Connecticut vs. Kentucky: Reaction

Last night’s game between UConn and Kentucky felt bigger than just some “SEC/Big East Challenge.” There was an electricity surrounding the game. Whether it was all the John Wall hype or simply because it was the fourth and twelfth ranked teams in the country or the overblown Jim Calhoun-John Callapari rivalry, it was probably the best college basketball game I’ve seen this year. I’m disappointed and frustrated that Connecticut lost but to put this behind and move on, a few things should be thrown out there.

John Wall
Leading up to this game I already had an impacted ass of hype with this kid. “Oh, he’s the best in the country, number one NBA pick, better than Derek Rose, off-the-chart talent, blah blah blah.” For the first three minutes of the game, he lived up to the praise. He was quick, made steals and finished in transition, leading the Wildcats to a 12-0 lead. But then UConn slowed the pace, got two fouls on him and he sat the rest of the half. UConn chips away to eventually lead by six at halftime.

Naturally, Kentucky makes a run and the game is tight all the way until the end. In the key moments Wall made one lucky turnaround bank shot, and uncontested three, a mid-range jumper and a driving ‘and one’ layup that proved to be the winning basket. Wall was easily the best player on the court but was stopped twice when UConn put the bigger Stanley Robinson on him. Wall also seemed out of control at times and turned the ball over seven times.

Wall obviously got the headlines after the win, but his 25 points lead you to believe he had a much better game than he really did. Wall is good, but he’s young, cocky and selfish. He’s a shoot first guard that has yet to learn how to run a team from the point. He reminds me more of Jamal Crawford or Dwayne Wade than Derek Rose. While at Memphis Rose was faster, more explosive off the bounce, a better passer and could lead his team. Wall may be a great scorer, but he’s not the second coming of Kevin Durant, who I watched at Texas just destroy people. John Wall is breaking the hype machine and we’re only three weeks into the season. His one-on-one game is better suited for the NBA, which is where he’ll probably be this time next year.

Free Throws
I just don’t understand how these amazing players continue to suck at shooting free throws. They’re called FREE throws because it’s the easiest shot in the game where you stand at the line and shoot. Maybe UConn players can’t handle the pressure or do not focus enough when at the line, but again for their second loss, they lost because they can’t make free throws. I don’t know what it’s going to take but I have to guess that these players just need to practice more and step up their disciple and shooting routine. They left ten points on the line against Kentucky (and several front end one-and-ones) and lost by three. Same against Duke.

Fouling
I just don’t understand what goes through players’ heads on opposing fast breaks. On the one hand, you hustle back to try to make an amazing defensive play, like Walker did, stripping Wall and knocking it off his leg. On the other, you try to make the amazing play when you have no shot at it and only compound the problem by fouling and creating the ‘and-one,’ like Dyson on Wall’s breakaway dunk. Dyson’s foul changed the whole momentum of the game. He first turns the ball over, then trys to make up for it but only makes things worse by picking up his fourth foul. He then has to go to the bench and play timid the rest of the game.

It’s basic basketball IQ knowing what situations to foul in and how to foul. On Wall’s final drive of the game, he beat Robinson off the dribble. but then Oriaki rotates over and doesn’t know whether to go for the block or take the hard foul. Instead, he fouled and allowed Wall to make a great lay-up. If you’re going to foul and driving guard, foul him hard and make sure he misses the shot and has to earn it at the line!

UConn So Far
I really don’t like this team. I’ll wait to pass full judgment until Majok joins the team and we see what his hype is all about, but until then I think this team has no one that can shoot, Gavin Edwards is their only inside scoring threat and that the offense simply revolves around one guy (Dyson or Walker) driving and hoping to draw the foul or create and offensive rebound. Stanley Robinson continues to be inconsistent and Calhoun still does not trust the Freshman, besides Oriaki, to give them any sort of playing time. The season will depend on how well they do in the Big East and if the tape so far is any indication, Syracuse will shut them down with their 2-3 zone, Villanova will shoot them out of the building and West Virginia will dominate inside. Let the fun begin!

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