Friday, March 13, 2009

Are the UConn Huskies a Title Team?

Can UConn win a national title?

Your gut reaction is to say yes. I mean, this is a team that went 27-3 during the regular season, finished tied for second in the Big East, and spent a good chunk of the year ranked #1 in the country. They have wins at Louisville, at Gonzaga, and at West Virginia, not to mention W's against Wisconsin, Miami, Michigan, Villanova, Syracuse (need I go on?).

So yes, this team has the talent to win a national title.

But that's not what I asked. I asked "can this team win a national title?"

That is a different story.

The stat I didn't mention above is their record in the post season this year. Its 0-1. It looks similar to the 0-2 they went last year. And the 0-1 they went the year before that. The only guy on the UConn roster that has won a game in the post-season is Jeff Adrien. He was a role-playing freshman on a supremely talented 2006 team that barely survived their first three games before losing in the Elite 8. To George Mason.

Should I point out that if Adrien is drafted, he will be the sixth player off of that team to shake David Stern's hand?

UConn's issue is not a lack of talent. And it is far from a lack of effort. This team just doesn't have enough scorers or enough shooters. Outside of AJ Price, the entire team is "athletes".

Simply put, UConn needs more basketball players.

Which is why losing Jerome Dyson hurt them so much. Dyson was the only guy other than Price that could get his own shot. So when you have just one player that is a threat to create a shot for himself or for a teammate, you become predictable. Predictable teams are easy to stop. Especially at times when you really need to get a stop. Part of what killed the Huskies last night was their inability to get a bucket when they needed one in overtime. It has probably been beaten to death at this point, but Syracuse did not lead after regulation until Andy Rautins hit a three to kick off the sixth overtime.

That means that UConn blew leads in the first five overtimes. Think about it - how many times did UConn have a late lead in OT just to have a terrible offensive possession? How many chances did they get to win it at the end of an overtime period?

How many baskets did UConn have that made you say "wow, that was a big shot"? I can think of three - Stanley Robinson hitting a three in the first OT to give UConn a four point lead with a little more than a minute left; Scottie Haralson making a foul line jumper with 42 seconds left in the fifth OT for a 110-108 lead; and Kemba Walker's lay-up to end regulation. And that lay-up shouldn't count because it was off of a broken play.

So in seventy minutes of basketball, UConn had two baskets that were clutch. Syracuse had that in each overtime period.

As good as UConn is, I just don't see a team that has not won many big games (and none in postseason) suddenly figuring it out next week.

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