My Column On Why The Uconn Huskies Will Win The Title (very Long) | The Boneyard

My Column On Why The Uconn Huskies Will Win The Title (very Long)

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Grantland's omission of the Huskies in their college basketball preview inspired me to write a 3,500 word column on why UConn should be the favorites this season. I'm guessing this violates all of the mojo laws, so I'm very aware of the fact that I may be scapegoated if this season does not live up to expectations. The length of the column should tell you A) I need a hobby and B) UConn's roster provides me with a lot of material to write about.

I'm sure some on here could write a more compelling article, but I thought I broke down all elements of the team fairly well. I decided to send it to grantland to see if maybe they would take it, but they decided against it. And by the way, the last 200 words or so got cut out some how, so sorry if the ending isn't as good as it should be. Anyway, here it is:
 
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Why UCONN will Win the National Championship
As I opened part one of Grantland’s college basketball intro, I was outraged to find that the defending national champions, and 2011-2012 favorites (yes, I’ll tell you why) were not being previewed, while early bow outs like Syracuse and Ohio State were being featured. So I ask, how can you preview a college basketball season without including the defending champs? That would be like running a 2012 presidential preview without mentioning Barack Obama. UConn fans have always felt disrespected by the national media and like this only adds fuel to the fire. But then again, why should I be surprised that UConn has been forgotten in the pre-season yet again, when last year they were not even included in the field of 68 during last year’s Sports Illustrated preview. When is the last time a UNC or Duke squad got left out of the top 25 after a bad season?
 
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Hell, even go back to the 1999 season when people wrote articles like this about our chances in the championship game against Duke. This is when I once again have to remind you close minded jackasses that no college basketball program has brought home more titles than UConn over the past fifteen years. I know, I know. You guys are dreaming about a final four that includes Duke, North Carolina, and Kentucky. Those programs have the most passionate fan bases, the most storied tradition, and you guys remember watching those teams play in the National Championship with your grandpa over 30 years ago. You guys thought you had put an end to UConn last year when Calhoun looked to be on the verge of retirement, and the sanctions were hanging over our heads, and we were battling Northeastern in the first round of the NIT. Well that’s where you’re wrong.
 
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UConn is back to screw up the college basketball landscape once again in the year 2012, and I can assure you that we are not going anywhere. So as you shmucks peal the crust out of your eyes on this Saturday morning in October, I can only hope that this column will serve as a wakeup call to those of you who are once again discounting Jim Calhoun and the Huskies.

Last season (Skip ahead a paragraph if you don’t want to hear me reminiscing on the magical ride of 2010-2011), UConn played in three tournaments and won all of them, going 14-0 in those games, as well as beating nationally ranked Michigan State, Kentucky, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Louisville, Cincinnati, San Diego State, Arizona, Kentucky again, and Butler in the process. Given Calhoun’s critics, these fourteen tournament victories should be remembered as one of the biggest “ you’s” in the history of greatest “ you” moments. Of course, much of this success can be attributed to The Great Kemba Walker,but still, one great player a team does not make
 
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Kemba, Alex Oriakhi, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, a couple of role players, and seven freshman, one of whom was ranked in the top 100 of his class. People don’t understand how freaking good of a coaching performance that was. To put into perspective just how good of a coach Calhoun is, consider this: In the history of UConn basketball, nine incoming recruits have been McDonald’s All-Americans. The 2009-2010 North Carolina team (Roy Williams is about ten levels beneath Calhoun) had eleven McDonald’s All-Americans on their roster that season, and that team did not even make the field of 65. Duke, Kansas, and Kentucky to name a few have had well over 30 McDonald’s All-Americans since Calhoun arrived at UConn. Calipari has had ten McDonald’s All-Americans in three years at Kentucky. Yet still, you’ll consistently hear Calhoun left out of the top three of the best college basketball coaches if you read enough stuff from National college basketball writers. When you hear guys like Matt Jones talk about Calipari being a “top five coach by any objective measure” you can really see where Calhoun gets that chip on his shoulder.
 
