-outside passing and backdoor cutting going instead of having all 5 guys stand and look at each other.
* What the fuck ESPN? How do you lose the feed for the last couple minutes of the first half? You aren't broadcasting from some remote satellite feed on Mars, you're in fucking Madison Square Garden!! How does that happen? Having a play-by-play man in Dan Shulman who doesn't call the play-by-play doesn't translate well to a broadcast with no picture.
* Dick Vitale was all over UConn from about the halfway point of the first half on about not taking any jump shots, but the stats and shot charts showed that Kentucky wasn't making any either. When Dyson made his first 3 in the 2nd half, it was the first 3 for either team so the Wildcats weren't exactly putting on a shooting clinic either. But hey, whoever said Vitale was a good analyst?
* Outside of having no shooters, UConn's biggest issue this year is their interior game. Basically they have a lot of big bodies, but no "big men." Sticks was MIA last night save for a 150-second stretch in the 2nd half, Oriakhi plays like he's 5'8" instead of 6'8", and Charles Okwandu is Charles Okwandu. Even Gavin isn't immune to getting pushed around here and there on rebound attempts. The Huskies' rebounding strategy resembles that of a 3rd-grade rec league team: shot goes up and everybody runs directly under the basket instead of finding a body and boxing out, and lo and behold the rebound sails over their heads or just beyond the outstretched reach of their one-armed attempts. Ater Majok could not have become eligible at a better time. Get that guy on the court, stat!
* Before we get to the skewering of the frontcourt, though, we will pause to heap some praise on Gavin Edwards. I don't know where this guy has been the last 3 seasons, but Gavin Edwards version Senior.0 is a human truck stick. He plays tough interior D, is a smart shot blocker, rebounds aggressively (even if his form and positioning isn't great), runs the floor and fills the lane better than any college big man this side of Blake Griffin, and has developed some post moves that make him a threat in the half-court offense. Most importantly, he hustles every time up and down the floor; that block of a Kentucky fast break dunk attempt early in the first half was a thing of beauty. With the way the rest of these scrubs are playing, the Huskies are going to need Gavin to keep playing at this level.
* For a guy who NBADraft.net had moved into their lottery for next year's draft, Stanley Robinson got absolutely torched by Patrick Patterson yesterday. Patterson stepped up and played tough under the spotlight, showcasing a well-rounded inside and outside game that now features a respectable 3-pointer while Sticks just showed that he's a lanky guy with a great vertical leap who can't shoot himself out of a paper bag, AKA the same guy he was when he came onto campus 4 years ago.
* Jerome Dyson is the basketball equivalent to the new Droid cell phone; he does everything. My only question is when will the Droid's major glaring weakness start to show itself, because early in this season Dyson's already has (free throw shooting).
* And after Dyson's missed dunk attempt in the 2nd half that would have brought the Huskies back within one and possibly shifted momentum and energy back towards them, nobody will ever be confusing him for Dominique Wilkins. Dyson took off from way too far away and front rimmed the dunk so bad that it's a miracle he didn't end up hurting himself.
* And now for the "Ragging on Charles Okwandu" portion of the show:
God that guy fucking sucks. An absolute waste of a 7-foot body. I've never seen anybody get pushed around in the post so easily; he's like the black Shawn Bradley. He very well might be the worst post defender in basketball history; he lets the offensive player establish position immediately and doesn't even fight him for it, he lets his man catch the entry pass and immediately push him back 2-3 feet, he never establishes a wide base or pushes back on his man, and he always jumps into his guy on shot attempts to pick up cheap fouls. And that's not even adding in the fact that if the shot is missed, he's been pushed so far under the hoop that the only rebound he's getting is catching the ball as the second attempt goes through the basket. Just an absolute waste of space and an insult to the game of basketball. What the fuck has he been doing for the last 2 years on campus? I just dumped my cup of coffee over my head.
* Just an awful foul by Oriakhi on Wall on the 3-point play that gave Kentucky the lead for good. You can't let Wall get that shot off to even give him a chance at a 3-point play; if you have to grab a camera from somebody under the basket and hit Wall with it WWE-style, you can't let him get that shot off. You have to hammer Wall, put him on his back, and make him earn his 2 points at the line. Oriakhi was slow getting to the spot and instead of jumping full-on into Wall and crushing him, he tried to half-jump into him and stretch his arms out instead of coming down with them hard across Wall's arms. I know the kid is a freshman, but come on, he's a BFD and he's gotta start throwing his weight around at some point. If you can't do it against a skinny little PG, how are you going to bang with the big boys in the Big East for 20 games?
* In the end it was the same story for UConn that it always is in their losses: too many turnovers and too many missed free throws. As bad as their offense was, they still only lost the game by 3 points. If you subtract half of John Wall's steals that were gift wrapped for him by shitty passes and make half the foul shots you missed, you win the game by 10. It's that simple. I know it's no excuse, but you have to wonder if Kemba and Dyson being tired at the end of games has anything to do with their struggles at the stripe. Calhoun has shown no willingness to get Trice and Smith in the game and he's wearing his 2 horses out already.
* He's still got a lot to learn, but John Wall is gooooooooooooooooood. I've never seen a guard with such a quick first step and he can kick that extra gear in from a stand still, a jog, or a sprint, like he did on his game-winning drive. His passes are crisp, his range is already light years ahead of Derrick Rose's and Chris Paul's during their freshman years, and he plays with the balls-out attitude you want in your PG. As this season goes on he'll learn to be more situational with his aggression and run the offense better, but there's no doubt this kid is going to be a monster at the next level and should be the Number 1 pick in June.
* What the fuck was up with the last 26 seconds of the game??? No inbounds play coming out of a timeout that forces them to burn another timeout, no set play once you get the ball inbounds, no cutters or ball movement by Kemba, and then a 10-second clusterfuck of a last possession after getting a rebound that results in Gavin Edwards lobbing up a 3 that had than a snowball's chance of going in.
If I can go into Mad Dog mode again, "What is Jim Calhoun doing out there?? What is he doing out there? You got freshmen and sophomores running all over the floor, set up a PLAY. SET UP A PLAY!!! Bad job in a big spot by Jimmy there, Mike. Bad job by Calhoun in a big spot."
I really don't know what UConn does in practice and I'm not going to pretend I do, but when you go into a game against a young team and have no set plan on offensive to exploit anything other than dribbling around the perimeter and just hoping your guards can penetrate, and never have your big men in the right spots on either side of the floor, and have 2 seniors who don't lead the team, and just have an overall lack of composure in close games, that all falls on the coaching staff to fix those problems.
I said before the season that Calhoun was going to have to coach this team up this year; he doesn't have a team of high basketball-IQ guys who know how to handle situations and he was going to have to develop that sense in his guys through coaching. So far this season he doesn't seem to be doing that and it becomes more and more obvious that this team doesn't have it within itself to make those adjustments in-game when they come up against a good opponent. If this season is going to amount to anything, Jimbo's going to need to stop yanking guys every 30 seconds, grab a clipboard, and draw up some fucking plays. Otherwise the Huskies will just be what they are right now, a middle-of-the-pack team who can't hang with the big boys.