I know its Bryant and I know it has only been one game, but, we are technically media, so this is what we do: Analyze teams when they've played one game against a far inferior opponent. So here we go: my five takeaways from last night's victory.
1. If Ryan Boatright plays the way he did last night, we are going to be in very good hands.
He is our senior captain and our point guard, and our success is largely going to rely on his shoulders. Despite that pressure, Boatright stuffed the stat sheet Napier style, scoring 24 points while grabbing 8 rebounds, dishing out 5 assists, recording 4 steals and a block. He was a monster all over the court, playing a game-high 37 minutes.
The best part about his 24 points was how quietly it came. The senior went 7-15 from the field, and I cannot recall one bad shot he took, which is something he has been guilty of many times in his career. He ran the offense, looked for teammates, and knocked down shots when he needed to. But it was his defense that stood out the most. Boatright hounded Bryant's Shane McLaughlin into 5 turnovers. After his defensive performance at the close of last year, and how well he is playing right now, he deserves serious consideration among the best defensive players in the country.
2. Defense. Defense. Defense.
Boatright's defense is a perfect segue to team defense. Granted we have only seen Bryant and two exhibition games against Division II opponents, but it's safe to say that our defense should be pretty darn good. Our guards are all quick enough to defend other quick guards, and our wings and big men are athletic enough to keep guys in front while still protecting the rim. Bryant only shot 33.9% from the field (19-56), and while Starks did knock down some deep threes, it wasn't enough to carry his team. People can obviously get hot from deep they are not going to have an easy time scoring on UConn in the half-court set, especially inside the arc. With Boatright picking up full-court, teams are going to end up getting in their half-court offense with less time on the shot clock than they are used to. It may look ugly at times, but defense wins championships, and we have a really good defense.
3. Kentan Facey can play
Man, can this guy rebound or what!? He attacks the rim very aggressively going for boards, and then once he gets it he is strong with the ball. So far, Facey has looked good against weaker competition, pulling down 11 rebounds last night, so it will be interesting to see how he goes up against bigger, stronger, more athletic players. If he keeps attacking the ball, he should be able to pull in his fair share of rebounds. On the offensive side of the ball, we don't really need Facey to score. If he can score here and there, we will certainly take it, but we need him to rebound.
4. Amida Brimah should score a lot in transition
With the way we run as a team, and the way Brimah can run, he should be getting easy buckets in transition. It has been said all preseason that coach Kevin Ollie wants this team to get out on the break and this should benefit Brimah. The way he runs the floor, he should be able to beat college basketball's motley cast of lumbering big men up and down the court-- resulting in lay-ups, dunks, free throws, or offensive rebounds then leading to points.
But he must stay out of foul trouble. Ollie did a good job managing him in the first half, immediately taking him out when he picked up his first foul. If he stays out of foul trouble, we can run him with Hamilton full speed to the basket, while Boatright pushes the ball along with Purvis or Samuel, and then Cassell Jr. trailing for transition threes. That is a terrifying proposition for upcoming opponents.
5. Terrance Samuel will not be forgotten this season
There were questions heading into the season about how Samuel would fit in with UConn's stable of talented guards. The answer is just fine, thank you.
Samuel played 34 minutes off the bench last night, which was the second-highest on the team behind Boatright's 37. He finished with 6 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists and was not afraid to shoot. He went 3-8 from the field including 0-2 from three. Yes, Terrance Samuel shot two threes and he even made a long 2 with his foot on the line. If he can develop a somewhat consistent outside jumper, teams are going to have to respect it, making him even more effective driving to the hoop, which seems impossible. His first half minutes went so well that he ended up starting the second half instead of Cassell Jr. Samuel's role in the second half was to defend Bryant's best player, Dyami Starks. While Starks hit some long jumpers in the first half, he was held to just 2-8 shooting in the second half, as Samuel forced him to drive instead of shooting over him. All in all, it was an extremely productive night for the sophomore guard from Brooklyn.