The good news is the whole UConn team is back
The bad news is the whole UConn team is back (good or bad depends on point of view)
What's new? Maya Moore
2 Tahirah Williams JR. G 6-0
11 Ketia Swanier sr. G 5-7
13 J Fernandes so. G 5-9
14 Meghan Gardler so F 6-0
20 R Montgomery jr. G 5-7
24 Charde Houston sr. F 6-1
25 Mel Thomas sr. G 5-9
31 Tina Charles so. C 6-4
32 Kalana Greene jr. G 5-10
41 Kaili McLaren so. F 6-2
44 Brittany Hunter sr. C/F 6-3
51 Cassie Kerns So. C/F 6-3
x Maya Moore FR F 6-0
XX Lorin Dixon FR G 5-8
Here's the minutes played and scoring average vs that schedule we know so well in 07
20 MONTGOMERY 31.6 13.3
31 CHARLES, 23 12.7
24 HOUSTON, 26 12.5
32 GREENE, 29 12.4
25 THOMAS, 31 10.5
44 HUNTER, 9 5.6
11 SWANIER, 22 5.3
41 MCLAREN, 12.5 3.6
02 WILLIAMS, 8 1.8
14 GARDLER, 8 1.3
51 KERNS, 5 0.7
This is the team that hasn't been to a Final Four in three years. This is the team that lost at home to Tennessee, lost at UNC, and got beat in the Big East Finals by Rutgers and was tromped by LSU by 23 in the West Regional finals. Good news is these were the 4 teams in last year's final four. The bad news is LSU and Rutgers are the same once again and the Lady Vols should be improved.
UNC's loss of Little and Latta could give UConn the place they desire in last of the big dance. But UNC won't be that bad and Maryland and Duke will be out for that spot too along with Stanford.
Charles and Hunter give UConn a 6'4 6'3 frontline with Kerns at 6'3 and McLaren at 6'2 and that's it for height. They started Charles and Houston at 6'1 last year with Greene, Thomas, and Montgomery. The UConn fans seem to think Moore may be a starter sometime in the season instead of Thomas or Greene. But Moore will have to add something that Greene or Thomas or Houston aren't providing to make an improvement. This UConn team has been pretty productive and there is no obvious weak link with this balance.
Balanced scoring is an understatement. The top scorer Montgomery at 13.3 and Thomas the 5th at 10.6 sandwich three at 12 ppg. Montgomery was a 31 percent 3 point shooter with 46 of 148. Thomas was 87 of 205 for 42 percent. Thomas averaged 3 of 7 vs teams ranked below 80 in the RPI early in the season and only 2 of 6 in the NCAA tournament late in the season. Thomas causes a good deal of dissent among UConn fans. Her 3 pt. percentage is slightly better than her 2 point shooting but both are over 40%.
Hunter and Charles have the best shooting percentages on the team. But given the 14 games vs below 100 RPI teams it's tough to know how effective they are when playing the better post defenders. Charles went 0 for 5 vs LSU's Fowles in the final game.
Montgomery was the 2nd best player on Alexis Hornbuckle's HS team and is the leading scorer for the Huskies.
As long as Connecticut is playing sub-100 teams they should have no trouble continuing to rack up wins by large margins. They can probably continue to take 2 out of 3 from Rutgers. It will be interesting to see how UConn does vs LSU and UNC this year. They should have good shot vs UNC at home. LSU will be a different matter knowing what they know from this past year. But UConn should find themselves with an easy one seed this season.
Without the trip to Tennessee they stand a good chance of being undefeated if they can get by LSU and UNC. The rest of the schedule looks easy except for Rutgers. Could RU take 2 of 3 this year?
We can hope for a National Championship match up with UConn. It would be sweet to meet them with the stronger team for a change so we can end that 0'fer 4 talk. But UConn will have to get past LSU or RU or Md or 2 of the 3 in the NCAA for that to happen.
additional comment after reading the Boneyard.
TonyC and the UConn faithful are going on and on about the 3 Players of the Year - Hunter, Charles, and Moore and how that makes UConn THE team to beat and THE best team in the country. For Moore to have any impact she will take minutes from one of the 5 starters who are part of the balanced scoring attack. For Dixon to have any impact she has to take time from the top scorer Montgomery and her back up Swanier. TonyC has her making a big impact. How's that gonna happen?
Is McLaren improved? How will we ever know? Does she take minutes from Charles or Hunter or Houston.
Will Charles be a much stronger player following her shoulder surgery? I thought she was plenty strong last year except against Fowles or Vaughn. She shot 60%, led the team in rebounds and had only 67 turnovers which was 4th on the team. What more could one ask of Charles? Charles played only 11 minutes vs TN and 13 vs UNC Hunter played 19 and 18. She played 30 in the loss to RU scoring only 8 points while Hunter played on 3 minutes and went 0 fo 5 in 21 minutes vs LSU in the last game while Hunter played but 6. So Charles got more time on the court as Hunter lost time as the season progressed. Sure Charles will improve and get more time than Hunter. She still has to score over Vaughn, Fowles, or Anosiki/Cain/Parker/Baugh to help UConn take a National Championship.
Is Moore's time going to come from Greene? Greene was the big bright spot for UConn last year. She was a 50% shooter and the third best rebounder after Houston and Charles. Is Moore going to out do that as a freshman? Sure Moore will be another fine option for the Huskies on a team of fine options. I don't see her having Candace Parker impact on that team. Candace averaged 31 minutes and 17 ppg her first season on the court at Tennessee. There is no way that happens with Maya. There just isn't room in the lineup for those minutes. Last years starting rotation will do fine vs the typical early season UConn cupcakes so she won't be needed to win. Maybe she blows Greene or Thomas out of the lineup by out working them in practice?
So the Players of the Year? Well it's either Charles or Hunter on the court not both and Moore has to play her way in to the lineup over productive starters. There are 14 players on the UConn roster and everybody has to take a cut in playing time to fit Moore and Dixon into the lineup. That's not a recipe for great chemistry. Nobody likes to improve their game and get less playing time.
Tennessee has 42 minutes to fill and four freshmen of 10 players. That's going to be one happy team because nobody has to play much less than last year for everybody to get good court time.