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Now that I’m all fired up, let’s cut to the chase. UConn returns four starters from last season, obviously the biggest loss being The Great Kemba Walker, with other losses including swing man Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, and senior role players Donnel Beverly and Charles Okwandu. The first crucial element to this great team is Co-Captain Shabazz Napier, one of the best on ball defenders in the country. If you don’t believe me, go ask Brandon Knight, who shot 24% from the field with eight turnovers in two games against UConn last year, with Napier on him the majority of the time. But, let’s forget the fact that a top ten pick was thoroughly shut down by Napier last year, and go ahead and rank Marquis Teague ahead of him anyway. And while you’re all drooling over guys like Harrison Barnes, Doron Lamb, and John Jenkins, let me be the one to point out that Jeremy Lamb outplayed all of them when the chips were down last year.
 
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During eleven postseason games, Jeremy Lamb was the clear Pippen to Kemba’s Jordan, averaging 15.3 points per game on 55 percent shooting. Yes, that’s 55 percent from the floor out of your shooting guard. Talk about efficient. He also pulled down 4.5 rebounds over that time frame, as well as just under one block and one steal per game. But yeah, he’s not in the same league as William Buford or Kris Joseph. And if you think Lamb has been polishing up that ring all summer, think again. He went overseas to play with the USA U-19 team where he led the team in scoring, including a 35 point outburst against the tournament favorite, Lithuania. With arms like a hose, a silky smooth jump shot, and a floater that’s more beautiful than a rainbow after a storm, Lamb figures to be a top ten pick and a first or second team All-American by the time the season is over. He even has his own dance move.
 
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You could make a strong case that Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb, joined by electrifying freshman Ryan Boatright, who has been described by many as “Kemba-like”, make up the best backcourt in the country, and the backcourt isn’t even the strongest point of this team.

Lamb’s wing counterpart will most likely include either Roscoe Smith or Deandre Daniels, a five star recruit who signed on late with the defending champion Huskies (and there is still time for you, too!). Roscoe Smith is the most heralded recruit of Calhoun’s legendary 2010 class, a big, strong, athletic kid from Baltimore who is a bit raw, but somebody who should find his way onto an NBA roster someday. Unfortunately, Roscoe’s trade mark offensive move has become the Jerome Bettis truck stick, something that has been often times frowned upon by the men in white and black.
 
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Our other swingman, Deandre Daniels, is ranked as high as tenth overall on some scouting services. The splash of Andre Drummond has pushed him under the radar, but Daniels is no doubt one of the most athletic and polished players on this roster. Smith’s defensive prowess coupled with Daniels’ explosiveness makes up a very formidable unit on the wing.

In this day and age in college basketball, a front court with all the ingredients is the rarest of substances. A front court that is, which includes an athletic, strong, and skilled player at both the four and the five spots. With a front court of Alex Oriakhi and Andre Drummond, you have two guys that can out length you, out jump you, and out muscle you.
 
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. Averaging nearly a double-double, Oriakhi was not only one of the best rebounders in the Big East, but he also transformed himself into one of the best defensive big men in the country, rarely giving up ground to an opposing post player, and learning when to come over to block a shot (that is, if on a rare occasion a Husky does get beat off the dribble) and when to protect the boards. As a sophomore, UConn fans saw flashes of greatness from Oriakhi, as he was named to the Maui Invitational first team. Some of his finer performances included a 15 point, 17 rebound game against Michigan State, a 18 point, 11 rebound game against Kentucky in Maui, a season high 21 rebounds against Texas, and an 11 point, 11 rebound performance against Butler in the National Championship, a game in which he dominated the paint, hitting five of six shots and blocking four shots
 
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. As a Junior, Oriakhi is a beast, a tank, a truck, a monster, or whatever other word you would prefer to describe somebody who looks like a man playing a child’s game. As if one elite big man was not enough, Oriakhi will be joined in the front court by super frosh Andre Drummond, who one scout described as a cross between Shaq, Hakeem, Dwight, and Kevin Garnett. Ok, fine, that scout was myself, but still, this guy does things that are not natural. And I do know that scouts have compared him t Amare and Dwight, not bad praise. The kid does things that I haven’t seen in a big man since Dwight Howard dominated the AAU circuit way back in 2004. He can shoot, he’s an extremely good passer for a man his size, his athleticism is off the charts, and at 275 pounds, it seems like his parents put plenty of food on the table, which is a good thing also. If you don’t know his name by now, you will definitely know his name next Spring when David Stern is calling his name to begin the 2012 NBA draft, and you will most certainly know his name in 2017 when he has a couple of NBA rings to go along with his UConn ring
 
