This team is extremely talented | The Boneyard

This team is extremely talented

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Aug 26, 2011
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I think we all sort of anticipated coming into the season that this was the case, but to see those expectations acknowledged in a practical sense is very exciting. It's difficult to extrapolate too much from three games - only one of which was against legit competition - but in my opinion, the final score is far less significant this time of year than the content of the action. That action is obviously comprised of hundreds of possessions and thousands of mini-battles within those possessions, but in projecting forward, the existence of the games fundamental building blocks - perimeter shooting, defending the rim, rebounding - far outweigh the nuance that swings the outcome. This time of year, you're not pursuing consistency as much as you are establishing a sturdy infrastructure.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, look no further than our past two national title teams. We tend to romanticize the process that led to that championship now, but many of the opening games of the 2011 and 2014 seasons depicted a somewhat hectic environment stabilized only by the steady hand of a veteran, all-american point guard. But despite the dominance of Kemba and Shabazz, losses slowly began to accumulate, and as their supporting actors struggled to find themselves, the mood surrounding those teams shifted from hopeful to resentful.

A skeptical eye like Kevin Ollie will likely study the tape of this game and point to dozens of things that went wrong. There were stretches of abhorrent defense where some of the players interpreted perimeter defense as optional, there were possessions of needless ball-pounding and over-exertion from our guards, and there were outright dumb plays and careless missed assignments. There were plenty of whiffs on back line rotations, mis-communications on switches, and episodes of lackadaisical ball watching. This is far from a well-oiled machine.

But I'm more than happy to disregard all those mistakes, because the fabric of a special season is in place. And even if Ryan Boatright isn't Shabazz or Kemba, his performance to this point in the season has been nothing short of phenomenal, and even accounting for an inevitable regression to the mean in certain statistical categories, it's sure looking like he's well on his way to an all-American caliber season. The history of UConn teams featuring an all-American point guard is beyond substantiated.

Moreover, I've seen enough to this juncture to be optimistic that their expected Achilles Heel - perimeter shooting - will not handicap the half-court offense. Hamilton has been more than accurate from long-range, Purvis is at least somebody you have to guard, and Boatright, even if his percentage is lessened by late-clock forces, could sniff 40% on catch-and-shoot opportunities. And that doesn't even consider Omar Calhoun - who has had his moments - or Sam Cassell Jr., who needs no invitation to put one up.

In short, many of the aforementioned deficiencies that have plagued this team to this point are correctable. Not having capable three point shooters, rebounders, off-the-bounce creators, or rim-deterrents are often unsolvable, fatal personnel flaws. That this team possesses all of the above - and likewise, seems a likely candidate to join the illustrious Triple 40 club - in addition to an all-American point guard is enough to paint an even brighter outlook than I had before the season.

Brief player notes:

Boat - He had a sub-par outing defensively and lost his man for a three at a critical point in the game, but there's no value equivalent to the way he controls the game. It looks like Ollie has successfully molded his third star point guard; there may be better players in the country, but there's nobody I trust more to show up for big games than Boatright. I can't wait for the Duke game. That kid is seething for an opportunity to tear that team to shreds.

SCII - Admittedly, there have been various points throughout the last three games where I have asked myself, "Why did we offer this kid a scholarship again?" I don't remember the last player here who was as earth-bound as this kid - R.J. Evans is Vince Carter by comparison. But he's just fine as a seventh man type who can handle the ball without turning it over, help ice games in crunch-time, and drill the occasional big three. I'm glad to have him on board.

T-Sam - Rough outing for him today, but before we panic, let's remember: we saw this coming. Defenses weren't going to part the red sea like they did last year and open up driving lanes. He can't shoot, and opposing players know he can't shoot. The result is predictably an overcompensation that result in turnovers. Even if he never becomes a reliable shooter, he'll learn to pick his spots better with seasoning. In certain lineups, his offensive limitations are death (like when he shares the court with Cassell), but in others, his defensive smarts are hugely beneficial. Ollie will figure these things out as the season progresses.

Purvis - Hell of a game today. Drilling the occasional three and scoring in transition are things we knew he could do, but today, he was impressively composed in the half-court offense, conceding to Boatright when the game situation dictated it and finding the gaps in other moments. For most two guards, he's simply an overwhelming physical presence - he bulls his way to the rim and isn't afraid to challenge centers. My one gripe with his game - punt those long twos.

