Friday, November 03, 2006

Why the break needs to work

Against man-to-man defenses, UConn has enough athleticism to counter.

Zones?

Maybe a problem.

Historically, Jim Calhoun-coached teams do not like playing against zones. The 1-3-1 zone American International played probably was a good thing. While knowing his UConn team has yet to practice against a 1-3-1 zone, Calhoun was a bit dismissive in his post-game press conference, but he understands it’s just another area his team needs to work on before the regular season begins.

Calhoun says his team is receptive to instruction, which, of course, is a good thing and obviously a necessity. But with one of his most athletic teams and one of his quickest, running the break may also be a necessity. He has the players to do it. With a handful of talented guards and athletic big men who understand how to fill lanes on the break, this should work.

There were signs of this during the AIC game.

First, overlook the 25 turnovers. It was the first exhibition game.

Now, look at the 20 assists.

A concern when practice began was the team’s collective unselfishness. A few poor choices were made on the break Wednesday night. Passes were made when a 10-foot jumper would have sufficed. An extra pass sometimes seemed to be one two many.

With A.J. Price and Doug Wiggins the only guards showing some decision-making savvy, the Huskies ran well at times. Each finished with four assists. Each also finished with three turnovers. Still, a better than 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Marcus Johnson led UConn with five assists, a small positive with his eight points. He also had three turnovers and a few times, opted to pass before attacking the rim and scoring. Is unselfishness a good thing? Sometimes. Not always. This will probably be addressed as well.

Another small positive was the interior passing. Jeff Adrien, Curtis Kelly, Stanley Robinson and Gavin Edwards each had an assist along with six combined turnovers. Not good, though, not bad.

Back to the break, though.

Hasheem Thabeet is still learning. A few outlet passes sailed from the 7-foot-3 freshman center’s hands. He will be a key component in this scenario. His four turnovers were somewhat expected but it’s a guard’s responsibility to direct traffic. This will evolve into a constant with familiarity.

Meantime, the most effective lineup while running the break against AIC included Price, Wiggins and Dyson, even though the freshman did turn in an unexpected less-than-average effort. Dyson added two assists and two turnovers, one of which was a poor decision on the break when an alley-oop pass sailed off Johnson’s fingers.

Analysis: In half-court sets, scoring shouldn’t be a problem if Thabeet stays out of foul trouble. UConn has more quality perimeter shooting than years past. Will the Huskies pass up open shots?

It’s November, we’ll see.

The Huskies only scored 13 fast-break points against AIC. Their break was slow developing at times because of where it started. Edwards, one of the more cerebral freshmen, understood the concept but was slow to adjust to the pace. This applies to Thabeet as well. Time and repetition will improve this.

Wiggins and Price and Dyson all knew how to run the break. Decision making is the next step – who to trust, who will finish, who will then make the correct decision in return.

This all comes with familiarity. If UConn’s guards learn their personnel, if they make correct decisions, the break could be a very viable tool.

The guards must also learn how to be a little selfish. A 10-foot jumper is just as effective as a dunk from a forward trailing the play.

Decision making by 18 and 19 year olds takes some time to develop.

Will the guards grasp it? If so, points could add up and add yet another dimension to an athletic team.

See you next week.

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