In a season of ugly losses, Saturday's ranks as one of the worst for UConn. Now at 9-7 after a 72-59 loss to Stanford, the Huskies are on the ropes. Their hopes of repeating as national champions diminish more each day, as the threat of missing out on the NCAA tournament becomes more likely.
What is going wrong? What do the Huskies have to do to remedy the situation? Tim Fontenault, Matt Gionfriddo and Elan-Paolo DeCarlo discuss the issues in their latest postgame discussion.
Tim Fontenault: Every season has a game that defines it. I think Saturday night’s loss at Stanford was the one that sums up the 2014-15 season for UConn. They were woeful. It was nice to see Sam Cassell Jr. and Rodney Purvis contribute off the bench, but that was all we got.
The offense was its usually bit of sloppy, and that’s even with a 10-for-20 shooting clip from behind the arc. The defense was surprisingly agonizing. There were no answers for Stefan Nastic, Chasson Randle or Anthony Brown. They did what they wanted when they wanted. But it wasn’t just that Stanford’s stars could score at will, the Huskies couldn’t get a rebound. You can’t get doubled on the boards, grab four on the offensive end and expect to win the game on the road. Not happening.
Elan-Paolo DeCarlo: I said this in my recap, but I'll repeat it here. If you had told Kevin Ollie that his team would hit 10 of 20 from three and score 25 bench points, he would have been ecstatic. Yet, those numbers were red herrings that ultimately did not matter.
This game was lost on the glass. UConn's big men, Amida Brimah, Kentan Facey and Phil Nolan, struggled mightily against Nastic and Rosco Smith. Brimah in particular was disappointing. Every Husky fan knows that the team is different when Brimah is on the floor. Well, against Stanford Brimah played only nine minutes before fouling out.
This was another frustrating loss in a season full of them.
Fontenault: Brimah’s inability to stay on the floor when up against challenging bigs is a troubling issue for UConn. When he committed that foul 30 seconds in, you knew it was gong to be a long night.
It’s crunch time for the Huskies now. At 9-7 with no quality wins out of conference (unless you want to call Dayton a quality win) and some troubling performances early in conference play, it doesn’t look good for UConn’s tournament outlook. Do you guys think we’re at the point where the Huskies have to win the conference tournament, or can they still get in if they finish American play strong and get to the semifinals?
Matt Gionfriddo: To be fair, I thought Brimah was the point of some tough foul calls, a couple of which he just went straight up and got called, so I'm not totally putting the blame on him. Yes, we are a completely different team when Brimah in on the floor, but when you're getting called for some "soft" fouls, it's hard to get any game rhythm. Nolan, on the other hand, was just not very good to put it bluntly. Literally, the only good thing he did was take that charge and that was it. I just really wish Boat did more.
Personally, I think they can still get in for an at-large, but I don't think they can afford more than two losses the rest of the way. We are starting to be at that point, though, where it is probably best to win the American just for safety's sake.
DeCarlo: Where has Ryan Boatright gone? He finished 3 of 12 from the field last night and was badly outplayed by Chasson Randle. Boat hasn't looked the same since tweaking his ankle against Temple. If UConn wants to succeed, boat has to be the driving force behind it.
What a difference a few weeks make. When we did this chat after the Florida game, there were mentions of repeating as champs. Now, will UConn make the tournament? This season has been ludicrous.
Gionfriddo: If his injury is still nagging him, then I think we should seriously consider having him rest against UCF or USF and hope that we can take care of business without him. Boatright will be one of the major reasons if we are going to make a run, and if he's not healthy or not playing well, then we are probably going to be in trouble. I don't need him scoring a ridiculous amount of points, I just want the guy from the beginning of the season who runs the offense and makes plays for himself and others, and then rely on those others (Purvis, Calhoun, Brimah) to pick up the rest of the offensive slack.
Hopefully, we take care of business against the two Florida schools before another big test on the road against Cincinnati.
Fontenault: It’s something about the year after national titles. 2000 was brutal. 2005 was forgettable. Burn the memories of 2012 out of my head. Even 2010, the year after the Final Four loss to Michigan State, was awful outside of the win over Texas.
I think we need to accept that this is not UConn’s year, nor was it ever going to be. Losing more than 60 percent of the scoring from last year and arguably the most important player in UConn history was always going to be a handicap that the Huskies would struggle to overcome.
I want to think Ryan Boatright is just in a rut, but if he can’t shake off the injuries then UConn is in trouble. I liked the production from Calhoun as a starter and Purvis and Cassell of the bench, but without Boatright, there is no offense.
Gionfriddo: Yeah but that Texas game was UNREAL. But, you're right, Tim, year after have not been ours in the past and doesn't seem like it this year. However, while people are definitely feeling this way, I will only lose hope when it is literally impossible for us to make the tournament. Just get us in, and then honestly, who knows. Just get us in.
Fontenault: Yea, anything can happen. After all, a team that got rocked by Houston and lost to Louisville by 30 in March won the national championship.
Gionfriddo: Exactly and if Boat is in a rut, well, I'm pretty confident that he will be able to break out of it soon. This was just a road trip that could have been unreal, but instead was far from it.
DeCarlo: Now would usually be the time to get excited about being in the American, but against all odds, our wonderful conference looks to be actually be competitive. Tulsa, Temple and Cincinnati all look to be tough throughout the year and we still have two games with memphis coming up.
I'm curious to see how Kevin Ollie responds. In his first year, he was coaching for a contract. Last year, he found himself on a magical ride. This year, with expectations, the team has struggled. I liked how he switched up the starting lineup last night to get Purvis going. What other tricks does he have in store?
Fontenault: The guys knew they needed to go on the road and do well, but it didn’t happen. Come home and regroup. If this team is as hungry as we sometimes like to think, I would expect them to come out and dominate Central Florida.