Monday, October 09, 2006

Adrien gets up, gets down

Let’s keep it simple again.

The preseason will be littered with examination of the past coupled with a few future projections. This, of course, is limited when analyzing last season considering the facelift the team has received over the past six months.

So today we’ll look at something returning to Storrs.

Jeff Adrien.

The 6-foot-7 sophomore closed last season with a glimpse of what people hope will resurface this year when he finished with 17 points and seven rebounds against George Mason in the Elite Eight.

There are emotional and mental reasons why Adrien peaked that afternoon: one could be the fact that he played just five minutes the game before against Washington.

The Washington game was one of only three in which he logged less than five minutes and one of only four scoreless outings for the forward. The game was also one of just two with zeros next to his name in the rebounding category.

The only other game in which he registered zero in each category was against Pepperdine.

It was also the first game of the season.

Even though Adrien poses a match-up problem at times but was sometimes viewed as an inexperienced post player (see Josh Boone and Hilton Armstrong as mitigating factors), he did make the most of his minutes more than 70 percent of the time.

This is how a freshman matures over a season.

Remember this first cluster of statistics.

PERCEIVED BIG GAMES/UCONN LOSSES
Marquette, First Big East game, five points, five rebounds, 15 minutes
Villanova, Big East game, six points, seven rebounds, 23 minutes
Syracuse, Big East quarterfinal, four points, five rebounds, 15 minutes
George Mason, NCAA Tournament, 17 points, seven rebounds, 25 minutes

HOW ADRIEN EARNED MINUTES
FIRST 11 NON-CONFERENCE GAMES
Maui Invitational
Pepperdine, zero points, zero rebounds, four minutes
Arkansas, 11 points, six rebounds, 24 minutes
Arizona, zero points, six rebounds, 10 minutes
Gonzaga, 11 points, four rebounds, 12 minutes
Other non-conference games
Army, six points, two rebounds, 13 minutes
Texas Southern, 11 points, eight rebounds, 18 minutes
UMass, six points, two rebounds, 16 minutes
New Hampshire, five points, six rebounds, 19 minutes
Morehead State, 12 points, 10 rebounds, 23 minutes
Stony Brook, 13 points, one rebounds, 16 minutes
Quinnipiac, nine points, five rebounds, 12 minutes

OVERALL
6.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 16.5 mpg

BIG EAST
6.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 17.3 mpg

GAMES WHEN ADRIEN PLAYED MORE THAN 20 MINUTES
TOP FIVE PERFORMANCES
1. George Mason, 17 points, seven rebounds, 25 minutes
2. Morehead State, 12 points, 10 rebounds, 23 minutes
3. Seton Hall, 12 points, eight rebounds, 22 minutes
4. Arkansas, 11 points, six rebounds, 24 minutes
5. Louisville, nine points, 12 rebounds, 24 minutes
NOTE: Three of the top five were after the midpoint of the season

BOTTOM FIVE PERFORMANCES
1. Indiana, four points, five rebounds, 21 minutes
2. South Florida, six points, seven rebounds, 20 minutes
3. Villanova, six points, seven rebounds, 23 minutes
4. Cincinnati, seven points, two rebounds, 25 minutes
5. Kentucky, seven points, three rebounds, 20 minutes
NOTE: Four of the bottom five were after the midpoint of the season

Analysis: Yes, Adrien made the Big East All-Rookie Team in 2005-06 based on a better-than-average freshman season. He was rewarded for what he was brought to UConn to do. But if you return to the section highlighting each of UConn’s four losses in 2005-06, Adrien was a non-factor in all but one (George Mason) and in between experienced the highs and lows associated with being a freshman.

It’s safe to say, by the end of the season, Adrien realized even though he owned freshman status, it no longer mattered. It seemed as though he learned that a player in his position had to play up to his potential in every game of consequence.

Some additional notes on Adrien:

- The only sequence when Adrien logged consecutive 20-minute games was halfway through the Big East schedule when he played one of his best games and used the most of his playing time (quality minutes or QMs: an issue we’ll revert to throughout the season) against a mediocre opponent (Seton Hall). Adrien then played an average game against a quality opponent (Villanova). Yes, match-up problems were a key against Villanova’s then-vaunted four-guard offense, but that gave Adrien an opening to take advantage, which he didn’t do as well as he could have, based on statistical evidence. Off nights after a good game do not translate well in the Big East, granted Adrien only did this once last season and this could be the reason why some of his better performances were followed up by average games.

- Although he did not “hide” during all big games, he was a factor in some and less effective in others. Piecing together a string of quality performances while minutes fluctuate throughout the season is never easy. Overall, his quality performances (QPs: something we’ll also revisit again throughout the season), hovered around the 70 percent mark, better than 50 percent of last year’s UConn roster.

- Adrien shot well from the floor (61 percent) but struggled a bit from the foul line (64 percent). In order to improve his all-around game, one statistic must remain the same or improve while another desperately needs to improve.

The one factor, though, that is most telling of Adrien is his emotional impact, something that can only be measured in scientific and medical forums. Being non-existent against Washington in the Sweet 16 served as an ample segue to his top performance of the season, the last memory of Adrien from last winter.

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