Saturday, March 5, 2011

What Does Calhoun Do?

At the beginning of the year the UConn Huskies were brilliant and unexpectedly explosive. They continued to rise until Notre Dame fought to win by three points at home. While the Huskies were young and Pittsburgh was the easy favorite to clean up and win the Big East, the Huskies were just outplayed and over-matched. UConn still went on to beat Texas and Villanova on the back of Kemba Walker. Even in a stretch in the middle of the season, freshman Jeremy Lamb and veteran Jamal Coombs-McDaniels were on hot streaks taking the load off of Walker. Then came Lousiville at the Huskies home in Gampel. It all went down hill from there.

During this game UConn and Lousiville battled to two overtimes and there were some exciting plays by Peyton Siva and Walker going back and forth only to see Siva make some great plays down the stretch to edge out a one point victory. But there was one thing that stuck out to me that played a huge role in this game. Louisville knew Kemba had to at least be altered getting into the paint. So they implemented a zone in the days before getting to Storrs. This zone was pretty effective in holding UConn to last second shots and made it difficult for Kemba to get to the rim, especially with inconsistent big man Alex Oriahki. That was the first time they saw that zone and lost to a good team on the rise.

From this point on, the teams that have used a zone have challenged and, majority of the time, beaten the Huskies. Syracuse dominated using their height as pillars in the paint to stop penetration. Louisville again rocked them, being extremely comfortable with how to stop Kemba Walker. West Virginia and Marquette both held the Huskies scoreless for a lengthy period of time in the second half when they decided to start using zone.

Jim Calhoun's offense with the zone is pass left, pass center, pass right, until the last person with the ball has to do something because there are eight seconds or less left on the shot clock. The West Virginia game saw the Huskies fail to score a basket in the last four minutes after the Mountaineers started doing what? ...playing zone defense. After that game, Calhoun said that the zone was not the problem. The same thing happened again versus Notre Dame. For the last five minutes or so, UConn struggled when they brought in a zone defense. At what point do you need to realize that something needs to change? Marquette held them without a field goal for up to eight minutes when playing zone. When does a coach have to realize this is just not working?

For a while now I have been questioning Calhoun's coaching abilities. Ever since Siva and the game against the Louisville Cardinals, there has been no adjustment when the zone defense has been brought in. As said before, UConn's offense against the zone is pass to people at top of the three point line until the shot clock runs out. It bothers me and probably many other Husky fans that nothing has been done. No one moves around, picks are lazy and everyone looks to Kemba Walker to do everything. Calhoun seems content now taking the ball out of Jeremy Lamb's hands and I don't know why. The kid is talented, can hit the three and penetrate without having to make a lay-up all the time with his tear drop shot. Calhoun needs to stop sitting back and watching and get in the tape room and bury himself in new plays because UConn, with their glaring weakness, is more beatable then ever.

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