Floriani at the Preseason NIT

Posted by rtmsf on November 26th, 2009

Ray Floriani is an occasional contributor and the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences.  He covers college basketball in the greater New York City area.

NEW YORK CITY – A few Preseason NIT semifinal impressions as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade marches on. For years it was the Macy’s parade, long before corporate sponsorship entered our stadia and arenas.  UConn looked very good pushing the pace. The Huskies entered the semi with LSU averaging 66 possessions. Against the Tigers, UConn had a 37 possession first half and a 45-29 lead at the break. The final possession total was 69, somewhat misleading as the Huskies started using more clock the last six minutes with the game in hand. Their final offensive efficiency in the 81-55 rout was 117.

alex oriakhi uconn

I’m impressed with the UConn bigs, Gavin Edwards (15 pts), Charles Okwandu and Alex Oriakhi (9 boards). They are all skilled and can run the floor like deer. Don’t forget Stanley Robinson (14 pts, 11 reb), a matchup problem on the wing or in the paint and point guard Kemba Walker (20 pts, 5 assists). It all adds up to a strong cast.  The Huskies had some less than spectacular performances before getting here. LSU saw the Big East refs at their best to date. Coach Trent Johnson was upset that his Tigers could not handle the transition. Coach had to be concerned as well about Tasmin Mitchell (9 pts on 4-12 shooting) and point guard Bo Spencer (5 pts and 2-14 from the floor).  Storm Warren (15 points 7 rebounds) was the lone Tiger consistently productive on this night.  My baseline press vantage point saw Johnson not ranting but in virtual conversation or debate with the officials all night. Clearly, LSU had a lot more issues with execution that needed addressing.

I’m impressed with Arizona State coming out tough. Too often teams are prepared and ready for Duke but play tenuous, afraid to miss a shot or make a turnover. Herb Sendek has plenty of experience facing Duke while at NC State, so he had his team ready and playing the role of aggressor. I was especially impressed with the grit and penetration skills of Sun Devil senior guard Derek Glasser who consistently gained access to the paint.  To their credit on a night they could have been headed to a third place game on Black Friday, Duke was resilient to meet the challenge and respond. Kyle Singler (1-6 first half) hit a huge trey that sparked a mid second half spurt that allowed Mike Krzyzewski’s club to prevail 64-53.

This is Duke’s biggest team in years if not the biggest under Coach K. Still, the motion offense, movement and presentation of great looks is there. I’m looking forward to the big man matchup. UConn blocked 13 shots or 21% of the LSU field goal attempts on Wednesday. Their shot-blocking ability has to be a big concern for Duke.  I’m also interested to see how well LSU can respond after Wednesday as they meet ASU in the consolation.

To all… a happy holiday!!!

rtmsf (3954 Posts)

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One response to “Floriani at the Preseason NIT”

  1. jtruman37 says:

    I’m nervous for this match up. The Duke/UConn game, I mean. Well, nervous isn’t the right word. I’m anxious anytime the Huskies play Duke. It’s not a game I particularly care to see my team lose. & I’ve enjoyed the run. I want to say UConn has won the last 3 or 4 games against the Devils, including some big ones.

    If this game were played in January, or later, I would be more confident than I am now. It doesn’t all have to do w/ the absence of Ater Majok, but that is a big piece of the puzzle missing. & I’m sure the Dukies are equally bummed to be missing the injured Plumlee (whichever one that is). This year’s UConn team is odd. They have some experience, in key positions, but they also have a lot of youth. The youth is in the frontcourt, & that is not where you want it. Gavin Edwards has been a role player more than the factor he was last night. Hopefully he’s taking the sort of step forward that Hilton Armstrong did, between his junior & senior seasons. @ least, hopefully he’ll be a consistent factor.

    My point is that this UConn team, w/ a season’s maturity under their belts, & w/ Majok, will be a tough out. & that the team that plays Duke tomorrow, & Kentucky on Dec 9, will be better, if the teams were to meet again, in March. The same is true for every team, to an extent. & still, it will be an interesting match up tomorrow. This Husky team is smaller than & less experienced, up front, than we’ve been accustomed to. But they are FAST, & athletic. & they play a lot of D’.

    Conversely, this Duke team is bigger than we’ve been accustomed to, from them. & has some pretty good experience from it’s core players. I don’t see an abundance of ball handlers, & maybe that could be a facet the Huskies would look to exploit. Scheyer seems to handle the ball a lot, & I imagine Smith. The Huskies have been running a fair amount of full court, so far, this season. I don’t expect the Devils to be as bothered by the press as the Tigers were last night, but the prowess of the Husky perimeter D’ has been undervalued ever since Dyson showed up on campus. Blocks are thesexy statistic, but Dyson is a stud, & Walker & Robinson are both great perimeter defenders. I think they will give Duke some trouble.

    UConn is helped by Duke not shooting the lights out. I hate to say this game comes down to rebounding, all games do. But, in particular, this game will be decided on the boards. UConn’s defense, & speed & athleticism offensively, will be difficult for Duke to contend w/. & Duke’s defense, & offensive execution, & size (we’ll see), are the things the Huskies will need to endure/disrupt. That leaves the boards, turnovers, & the FT line. FT’s could also be a telling point. Both teams usually shoot a good amount more than their opponents, so we’ll see there.

    Bottom line, I wish it were a big game against anyone accept Duke. My sporting blood has enjoyed the mastery, of Coach K, that Calhoun has enjoyed. I think the Huskies could end up losing a game before long (unless they replicate last’s night’s effort), & I’d hate for it to be this one. I’ll stop short of saying good luck to the Blue Devils, tomorrow, but I will say Happy Thanksgiving.

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