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Seeing the deflated looks on the faces of beanpoles like John Henson (210 pounds), Tyler Zeller (250 pounds), and Anthony Davis (220 pounds) after they are finished getting shoved around by their physical superiors will be entertaining to say the least. Watching Terrance Jones and Anthony Davis swipe away helplessly at Andre Drummond as his head is already above the rim will bring a grin across my face bright enough to light the Manhattan Bridge. Anthony Davis will pick up his third foul ten minutes into the game and Calipari will stare down the Kentucky bench with eyes of sadness that could fill the Pacific Ocean as he discovers the only option left on the bench is Eloy Vargas. Matt Jones will look forward to the long, lonely drive to Texas as he giddily skips into a hot, sticky gym, anxiously waiting for Cal’s newest and shiniest five star recruit to take the floor.
 
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Defense, defense, defense. If college hoops has taught us anything, it’s that defense always wins out, unless the offensive advantage one team has over the rest of the country is significant enough to overcome any defensive liabilities. This was the case with 2009 North Carolina, when their offensive fire power was matched by none. Contrary to what fans of teams who have been eliminated prematurely in the tournament would like to believe, there is an art to winning the NCAA tournament. Those keys happen to be rebounding and defense, two things that you can count on game in and game out, two qualities of a basketball team that never go into slumps. The reason I’m so sure UConn will be the team cutting down the nets in April this season, is because, of their defense. When your defense is bringing it every game, the chances of somebody pulling a Northern Iowa or VCU on you is greatly reduced come tournament time.
 
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Whether it’s Butler, Kentucky, Arizona, San Diego State, or whomever else, the fans of those teams will talk about how their team did not shoot well from the floor in that game, and played one of the worst games of the season. Well, there is one common denominator here, and that’s the defense of the 2011 champions. Let’s look at the stats: From the round of 32 on, UConn gave up 56.8 points per game. UConn’s opponents over that time span scored 77.6 points per game in the rounds before playing the Huskies. Maybe, just maybe, UConn’s defense had a huge effect on how teams played, and it wasn’t just luck.
 
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As ugly as it may have been to watch (Trust me, I was there), UConn’s defensive performance in the National Title game was a master piece. Butler’s well-oiled machine, the offense that got good shots possession after possession throughout the tournament, was suddenly looking like the two and three star recruits everybody thought they were. Butler ran their offense, only it was about five feet further back than it usually was, with the end result of their possession generally ending in a contested jump shot from three feet behind the three point line. Really, UConn would have won by twenty points if Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb, and Alex Oriakhi had not battled foul trouble in the first half. To borrow a line from the Sports Guy, UConn’s team defense from the first game of the Big East tournament to the National Championship in Houston was a beautiful display of team defense that should be burned on CD’s and re-played at youth basketball camps for the next five years.
 
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. And the downright frightening fact of the matter is, UConn’s defense throughout the postseason last year was only a preview of the defense you will see in the 2011-2012 season.

With the addition of Andre Drummond, UConn adds the missing piece in the middle (or extra piece, for that matter) that they were lacking last season. Charles Okwandu was good for five fouls, a couple of long arms to challenge shots, and a couple rebounds, but with Drummond manning the paint, not only will opponents think twice about dumping it in to their best post man, but attacking guards who dare to enter the lane manned by Drummond, Oriakhi, and Smith will make up the basketball equivalent of a delirious prisoner running full speed into a steel wall. UConn’s athleticism, length, height, and defensive instincts are matched by none.
 
