For once, I am glad that I was unable to watch a majority of a UConn game. Not because I missed the painful aspects of watching a win slip away, but because I saw every second of that, but rather because I avoided UConn's early 19-point lead, which reduces the pain a bit.
Still, it is hard for a UConn fan to find much to be happy about right now. This team has some very fatal flaws -- four to be exact -- and they all reared their ugly head today. Hit the jump for my thoughts.
Two of the flaws are standard fare for UConn teams: free throw shooting and perimeter defense. I have made my peace with these issues -- no team is perfect and even the best UConn teams have had problems with this pair. The free throw shooting is maddening, especially in crunch time (though Alex Oriakhi does deserve credit for knocking down two big shots from the line down the stretch), but UConn's usual advantage in getting to the line helps ameliorate this a bit. Still, when you lose by three and miss eight free throws, it hurts.
As far back as I can remember UConn has been unable to consistently stop opponents on the perimeter, especially when someone gets hot. Today Austin Freeman just became one in a long list of players to start feeling it and subsequently put up career numbers against the Huskies. Like I said though, I'm used to these flaws, Calhoun has proven that his system works despite them and I'm willing to suck it up if it means a Final Four every five years.
The big problem comes with UConn's two other main flaws, which are unique to this squad. The first is rebounding, especially defensively. UConn gave up 12 offensive rebounds today, including a few down the stretch that allowed the Hoyas to both retake and ultimately retain the lead. Its no surprise that UConn is struggling on the boards compared to years past, losing Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien will do that to a team. To make up for some of that lost production on the boards the Huskies are trying to beat teams with speed and athleticism, which brings us to our fourth flaw: an incredibly inefficient offense, which means that instead of using their style of play to counter the rebounding problem, they wind up compounding it.
Since both starting guards seem to think putting their head down and charging at the hoop is a viable way to run an offense, and there isn't a 7'3" Tanzanian lurking to clean up the boards and balance out the entire squads bad shot selection, the team's efficiency goes down. Look at where UConn was ranked nationally for offensive efficiency in the last five years and where the team finished to see if you see a pattern:
2005 -- 2nd round -- 44th
2006 -- Elite 8 -- 6th
2007 -- Missed NIT -- 192nd
2008 -- 1st round -- 33rd
2009 -- Final Four -- 15th
2010 -- ????? -- 109th
So yeah, not good. But I don't think the team is irredeemable, if Kemba Walker can return to how he was playing at the start of the season and the defense plays as well as it has (which is very, very good, btw), I think the Huskies can still cause some (limited) damage in March. But that will be a lot easier to do if they can a) control the post better, b) play more efficiently or c) both.