Why UConn Will Win…Posted by rtmsf on April 4th, 2009
As part of our ongoing attempt to bring you the best college basketball coverage anywhere, we enlisted the editors from the finest blogs we could find to write posts explaining why their team will win today.
This submission is from our friends at UConn Blog.
They won’t. Seriously. I’m one of those stick-in-the-mud fans who can’t acknowledge how good their own personal rooting interest is. Everything tells me that UConn is pretty good, and obviously you don’t get to the Final Four without having some talent. But I can’t explain why the Huskies, who looked so sloppy at the end of the regular season and into the Big East tournament, have, played four dominant games to make it to Detroit. I do know that they must be way overdue for a Big East tournament-esque poor performance.
Nor can I explain why no one has gotten Hasheem Thabeet in foul trouble yet this tournament; nor how Stanley Robinson morphed from an introverted, inconsistent caterpillar into a 14-point, 7-rebound-averaging butterfly in UConn’s starting lineup. I don’t understand these specific parts, probably because I’ve watched just about every game these guys have played for three (in Jeff Adrien’s case, four) years and I could tell you their every flaw. And if I, a simple layman, could see these things, you’re telling me Tom Izzo can’t?
As for actually-helpful analysis: UConn plays defense (0.883 defensive points-per-possession) and they rebound. If the Huskies limit other teams’ chances on offense and funnel everything inside to Thabeet, it means the gameplan is working. And I like UConn’s chances against anyone if the gameplan is working. But that gameplan assumes that Thabeet is on the floor. So far, he’s been able to stay out of foul trouble, but, as UConn fans learned with Emeka Okafor in 2004, all it takes is one bad call to lay the best plan to waste. Plus, if Thabeet gets the call Saturday to guard Goran Suton, he’ll be playing away from the basket quite a bit, neutralizing (part of) his shot-blocking abilities. Offensively, A.J. Price must handle much of the load this weekend. When he’s on, Price is one of the best players in America. If he hits his first long jumper, the opposition is generally in for a tough night. Price’s importance might be mitigated a bit by freshman Kemba Walker, who was the best player on the court in the regional final victory over Missouri.
In most realistic scenarios ending with Connecticut cutting down the nets, Price averaging something like 17 and 5 assists is a given. Thabeet getting a near-double-double with a bunch of blocks is a given. Beyond that, a couple other players will have to step up. In order of importance: Jeff Adrien must own the boards and make his beloved elbow jumper; Stanley Robinson has to get to the rim early and often (he is always capable of doing it, but he loses focus at times); Walker must use his quickness to create havoc in the opponent’s interior defense; Craig Austrie must knock down a couple 3s; Gavin Edwards must play like a “statistical Jeff Adrien clone,” as he was dubbed by Basketball Prospectus’ John Gasaway the other day. The Huskies don’t need every one of those things to happen to win. But in a lineup that goes seven-deep, probably three out of those five are vital.
Still, in a four-team event where three teams will go home unhappy, there are plenty of reasons to believe that UConn won’t win the title: Seventy thousand fans will be rooting against UConn on Saturday; the Huskies don’t have the depth of Michigan State; Ty Lawson and Tyler Hansborough are really bad matchups; Scottie Reynolds and Villanova could reasonably have beaten UConn in Hartford a month ago .
There’s that nagging pessimism, again. But UConn has the talent to beat any of these teams. The Huskies have been dominant for most of the tournament thus far, and should be prepared for anything they’ll see this weekend. And, remember, Jim Calhoun is 4-0 in the Final Four all-time.
So maybe it’s a bit melodramatic to say UConn won’t win the national title. Obviously, they could. I may not be as confident as, say, North Carolina fans, but the Huskies should at least make it to Monday night if they play up to their abilities. After that, it’s all a crapshoot anyway.