Harvard, UConn and UMass all left the mainland earlier this week undefeated but only one team returns to the region with an unblemished record and a Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament Title. Every college coach always talks about the value of early-season tournaments in learning about their teams, so we took a look at what insight each coach may have gained from their stay in the Bahamas.
Many people viewed Harvard as a threat to potentially ruin a Florida State-UConn final, but few projected the Crimson to come away with the first-ever Battle 4 Atlantis title. Tommy Amaker's group dispatched Utah, Florida State and Central Florida on their way to the title and their first 6-0 record since the 1984-85 season.
1. Harvard's defense is even better this year. In 30 games last season the Crimson kept opponents to 49 points or fewer just twice, they pulled the feat off three times this weekend alone. The Crimson rank ninth in the nation in opponent's points per game at 52 points, including a first half average of just 24 points.
Amaker's squad has held opponents to 41 percent shooting, 30 percent from behind the arc and it has even carried over to the free throw line where opponents have shot a paltry 58 percent. As the Ivy League co-champions a year ago, the Crimson allowed 64 points per game and opponents shot 43 percent from the field. If the team can continue bearing down on opponents with more and more players getting involved in the rotation, Harvard could be unstoppable against league opponents.
2. Kyle Casey has taken some major steps forward in his development. The Medway, Massachusetts native averaged 10 points over the weekend and led the team in scoring and rebounding against Central Florida in the title game. For most of his time in Cambridge he has been overshadowed by Keith Wright, but Casey was given a lot of praise by preseason publications and has shown he deserves it.
Last year Casey struggled in some of the team's biggest games, including just seven points and four rebounds against Princeton in the Ivy League deciding game. This year he's finished in double-figures in four of the team's six games, is the second leading scorer and has asserted himself taking a team-high 49 shots. Few teams in the Ivy League or on the Crimson schedule can boast a duo as strong as Casey and Wright inside.
1. The biggest take from the Bahamas for Jim Calhoun is how badly his team is in need of some leadership and maturity. Junior forward/center Alex Oriakhi tweeted not once, but twice over the weekend supposedly expressing his frustration with Calhoun this weekend. The talented co-captain has struggled mightily this season and as the elder statesmen on a young squad is setting a horrible example.
On the court there are just as many concerns. Jeremy Lamb, the team's best talent and a preseason All-American, looked tentative at points over the weekend and is not taking control of the game in crunch time. In the team's games on Friday and Saturday, Lamb sat back patiently letting Shabazz Napier run the offense rather than demanding the ball. Napier struggled mightily over the final two games turning the ball over 13 times compared to just 10 assists. After a fantastic first five games, Napier showed his youth, forcing passes and trying to do too much with the ball down the stretch. Talented freshmen Andre Drummon and Ryan Boatright also displayed their inexperience as well over the weekend, missing some key free throws and getting called for sloppy fouls.
2. Boatright is going to be a difference maker right away. After sitting out the first six games of the season, the point guard finished with 14 points, three assists and one rebound in his collegiate debut Saturday against Florida State. Calhoun trusted him enough to put him on the floor in the final minutes and Boatright hit three free throws with seven seconds to play to tie the game and send it to overtime. He not only gives Calhoun another weapon but his presence seemed to spark Napier and Lamb against Florida State. Most importantly, Boatright didn't try to be a hero in his first game out; he picked and chose his spots and looked for teammates early. With Boatright Uconn is a different team, now if only the rest of the Huskies could follow his lead.
1. UMass lived and died by the three-point shot this weekend and ultimately it sent them to their first two losses of the year. Derek Kellogg's new system was meant to speed up the pace of the game and create more open looks for the Minutemen, but the team has taken to settling for 3-point shots too often. On the season, UMass is taking 27 3-point shots a game, nine more than they took per game last season. The problem is the team hasn't improved their shooting at all from behind the arc shooting 29.7 percent compared to 29 percent from a year ago.
In their two losses this weekend (Florida State, College of Charleston), UMass hit just 6-of-51 attempts (11 percent) and lost by twenty points or more. In their win against Utah the Minutemen hit 15 of their thirty attempts to cruise past Utah. If UMass wants to give themselves a chance to win every game, the Minutemen are going to need to push the ball inside the paint more often and avoid falling in love with the 3-point shot.
2. Unfortunately for Kellogg the other big take from the weekend is that Chaz Williams is mortal. The Hofstra transfer has been the most electrifying player in the region thus far but showed his mortality in the team's losses. In the team's loss against the Seminoles, Williams struggles were understandable. The immense Florida State bigs continually blocked, altered or enveloped Williams and his shots.
Saturday's issues were a bit harder to pinpoint. Williams hit just 2-of-9 shots, turned the ball over three times and failed to record an assist for the first time this season. Three games in three days is a lot for anyone especially a player not having played in a year but Williams was unable to provide his regular spark. After hitting over 50 percent of his shots through the first handful of games, Williams is down to 39 percent from the field and 37 percent from beyond the arc. The rest of the roster has to be more productive and Kellogg may have sit Williams a few more minutes a game, relying on Jesse Morgan to lead the team.
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