DAILY DISH: UConn not getting enough respect


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Sometimes in life, people can be slow to recognize what’s coming.

Like back in 2000, when a 12-year old kid named Kelsey Dayton got a sudden growth spurt and started sonning kids down at the Waterbury YMCA.

No one expected me to drop 11 on the Bank Street Roughriders that game.

Here in 2013, college basketball pollsters have been slow to react to the UConn Huskies, who have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they will be a team to be reckoned with this season.

shabazz napier

Shabazz Napier has had an outstanding year for UConn thus far. (AP Photo)

As it stands right now, UConn is the 18th-ranked team in the nation.


The problem with that? There’s no way there are 17 teams better than them.

Now, sports writers can be a stubborn bunch. Some are more resistant to change than a Mississippi governor.

So the fact that a well-coached, postseason-eligible UConn team has gone largely unnoticed probably shouldn’t be a surprise.

But for those who have watched the Huskies on a daily basis, a No. 18 ranking is borderline insulting.

UConn boasts one of the best point guards in the nation in senior Shabazz Napier (13.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 7.8 apg), who is having a renaissance year at the point and completely defying the laws of physics by grabbing 9.5 rebounds per game at 6-1. (9.5 rebounds per game!)

Napier recorded his second career triple double in a win over Yale last week, becoming the first Husky in history to do so. He’s been outstanding so far this year, making the right decisions at the right time, knocking down shots, and running the offense like a general.

Perhaps most telling is the fact that he’s shooting 86% from three-point range (with a small sample size no doubt). Napier took some terrible three-pointers at crucial times last season, but he’s cleaned that part of his game up nicely.

But it’s not just about Napier.

The Huskies have gotten an unexpected boost from freshman center and Ghana native Amida Brimah.

Amida Brimah has been a revelation for the Huskies in the paint. (AP/Jason DeCrow)

Amida Brimah has been a revelation for the Huskies in the paint. (AP/Jason DeCrow)

The seven-footer has given UConn the kind of interior shot blocking presence they’ve been missing since Hasheem Thabeet left Storrs. He is averaging 4 swats per game, and is an automatic alley-oop on the offensive end. He’s agile and mobile for a kid his size, and has a chance to be a terrific player at the college level–if he doesn’t jump early for the NBA.

UConn is deep, with 10 guys firmly entrenched in the rotation. Junior guard Ryan Boatright (12.8 ppg, 4.3 apg) has been an explosive scorer and can go off for 20-plus points at any time.

Sophomore guard Omar Calhoun has shown a ton of potential and has played well so far this year, averaging 12 points per game. 6-7 Senior Niels Giffey has 20-plus point potential and is a lethal shooter from downtown. He’s been outstanding early in games this season.

6-9 junior DeAndre Daniels (10.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg) is a potential first-round NBA Draft pick and was supposed to take the next step this season. He’s been a little bit sluggish at times, but has the talent to become the best player on the team by season’s end.

Senior guard Lasan Kromah and freshmen guard Terrence Samuel add depth, as does senior forward Tyler Olander, who has battled personal issues but is a quality big man and should be getting starter’s minutes.

To sum it up, the Huskies are pretty freaking good. They’re deep, talented and led by one of the best point guards in the country. If Jim Calhoun was on the sidelines, this team would be considered a national championship contender.

Take a look at the AP Top 25 poll, and there’s no way Memphis, VCU, Syracuse, Wichita State, Michigan, or Florida should be ranked ahead of the 4-0 Huskies. In fact, I’d put UConn inside the Top 10.

But what do I know?

I’m just a little-known sportswriter waiting for his 11-point outburst.

Those YMCA kids still remember that game, I’m sure.

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