After taking some time to reflect on the events of last night, the one thing that sticks out to me is a comment I made to my friend as BC was making yet another run to shave a double digit UConn lead.
"Unfortunately, it looks like our 18th ranking is about right."
I have been pretty vocal about UConn being underrated this year. Without any bias, we are talking about a 20-win team from the real Big East that had a number of quality wins (Mich. St., at Notre Dame, Syracuse and Cincinnati) which would have undoubtedly made the tournament and was returning all of their starters with some decent talent coming in as well. Eighteenth in the country felt a little low for me, particularly with schools like VCU, Wichita State and Oregon in front of us. Hell your fair blogs manager, always the optimist, valiantly predicted before the start of the season that UConn would win it all.
Both the BC and Maryland games leave me worried about a match-up against the better teams on the schedule. That includes tonight when we face an Indiana team that seems to be running on all cylinders after a convincing win over Washington- the kind I expected from UConn last night.
Again- I'm a card carrying optimist, 20+ years of being a Buffalo Bills/Sabres fan will do that to you. I want so badly to just say that it's early, we're still figuring out our game, KO is trying to find the ideal rotations and lineup configurations. Yet, my evil twin is saying that this team had all of last season to gel and that the only difference this year is that a bunch of players are gunning for NBA paydays.
I agree with Rook; last night Shabazz looked like Sophomore Shabazz- moments of brilliance followed by contested, off-balance shots with over 20 seconds left on the shot clock that left me flinging my hands in the air in frustration. Boatright ended the game with some clutch free throws and an awesome block on BC's last ditch three to salvage what was a miserable performance from the junior guard. Looking at the box score we only had three turnovers, but missing those shitty attempts when we don't grab the rebound (a frequent occurrence) amounts to the same thing. Those two players are the backbone of this team and while their individual performances were a letdown, it was far more disappointing that our guards weren't enabling those around them to make plays. Shabazz took 17 shots, but only had 2 assists in a game where I thought he would be playing with a chip on his shoulder. When those two aren't on, I want to see Calhoun with the ball in his hands more. I wanted to see DeAndre get the rock- where was he in the second half? Oh that's right; our guards were busy playing NBA Street at Madison Square Garden.
The Huskies have Indiana tonight, and Florida, Stanford, Washington and Harvard (don't laugh, they're tough) coming up before taking on the meat of a conference slate highlighted by Louisville, Memphis and Cincinnati, twice. Those eleven games will make or break this season. The way that they're playing right now, Kevin Ollie's team is not going to win a majority of these games and it might not even be close against the likes of Louisville and Memphis. UConn doesn't have the middle of the pack Big East teams to develop against this year, somehow Kevin Ollie needs to get this team back to the high levels of teamwork and grit they were playing with last year.
The emergence of DeAndre Daniels is very encouraging, and if he can put it together on a day when our guard play is on look out. But right now the Huskies are struggling to put together a complete performance. In two games against decent teams, UConn outplayed their opponent to an extent, leading most of the way, but got complacent and failed to put it away. Both games they survived a late scare and were in danger of losing. I simply don't know enough about sports and psychology to declare that this is a player problem, a (gasp!) coaching problem, or just early season jitters, but I do know that we are not that far away from being 3-2.
I'm thrilled we got the W. I'm furious there was a chance we would lose, again. But I really do think that a lot of these problems will be solved over the course of the season. I believe in Kevin Ollie and the talent on this team. Tonight's game will be very, very interesting. It will be a true test of character, a test I expect the Huskies to pass with flying colors.