Well, it looks like the UConn Huskies are going to have some work to do if they want to retain their throne as the National Champions. Following tonight's loss at Stanford, UConn sits at just 9-7 as they enter the conference portion of their schedule.
This evening, the Huskies had an opportunity to add a statement to victory to their tournament resume. A victory in Palo Alto would have been the highlight of the season. Yet, UConn was simply outworked and outplayed by a Stanford team that took care of business on their home floor.
This was a strange game. Coming in, if you had told Kevin Ollie his team would hit 50% of their three point attempts and 25 points off the bench, he would have been beaming. Yet, despite the offensive efficiency, the Huskies were blown out. Stanford was able to control the game through their domination on the glass. The Cardinal took advantage of UConn's smaller lineup by out rebounding them 48-24. Stanford grabbed 18 offensive rebounds, leading to 9 second chance points. UConn finished with just 4 offensive rebounds. That type of disparity will sink any attempt to win a basketball game. You better believe this will drive Ollie crazy when he watches the game tape.
Now, UConn's struggles can be traced to their extended use of small ball lineups. Amida Brimah was hampered by foul trouble all night, fouling out in just nine minutes of action. That forced Kentan Facey to play center for much of the evening, and he simply was not big enough to deal with Stanford's Stefan Nastic. Nastic feasted inside, finishing with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Rosco Allen chipped in with 13 rebounds of his own, combining with Nastic to really take it to UConn.
Many predicted that this game would end up being about the two opposing senior guards from Illinois. Ryan Boatright and Chasson Randle split the Mr. Basketball Award in Illinois in 2011 and both are nominated for the Wooden Award this season. Well, for those expecting a duel, you'll be sad to know that Boatright did not show up ready to fight. Randle badly outplayed Boatright, finishing with a game high 23 points and 5 assists. Randle's shooting and creating ability picked UConn apart. He was far and away the best player on the floor, UConn had no answer for him. Boatright was mostly absent, finishing with just 7 points on 3-12 shooting. Boatright has not looked healthy since tweaking his ankle on New Year's Eve against Temple. Things are starting to look dire for UConn's captain.
The Huskies finish their nonconference schedule with a 7-5 record. At 9-7 overall, this is a team at a crossroads in the season. It will take a monster effort in the AAC and in the conference tournament to impress the NCAA Tournament Committee. At times, this UConn team has looked soft, aloof, and passive. But then at times, they look like how UConn should look; tough, passionate, cocky. Which team will we get going forward? How good are they? What's going to happen? No one knows, but we're going to find out soon enough.