D-Ham - Good news: he is a stud. Bad news: the more I watch, the more I feel we may only have him for one year. He's just a supremely gifted offensive player, and his game is far more diverse than even I gave him credit for - he will hit those mid-range leaners against smaller defenders, lose bigger guys off the ball, and find passing angles to shooters that I don't know are there until the ball lands in the recipients hand. I thought this was going to be a kid who forced some shots - not the Goodman kind, just normal freshman stuff - and turned it over with relative frequency. Nope. He's unbelievably composed. Defensively, he's been pretty good on the ball, but a bit irresponsible off the ball. That's nitpicking though.

Facey - I feel like I forgot over the off-season how good of an athlete this kid is. He routinely gets higher than anybody else on the floor, and he's got good hands. Obviously a work in progress defensively, but he's done everything we've needed him to do thus far.

Phil - Poor guy just can't stay on the floor. He's not cut-out to be a D-1 center. Unfortunately minutes at the four are hard to come by.

Lubin - Did a couple of nice things today on the boards. As expected, he's not much of a contributor offensively.

Amida - Wow! For all the b****ing we do about what he's not, one thing is obvious: this is a completely different team with him out there, and the staggering on/off splits prove that. The defense craters when he sits, and even when he's no doing things like blocking three shots in one possession, his mere presence on the floor discourages teams from even looking at the rim. Nothing gets in an opponents head like a great shot blocker. We just need him to stay out of foul trouble. On the other end, he's getting there. You can tell he doesn't know how to react when opponents shade him with a guard, but just the fact that we have a semi-threatening post threat is more than we've been able to say in quite some time.

I don't want to make it sound like I'm penciling this team into the national championship game, because clearly there is a long way to go and there are a bunch of other teams way ahead of us right now. What I do see, though, is the makings of a national contender, only if these components are still blurry to the naked eye. There is an established pecking order offensively with Boatright leading the attack and everybody else falling into place after that; Hamilton and Purvis provide more ball-handling and pure scoring at the wing spot than we've had in a while. When and if Ollie has them dialed in to championship-level form defensively, this team will be extremely dangerous. I know this because when I watch the reactions on the bench, I see unbridled passion for the game. I know because when I see Kevin Ollie in a defensive stance on the sidelines, I see a coach intensely dedicated to getting the most out of this team. There is a lot of character on this team, a hell of a lot of talent, and a ton of toughness. I can't wait to see how it all plays out.
Aug 26, 2011
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I think phil looked excellent at times, he was hit with a few ticky tack calls. one a clean block. He is added depth at the 5, more than capable at doing that job IMO

nice overall breakdown champs. I almost had an aneurysm witnessing the carelessness on avoiding getting back screened, missed assignments, bad communication on switches. Hamilton , typical for freshman, was unable to handle rotations on the backline as a power forward. thus we got destroyed in the paint. he excells at guarding the perimeter, and could become exceptional due to his length. Boat/Purvis/Brimah has scary defensive potential. This team is clearly more talented than last year,we will see how tough they are though.
Feb 10, 2013
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Great post - one that reinforces, once again, how lucky we've been as a fanbase to transition from Kemba to Bazz to Boat. We are spoiled in that regard.

One thing worth mentioning on the "concerns" list: Purvis at the stripe. He's going to have to get close to 70% to be a late-game threat for us.

Get that kid in some Nash Drills.
Aug 26, 2011
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As the others have said, great post, per usual. Like James said, I kinda liked what I saw out of Phil today but he just can't stay on the floor, even when its not his fault. He is far and away our best screen setter and he was doing a great job moving his feet in 1v1 defense. I thought he was hit with some soft calls today. He will be critical in the Duke matchup with his defense on Okafor because, lets face it, AB is getting into foul trouble.

I also can't believe how good D Ham is. As a 5 star, 15-20ish ranked kid, he was criminally underrated. There will be a handful of kids rated above him who won't look comfortable all year and D Ham looks comfortable already. He is a top 5 kid offensively in his class along with Okafor and Blackmon.

AB has scored more buckets on post moves in 3 games than he did all last year.

joober jones

Finally Non-Fat Guy
Nov 2, 2011
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I like the fact that when I see D Ham written I finally think of Daniel Hamilton first and Darvin Ham second.
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