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If Jeremy Lamb (6’5, 7’4 wingspan), Deandre Daniels (6’9, 7’2 wingspan), Roscoe Smith (6’8, 7’1 wingspan), Alex Oriakhi (6’9, 7’3 wingspan), and Andre Drummond (6’11, 7’5 wingspan) stood side by side with their arms stretched out, they would likely have just enough length to circle the earth three times, possibly four times. And by the way, I already mentioned that Shabazz Napier was one of the best on ball defenders in college basketball, right? I’m not exaggerating when I say this will not only be far and away the best defense in the upcoming season, but also potentially the best defense we have seen in college basketball over the last ten years. Save maybe the Dallas Mavericks and I’m not confident there are too many teams that will score more than 65-70 points on this group if given forty minutes. So given all that, UConn is much less prone to being upset come March than is a team like Vanderbilt and Duke. As the saying goes, live by the three, die by the three, but don’t cry too hard when you have an off night from behind the arch and you get bounced from the tournament.
 
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The last, but certainly not least, reason UConn will win the National Title this season, is because nobody plays the disrespect card better than Calhoun, and nobody responds to a challenge better than Calhoun. In the last two years alone, Calhoun had to miss games because of his declining health, hear the constant sound of “Cheater, cheater” pour on him from road crowds, and above all else, he had to endure the loss of two people very close to him, being his sister and good friend. He was a beaten up old man who had the look of a guy on the way out. It sounds cliché to say that it would have been an easy thing to do for him to hang up the whistle, file away the clip board, and enjoy the final stage of his life with his family, but last October of last season it could not have been truer. Instead, Calhoun, having just spoken with the NCAA compliance officials for 14 hours in an Indianapolis hotel, took control of a team most figured was heading towards mediocrity, and drove them (with the help of Kemba Walker) all the way to a national title, his third.
 
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Admittedly, Calhoun is not a saint. In today’s politically correct world, Calhoun is the rarest of breeds, an old-fashioned coach who really doesn’t give two shits about what people think of him, as evidenced by press conferences like this and this. He is a tough, stingy Irish bastard, known for his profanity laced tirades towards media and players alike. He even fell off his bike at a charity race, only to finish the remaining eight miles with two broken ribs. Calhoun’s gruff personality has inspired some of our friends and colleagues to tape podcasts like this, but those who are closest to Calhoun realize he does have a soft side, and professional players always return to the program, thanking Calhoun for not only their transformed game, but more importantly for Calhoun’s ability to take kids and turn them into men.
 
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Entering possibly his final season, Calhoun will take to battle arguably his most talented group to date. And although his place among the greatest basketball coaches of our time has been well cemented, Calhoun just doesn’t appear to be as revered as the Kreyzewski’s, Rupp’s, Smith’s, Wodden’s, and Knight’s of the coaching world, and it’s easy to see why when you look around and see the amount of people discounting this version of the 2011-2012 Huskies due to the loss of Kemba Walker.
 
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Sorry, there was more, but it somehow did not save, so this is all I have to show for it. This was only the rough copy, so as you can see, many areas of the column are a bit sloppy and unorganized. Hopefully you guys can appreciate the effort though if you have the stamina to get through all of it.
 
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What can I say but + 1.

We are DOOMED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
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This makes Dogmania a short poet. I appreciate the effort but man my attention span has depreciated over the years. Thanks.
 

CL82

We some killers We some dogs It’s going to be fun
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Admittedly, Calhoun is not a saint. In today’s politically correct world, Calhoun is the rarest of breeds, an old-fashioned coach who really doesn’t give two shits about what people think of him, as evidenced by press conferences like this and this. He is a tough, stingy Irish bastard, known for his profanity laced tirades towards media and players alike. He even fell off his bike at a charity race, only to finish the remaining eight miles with two broken ribs. Calhoun’s gruff personality has inspired some of our friends and colleagues to tape podcasts like this, but those who are closest to Calhoun realize he does have a soft side, and professional players always return to the program, thanking Calhoun for not only their transformed game, but more importantly for Calhoun’s ability to take kids and turn them into men.
Some nit picks. Stingy? Only in defense, given his history of charitable giving. I believe he had five broken ribs. When many half his age would have been curled in a ball sobbing, he waited an hour for his bike to be repaired and then finished the race.

I liked the player descriptions. Clean up the Grantland references and maybe submit to Yahoo?
 
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