What Teams Can Take Away From the 2K Classic
Connecticut ended up surviving close games with Boston College and Indiana to come away with this year’s championship, but there is plenty you can take away from each of these teams as we inch closer to the start of conference play.
Here are some observations on the four 2K Sports Classic teams:
Two close games in New York, but Connecticut, specifically Shabazz Napier, stepped up when it mattered. Napier had 47 points in the two games, including 27 in the championship on 10-14 shooting. Perimeter shooting from behind the arc was an issue for the Huskies, hovering around the 30% mark. Napier and Ryan Boatright are both capable of getting into the lane against anyone, though Boatright seemed to force the issue too much, especially against a very good Indiana perimeter defense. DeAndre Daniels showed off the athleticism that made him a big-name recruit coming out of high school, and though he only scored 7 points against Indiana (after 23 against Boston College), his length and activity made defenses continue to focus on him. Still, Napier carried this team in the title game and it reinforced the message that the role players on UConn will need to step up. Niels Griffey had a strong start to the season, especially behind the arc, and freshman big Amida Brimah will make things difficult for opponents around the basket as he learns the game. Omar Calhoun needs to do more when he gets his chances or Napier will need to keep shouldering the load.
After a decisive win against Washington in the semifinals, Indiana had a lot of problems with Connecticut’s perimeter defense in the championship. Point guard Yogi Ferrell scored 20 per game in the two games, but the number of bad shots he took was staggering. Still, he is showing to be a better perimeter shooter already this year than he was as a freshman. Will Sheehey is adjusting well to being a starter and while the numbers will never wow you, he is a consistent scorer and played tough defense on the UConn forwards. Two Indiana freshmen, Troy Williams and Noah Vonleh, had tremendous games against Washington, but did very little against Connecticut. Vonleh is Indiana’s best shot-blocker and rebounder, but battled foul trouble from early on against UConn and never got into the offense. Williams had trouble finding space to get off good shots or get into the lane against the Huskies. Indiana is still a team that is relying on a lot of young players and there will be nights like the one against UConn where you could see the frustration, yet they had a good chance to tie the game at the buzzer. They should be in good shape come March.
It’s been a rough start to the season for the Eagles, but they were able to leave New York with a win against Washington under their belt, after playing UConn tough in the semifinals. Olivier Hanlan continues to be one of the best scorers in the country, but he has the ball in his hands way too much for any of his teammates to get into a scoring rhythm, especially Ryan Anderson. Against UConn, Anderson was having his way with the Huskies, yet he didn’t get nearly as many touches as he should have. The game against the Eagles was a bit more up-tempo and he still found ways to put points on the board. Sophomore guard Joe Rahon and junior guard Lonnie Jackson fill out the backcourt nicely, but the lack of a “true” point guard is hurting this team. Hanlan would be best if he can be moved off the ball and allowed to just focus on getting free for shots.
The Huskies stay resulted in two losses in which they were never seriously a threat to win. It is hard to imagine where they would be without CJ Wilcox who scored 54 points over the two days, including 6 of 7 from three against Boston College. Senior transfer Perris Blackwell was impressive against Indiana’s more athletic big men in the first game, and he uses his bulk well around the basket. Freshman point guard Nigel Williams-Goss is steady for a young guard, but he still needs to find a way to make a mark on the offense. Sophomore Andrew Andrews has the look of the next big Huskies’ scorer once Wilcox graduates, though some of his shots just make you shake your head. Coach Lorenzo Romar will need to still play around with his lineups before conference play starts and find a core which can be effective over the course of a full game.