Another game, another frustrating loss. Right now, UConn is not a top 25 team, this is clear and I feel certain that the polls will reflect that on Monday. In fact, at this point, I'm not even sure UConn is a bubble team. Yes, the schedule has been very difficult, but the Huskies have yet to beat anybody. Even worse, the team is showing no signs of fixing its many problems.
Gxpanos got close to my thoughts at the end of TheOpenThread, and he's more positive than I am, so I'll turn it over to him for the moment:
Hey guys, I know I gave that pep talk [in the comments] the other day, and it still stands. But it’s becoming clear that another problem for this team is that neither Kemba nor Dyson are viable crunchtime scorers. That Dyson play where he turned it over, Sticks stole it back, and then Dyson turned it over AGAIN? Devastating. The Kemba wild-drive after the Novak 3, etc. etc. The record is now uglier than it should be because there’s no guy Coach Cal can trust in a big spot late.
Even with that frustration, take solace in the fact that they played another team close, on the road—a team with a slow offense that doesnt allow for UConn’s pace and with Dyse out the whole first half. Frustrating, deflating, yes, but understandable. Maybe Dyse/Kemba grows into a better late-game player as the year goes on.
Anyway, hit the jump for my additional thoughts and plenty of pessimism.
Not only are Kemba Walker and Jerome Dyson not scoring in crunchtime, but they're actively killing the team by trying to do too much. Dyson was particularly horrible late. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the fact that he was one of two (the other being Gavin) players who looked like knew that the object of the game is to score points, but his two turnover in 10 seconds sequence with under a minute left might have been worse than his soul crushing turnover to end the Pitt game. Plus, he bricked two key free throws right before that.
Gavin Edwards still isn't getting the ball enough. He went 6-7 for 14 points today. Michigan had no size what so ever, if the team made a concerted effort to get the ball into him he would have gone for 20+. I know I keep hammering on this, but its driving me nuts. Also, WHY ISN'T HE STARTING? Please, someone give me a reason, anything I can possibly accept. Why is the team handicapping itself in the opening minutes of the game? I would be thrilled if you told me that I wouldn't have to see Charles Okwandu or Ater Majok step onto the court again until November.
Speaking of Majok, I couldn't help but notice today just how awkward he looks out there. Like I said before he joined the squad, I don't expect much out of him, but he looks uncomfortable. Even running down the court looks like a struggle for him -- this is not a good sign.
Oh, by the way, did Stanley Robinson miss the team plane? That has to be the quietest 11 points ever scored in a basketball game.
I feel incredibly frustrated by where this team is headed right now, and I do not like it. I fully reject the premise that this is year one of a five year plan and so we should be okay with this. Sure, this team may be building toward a title a few years down the road, but they still have more talent than what they've shown. This team should not be struggling to stay on the bubble.
With all of that said, there is still a bit of hope left in my heart. It is only January 17, and if UConn can grab a few decent Big East wins in the next few weeks, it could be the start of something good. More than a few Calhoun teams have struggled in January and then caught fire late in conference play (Hello 2005!). Plus, there is that meaty matchup with Texas next week. If UConn keeps playing the way they have, the Longhorns should run them off the floor, but Texas showed last night that they can be vulnerable and Gampel is not a fun place for a road team to play. If the Huskies pull off the upset (somehow, someway) that will go a long way from removing the word bubble from my vocabulary.
Here's hoping the matchup with St. John's goes better.