Monday, November 7, 2011

Good Weekend for UConn Football and Soccer, Work Begins for Basketball This Weekend

Wins by the football team, both basketball teams in their exhibitions, and men's soccer all combined to make it a significant weekend to be a UConn fan but it really sets the stage for this coming weekend when the regular season begins for basketball and football looks to remain potentially bowl eligible while the soccer team continues its quest for the Big East championship and beyond that the national title.

Let's start with the soccer team, what a story this team has been all year. If you followed the podcasts you know that for much of the season they were the top ranked team in the country and if not for a couple late conference losses they would have been top seeded in the Big East tournament. Over the weekend the conference tournament started in Storrs, one of the best collegiate soccer stadiums in the country with some of the loudest and strongest student sections (I was once a Goal Patroller myself), and the Huskies defeated Depaul to move forward and play Rutgers in New Jersey. After defeating the Scarlet Knights yesterday UConn moves to the semi-finals and will play Louisville, a team they beat earlier in the year 1-0 in overtime, before either the Big East title game or with a loss the NCAA tournament. The game against Louisville will be at Red Bull Arena in New York, should be an awesome atmosphere and should be a telling sign as to how ready the Huskies are for elite postseason competition.

Moving on to football, in what we'll call the best ugly performance out of the offense this year. In a game no one wanted to win, eventually UConn was forced to take the victory. Honestly if your team has five turnovers, including three lost fumbles (actually fumbled four times just got one back) and two interceptions, do you ever deserve to win a game. In terms of effectiveness this is the best the Huskies offense has been all year, the offensive line looked unstoppable getting Lyle McCombs and the rushing attack going. McEntee was still plagued by indecisiveness and poor decisions when he finally made one but McCummings looked sloppy at times and is not an efficient passer either, but the fact that the offense manages first downs while he is in the game should be enough to earn him the starting job the rest of the way. This team has no margin for error, based on their strength of schedule and the bad losses they have anymore losses could mean that they are left out of the bowl picture. They managed against Syracuse but with Rutgers, Cincinnati, and Louisville left on the schedule every aspect of their game needs to be better and more polished. That is every aspect but punt and kick returns, this Nick Williams guy has been punishing other teams on kick returns since he got to school. I mean he even had one against Oklahoma in the BCS game last year when the score was still respectable, you'd think people would know better than to give him a chance because two of UConn's scoring drives were started in Syracuse territory off a great special teams return. The defense did just enough to win but the scheme is so simplistic that a solid offense like Cincinnati will have no trouble with some creative play calls exploiting the missed assignments and lack of depth in the secondary. I think the best chance for UConn to win in the coming weeks is to stick with McCummings and hope his running ability with Lyle McCombs is enough to keep the opposing offense off the field for most of the game, control the time of possession and this team's chances of winning increase dramatically. That is if they can hold onto the ball at all, did the referees think it was still Halloween and put petroleum jelly all over the ball as a trick, it looked like they were playing hot potato.

Men's basketball finished off their last exhibition with a thirty point victory which showcased Jeremy Lamb's ability to score, Shabazz Napier's passing but poor shot selection, and the big men's dominance on the boards. Just like in their first exhibition this game showed little about the Huskies that we didn't know going into the season, but the considerable lack of depth at point leaves a big question mark as to how Napier will adjust from his normally aggressive style of defense. Knowing he doesn't really have a viable replacement and will need to play a majority of the forty minutes I need to see that he can play defense with his man in front of him and not allowing a blow by in the hopes of getting a steal and settling for a foul like he did a lot of last year. However, other than the lack of depth at point guard this team really looks poised to be the best in the nation with three deep at every position and superior length and athleticism to any team in the Big East and arguably the country. This Friday's opener against Columbia will give fans a first look at how Calhoun plans to manage personnel through a full length regular season game and without much trouble will end in a win for the Huskies as they begin their quest for a repeat of last year's magical national championship.

Women's basketball did what they do in their exhibition game against Assumption, in every women's game I've ever watched against a non ranked opponent Geno manages to keep his team aggressive and focused throughout and the result is almost always a fifty plus point win. There are two big question marks heading into the season, can Caroline Doty stay healthy and contribute on a team that made the final four without her and how does a team come together after losing arguably the greatest women's collegiate basketball player ever. Maya Moore was the go to option last year because there was a general lack of maturity on the team, as Stephanie Dolson became more comfortable a little of that weight lifted but in every crunch situation the ball was headed to Maya so I'm curious to see who shoulders that burden this year. They have one final exhibition this Wednesday the 9th, and then the regular season begins Saturday the 13th against Holy Cross.

Become a follower and stay up to date with the blog, later this week I'll post my predictions for the games this weekend.

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