The uconn huskies, a NCAA Tournament Final Four team a year ago, come sledding into Blacksburg to face the Hokies on Monday night in the Second Round of the NIT. Tech did not fare well against the huskies when the two teams were in the Big East, with uconn winning six of seven (Seth was 0-1). But this is a uconn team that was struggling mightily down the stretch as their coach Jim Calhoun dealt with health issues. The huskies lost 12 of 18 going into the NIT, including their last four games.
Seth Greenberg has always said he’d love a chance to coach a McDonald’s All-American. Well, Jim Calhoun and the huskies are on a first name basis with the Hamburglar and Ronald. uconn has four guys that were 5-star recruits on their roster. But after going to the Final Four and returning three seniors that were major contributors this year, things just haven’t panned out. I wouldn’t expect a lot of energy out of the huskies on the road in the NIT. Tech needs to take advantage of that and go after them early. Build up an early lead and the huskies may roll over and play dead.
Spread: The Hokies opened as a 4 point favorite.
SIX PACK OF KEYS TO WINNING:
- Keep the huskies off the offensive glass: uconn grabs 39% of their misses on offense, 20th best in the nation. Of course, quinnipiac had the 3rd best percentage in this area and held them to 33%. Tech must hold uconn to a similar number. Edwards, Oriakhi, and Robinson will challenge the Hokies. They average close to three offensive rebounds per game each.
- Pressure uconn: The huskies turn the ball over on 22% of their possessions which buts them in the bottom 20% in the nation. They will turn it over a lot. I’d love to see Greenberg use that half court trap and force the huskies to make extra passes – with Bell out top and Allen lurking for the steals.
- Take #2 and turn it into 2: Once the Hokies get turnovers they must turn them into points. Tech had a 27-2 edge in fast break points against quinnipiac. Don’t expect similar numbers in this one but the Hokies need to find ways to score other than in the half court. uconn does play good defense inside so it is tough to score in the lane.
- Force uconn to hit jump shots: uconn does not have a great shooter. Their two guards play 90% of the game and shoot just 40% from the field. Both of them average just 1.1 made threes per game, tops on the team (so they don’t have any shooters on the bench). uconn is dead last in the nation in percentage of points that come from 3-pointers.
- Make the extra pass: uconn isn’t good defending full possessions. When in the half court, work the clock, move the ball, and find the open man. uconn turns the ball over a lot and doesn’t force many (just 18% of opponent’s possessions). There will be open men if you move without the ball and the man with the ball looks around.
- Win states: VT beat quinnipiac of CT in Bear Fight fashion (20 point victory equals a Jager bomb and car bomb). Now Tech can take down the huskies and claim the Connecticut state title!
STARTERS AND SCOUTING REPORT:
|G||23 Delaney 6’3″||15 Walker 6’1″|
|G||5 Hudson 6’5″||11 Dyson 6’4″|
|F||1 Bell 6’6″||21 Robinson 6’9″|
|F||0 Allen 6’7″||33 Edwards 6’10″|
|C||14 Davila 6’8″||34 Oriakhi 6’9″|
This uconn team doesn’t have a force inside like a Thabeet or Okafor, thankfully, but can rebound the ball well. They also have three seniors in their starting lineup.
On offense, uconn is very good in transition, even on the secondary break, and will look to push when they can. But the huskies turn the ball over a lot, especially considering they have two All-Big East guards. When they struggled down the stretch their turnovers really got out of hand. They had double the turnovers their opponent had in two of their last four games, and were -6 in another game. Tech needs to force them to make the extra pass and force them to work in the half court, then look for steals. That half court trap VT has used at times could work very well against the huskies.
On defense you have to force uconn to defend the full possession. The huskies are aggressive on D and will take chances. If you can move the ball well, you are going to find open players as they get lazy as the shot clock wears on and aren’t great on help defense.
Hey, I’m all about leveraging what our readers know. Regular poster King provided this insight on the huskies lineup (thanks King!):
PG: Kemba Walker vs Malcolm Delaney (Advantage: Delaney…hands down) [Niemo's Note: Walker made 3rd Team All-Big East. Walker doesn't shoot a lot of threes but shoots a solid 34% from deep. Kemba likes to attack the rim and gets to the line a lot. He is very good in transition, but not a good spot up shooter. He was just 1/9 against northeastern.]
SG: Jerome Dyson vs Dorenzo Hudson (Advantage: Dyson…but only slightly…if ‘Zo is healthy it might be a Tie) [Niemo's Note: Dyson, like Walker, made 3rd Team All-Big East. So their starting back court was recognized by the league. Dyson led the team in scoring at 17.3 ppg but struggling shooting. Jerome shot under 40% from the floor and under 30% on 3s. Dyson was especially bad down the stretch, hitting just 6/26 shots (0/7 on 3s) in their final three games, all losses. He got benched early in the northeastern game for some defensive lapses but had a game high 18 points.]
SF: Stanley Robinson vs Terrell Bell (Advantage: Robinson…athletic freak w/ NBA length & DWash-like jumping ability; Bell will have to respect his jump shot, anticipate him going in for the alley-oop from the weak side, and work hard to keep him off the offensive glass) [Niemo's Note: Robinson had 14 against northeastern on 7/11 shooting because they couldn't match him inside. You must force him to beat you farther out, from 12 feet or more. And he does turn the ball over a lot so be aggressive on him away from the hoop, he'll make bad passes or can get stripped.]
PF: Gavin Edwards vs Jeff Allen (Advantage: Tie…Edwards doesn’t start but plays starter’s minutes…Allen starts but often rides the bench since he’s prone to fouling early and often…Edwards is a smart player who has underrated post moves and soft hands…Allen has a lot more upside and can take Edwards off the dribble…very intriguing matchup) [Niemo's Note: Edwards, a senior, did start the NIT first round game. He is a great offensive rebounder and Tech must keep him off the glass by boxing him out. Not a great shot blocker so you can go at him even though he is 6'10".]
C: Alex Oriakhi vs Victor Davila (Advantage: Tie…neither one is very good and both are young…Oriakhi had a solid game against Northeastern while Davila had more rebounds against the Q than in the previous 3 games combined) [Niemo's Note: Alex is just a space-eater inside. Decent but not great rebounder, not a good shooter unless it is a dunk, and terrible from the free throw line (55%). Can block shots though.]
Bench: uconn vs VT (Advantage: Tech… uconn has very little depth…big opportunity for players like JT, Atkins, Raines, & Witcher to contribute) [Niemo's Note: As King mentioned, their starters play a lot. Four of them average over 30 minutes. So they don't get a lot off the bench, but can bring in Lurch (Ater Majok - Martinsville, VA) to block shots. He is listed at 6'11" but I've never seen him stand up straight. The huskies get just eight points per game off their bench, so don't expect much of any offense.]
Intangibles: VT playing at home in the Cassell with eyes towards the NIT championship, proving the NCAA selection committee wrong (great job today Utah State…not) and setting a tone for next season. uconn is mailing this season in considering that they barely scraped by Northeastern. I also have to give credit to Greenberg for being a great motivator. Calhoun’s a hall-of-fame coach but he intimidates his players which causes them to stiffen up. They play to stay out of his doghouse and this explains why their psyche has been so fragile all season. I’m confident Seth will have the Hokies loose and ready to play.
Let’s Go Hokies!!! [Thanks again, King]