As you all know, Shabazz Napier has no problem speaking his mind. And I respect that — it’s definitely refreshing to hear something that isn’t pre-meditated media talk. Here’s his take from Tuesday.
“No disrespect to them, but this is one of the games you put a ‘W’ by before you even play,” Napier said.
Only problem is, against Providence, it’s not always an easy ‘W.’ In fact, the Friars have nipped the Huskies in five of the past seven meetings.
This one — a brutal 72-70 loss — hurts the most.
Earlier today, I said UConn needed two wins — any two — to sneak into the Big Dance. I’m not sure that’s the case anymore. I mean, this was a bad loss. Beating Pitt and winning one Big East tournament game (Villanova, Pitt and Providence are among the likely opponents) may not make up for all the bad losses.
It’s funny: I remember witnessing UConn’s 17-point meltdown against Central Florida in the Battle 4 Atlantis at the Bahamas. It was one of the first games I covered on the beat. And I remember thinking “That was one of the most bizarre UConn games I’ve seen. That won’t happen again this year, right?”
On Tuesday, UConn was up 14 with 12 minutes to play. Providence caught fire, and the Huskies — dead last in the Big East in 3-point defense — fell into another downward spiral. It always seems to start with the 3-point shot.
Sometimes you just say “Well, the other team shot the hell out of it. Not much we can do.”
But after a while, when it happens time and time again, it can’t be a coincidence. It has to be something you’re doing wrong. Andre Drummond was on LaDontae Henton, who primarily played the perimeter. Drummond has guarded those types of players — Kevin Jones, Jae Crowder — and, simply put, it’s not the best matchup for him. He’s super-athletic, yes, but his shot-blocking presence is completely negated when he’s chasing around Henton, Jones or Crowder.
Or Keith Clanton, remember him? The UCF big man knocked down 4-of-5 long-range attempts in that November disaster.
I remember calling the loss to UCF a “colossal meltdown.”
Turns out it was just a preview of the 2011-12 season.
Three months later, there still aren’t definitive answers.
During Monday’s media session, Blaney said something interesting: “It seems to me that they handle adversity pretty well, but they sometimes just let it go and don’t play together for periods of time. And that’s been a problem most of the year.”
Indeed, they “just let it go.”
Their offense deteriorates — UConn scored 38 points in the paint, but failed to get the ball inside when the snowball kept growing — their body language becomes discouraging and, worst of all, they get beat to loose balls and offensive rebounds.
It was that way when UConn lost to UCF in November, and on the second-to-last day of February, not much has changed. As a result, there may not be any Madness in March. At least not in Storrs.