It’s Kemba, & 4 guys who can play
Posted by athomeatfenway on February 20, 2011
Traveling on a train from New York to New Haven, I remarked to my boss that the current UConn Men are easy to like. They have talented freshman that are not so talented that they will jump to the NBA after Junior year, but they are developing steadily into a gang of plucky defenders that can score.
To wit, my boss inquired, “How many times has UConn won this year when Kemba Walker did NOT score 25 points ?”
“I don’t know.”, I said. But I’m going to find out.
UConn is a one trick pony.
That has been the coda from the chorus all year long. UConn, say the critics, is Kemba Walker and four other guys.
The last 16 games indicate that the chorus is off key.
UConn has gone 10 – 6 in 16 games since beginning the Big East schedule against Pitt on the road. (Two of those games were against non-conference foes Texas and Tennessee.)
Kemba scored less than 25 points in 13 of those 16 games, and UConn won 8 of the 13.
My boss’s selection of the number 25 for Kemba points is a fitting number. 25 points in a D-1 game is iconic. A player who has scored 25 points has had his way with the opponent.
With Kemba’s reputation for scoring 30 points in a game, it may surprise that he did not score 25 points 75% of the time. True.
In fact, Kemba did not score 20 points 50% of the time. He scored 16 or less 25 % of the time.
Although he did score 30 in some UConn wins, like Georgetown & DePaul, he didn’t do it alone.
Freshman Shabazz Napier, lightening fast guard from Randolph, Mass., is the first player off the bench every game. He will dribble one off his foot or throw a pass away, but he also brings instant offense and pushes the ball. He scored 18 against Notre Dame, 15 against Texas, 11 vs. Marquette and 23 vs. Louisville.
Jeremy Lamb, another Freshman, is a 6’ 5” stick figure with a sweet jumper that does not fall when he gets rattled. He poured in 24, 21 and 22 points in the middle of 8 consecutive games in which he averaged 16 and scored no less than 10.
Also Class of 2014, Roscoe Smith, the 6’ 8” 205 pound forward out of Baltimore has flashed offense in spurts with 11 vs. Notre Dame, 13 vs. Texas, 12 vs. Tenn., 11 against Marquette, and 16 against the Johnnies. He has disappeared against other teams, scoring 0, 2 or 3 points four different times.
These three Freshmen are essential to UConn’s success. Without them, the Huskies don’t get to the Big Dance. Without them, they don’t even have a winning record.
The 3 Freshmen are no more alone in creating success than is Kemba. Alex Oriaki has scored in double digits 9 times. Coombs-McDaniel scored 48 total points in two straight games vs. Providence & Georgetown.
UConn is a team with 6 guys who score in double digits.
It’s a team from which freshmen and role players emerge to share the scoring responsibility.
It’s a young team that makes mistakes, becomes intimidated, and sometimes shrinks.
Overall, they do not give up. These young guys are blue collar. Calhoun’s kind of players.
They will learn to close the deal.
They may reach the Sweet Sixteen.
They should win a game in the BE Tournament, their first since 2005.
And they should continue to be easy to like — right through graduation in 2014.