Connecticut's Woes Start At The Point
The Huskies finished last season atop the polls, national champions thanks in large part to their consensus All-American point guard, Kemba Walker. Walker was arguably the most dynamic player in all of the land averaging 23.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals in nearly 38 minutes per game; during the Huskies' 11-game win streak through the Big East and NCAA Tournament, he stepped up his game even further, taking over games almost single-handedly, recording a +/- rating of +88 during these games compared to the few minutes he was off the court.
So point guard has gone from the team's biggest strength, to by far and away their biggest weakness in 2011-12. Things looked promising with rising sophomore Shabazz Napier taking over for Walker, gaining valuable experience during UConn's run, but coach Jim Calhoun was also bringing in highly-rated freshman point guard Ryan Boatright.
But things are no so perfect for these Huskies' point guards. Boatright was suspended on two separate occasions per NCAA investigations and Shabazz Napier might as well have been suspended with his lackadaisical play-making and shot selection. Beginning with the starter of 20 of UConn's 21 games, Napier, is now shooting under 40 percent from the field, his 2-point field-goal percentage is just 34.9 percent, and luckily, he is shooting 40.9 percent from behind the arc this season. Last game, a must-win in some senses as the Huskies were on a three-game losing streak, Napier recorded an 0-for-9 shooting effort. Needless to say, UConn lost to bring their streak to four straight Ls. And from a playmaking perspective, Napier often over-dribbles in the halfcourt offense, taking the team out of any set it may be running or too often, he fails to recognize the open big man in the post. Andre Drummond was a perfect 4-of-4 to start the game against Georgetown and during UConn's shooting slump (missed 17 of 18 shots), Napier was 0-for-4, while the 7-footer Drummond had three shot-attempts, two of which were created by himself off of offensive rebounds. The stagnant offense is sparked by Napier's lack of running any resemblance of an offense.
Boatright made his first start against Georgetown, sparking a blistering 6-of-7 shooting mark to start the game with three assists for the Huskies. With foul troubles, the team shooting slump extended to Boatright too where the freshman eventually finished 0-for-4 from the field on the night. In his limited time on the floor, he has been a more dynamic playmaker for his teammates, but also possesses a better offensive game than Napier and is not as reliant on the pull-up jumper.
Calhoun made the right move switching Boatright into the starting lineup and moving Napier onto the bench. We will find out more this weekend when UConn takes on Seton Hall, but also next week when they travel to Louisville and Syracuse for Big East battles.
By President Corey Ruff - 2 - 2 - 12