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The UConn Fast Break - 12/15/2021
Early signing day for football. Meanwhile, men's and women's hoops are not at their best due to injuries.
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Football Signing Day!
Starting in 2018, college football recruits have had the opportunity to sign their letters of intent in December, instead of the first Wednesday in February, which had been widely known as National Signing Day.
Since then, it seems like the majority of recruits make their commitments official in December. The fanfare is a bit lighter as it’s a busy time in the sports calendar — NFL, NBA, NHL, plus college football and basketball all going on right now—compared to the February date.
Nevertheless, this is an interesting signing day for UConn football. New head coach Jim Mora did not have a ton of time to put his recruiting class together. His hire was announced on November 11 and since then, I imagine he’s been hard at work on the recruiting trail, given how important it is in college football.
This will not be an ideal time to evaluate Mora and his staff’s recruiting prowess given the time crunch. But we will want to see how many junior college and transfer players he brings in to help even out the classes on the roster. Mora also may sign a decent amount of players between now and February, and maybe more in the summer as well out of the portal after school ends.
Our football writer, Luke Swanson, put together a primer on the 11 players verbally committed to UConn right now and we’ll have more coverage from signing day across The UConn Blog and Storrs Central.
Men’s basketball loses at West Virginia - The Huskies played their first road game with fans for the first time since March 8, 2020. Playing without two starters, they took a 56-53 defeat. UConn led late but struggled to close the game down the stretch, shooting 1-for-8 in the final four minutes.
Men’s basketball No. 20 in AP Poll - The men fell a few spots after a loss to an unranked team, though the Huskies remain a top-15 NET team.
Women’s basketball drops to No. 7 in AP Poll - Thoughts and prayers for the women’s basketball fans in Connecticut. This is the Huskies’ lowest ranking since 2012.
No. 3 women’s basketball survives UCLA - It was not easy but the Huskies notched a 71-61 victory over the Bruins in the Never Forget Tribute Classic. Five players were in double figures, including a 16-point, 16-rebound performance from Dorka Juhasz, with the team coming together to win in the second half.
Georgia Tech upsets No. 3 women’s basketball, 57-44 - It was the Huskies’ first game without Paige Bueckers, the team failed to reach 45 points for the first time since 2006 and lost to an unranked opponent for the first time since 2012.
Mir McLean enters transfer portal - A second UConn women’s basketball player has entered the transfer portal, as forward Mir McLean will find a new school. The sophomore had not been able to secure much playing time.
New hockey arena making progress - UConn had a topping-off ceremony for the new hockey arena on Friday. The building is expected to be completed in Fall 2022.
Adam Huska makes NHL debut - Former men’s hockey goaltender was called up to make his first start in the show after New York Rangers starter Igor Shersterkin was placed on injured reserve. He is the third player from UConn’s Hockey East era to play in the NHL, preceded by Tage Thompson and Maxim Letunov.
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RJ Cole had quite the homecoming on Saturday, as he led No. 15 men’s basketball to victory over St. Bonaventure at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, just a few miles up I-78 from his hometown of Union.
Cole had a game-high 15 points and made this three-point play late in the second half to help keep the Bonnies from getting too close down the stretch. Come for the balance through contact, stay for Dan Hurley calling his guard a bad man.
Amida Brimah is part of a long line of great UConn shot-blockers. He’s third in UConn history in blocks per game (2.8) and blocks (367), more than 100 ahead of fourth on the list heading into the 2020-21 season. His 121 blocks in 2014-15 are the most rejections in one season by a player not named Okafor or Thabeet.
However, he was no slouch on the offensive side of the ball, either. The Ghana native is the program’s all-time leader in field goal percentage at 63.7 percent and owns UConn’s two best shooting seasons, hitting 67.4 percent as a sophomore and 66.3 as a junior, while his 64.0 percent mark as a freshman is fourth.a
Brimah is also one of 12 Huskies to reach the 40-point plateau, doing so against Coppin State on December 14, 2014 in a 106-85 victory over the Eagles. The seven-footer was 14-for-16 from the free-throw line and those 14 makes are one off the program record at home, set by Albert Mouring against Quinnipiac in 2001. Brimah is in a three-way tie with Kemba Walker, Richard Hamilton and Cliff Robinson for second.
He was also 13-for-13 from the field and is one of two Huskies to ever do so with a minimum of 10 shots attempted. Kirk King was a perfect 10-10 on January 13, 1996 against Providence. Brimah also had a career-high 12 rebounds and added three blocks, all in just 28 minutes of play.
Check out TCF’s highlight package from the victory below, as well as The UConn Blog’s game story here.
UConn, Great Pic
Here are a few of our photographer Ian Bethune’s best shots from the Never Forget Tribute Classic at Prudential in Newark, New Jersey on Saturday.
Let’s talk about recruiting
A few soapbox thoughts about how Husky fandom and recruiting.
First off, UConn fans shouldn’t focus too much on the star ratings of football recruits. Recruiting rankings do matter and, obviously, we prefer a higher-rated class to a lower-rated one.
But the recruiting analysts are mostly focused on getting it right at the top, with the 5- and 4-star prospects. When it comes to a running back from New York, a lineman from Massachusetts, or a quarterback from Connecticut, the odds are the evaluators have seen that player live maybe once, at a camp the summer after their sophomore year, and then never look at their rating for that player ever again until they commit to a school or get an offer from a “power five” program.
A player’s other offers usually can give us a more nuanced look at a player’s caliber, but even that method has flaws since we don’t know if an offer is committable and players can claim offers without confirmation from the school.
On top of that, UConn’s general recruiting strategy has been to find under-the-radar guys who develop into really good players after 3-4 years. This is an incredibly difficult thing to project since nobody knows how an 18-year-old is going to react to life in college and football at the next level. Also, these players can be 3-stars or 2-stars or have no stars. The list of the best players to ever play at UConn is fairly evenly distributed across the ratings.
All of UConn’s past coaches, even the ones who failed miserably, have found these diamonds in the rough. The guy who will take UConn football out of this current funk will have to do a better job of recruiting that kind of player. Any improvements on that front would be hard to ascertain purely from star rankings.
Mora can innovate by figuring out what the ideal UConn recruiting footprint should be, and by finding new talent pipelines or doing a better job in existing ones like New Jersey or the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia).
I actually thought Bob Diaco had an interesting strategy, looking at all of the places that have direct flights into Bradley Airport. He was the only UConn coach I saw go after the Chicago-land area and did achieve some minor success there. He also brought in UConn’s first player(s) from Texas in quite some time. I also thought Edsall looking into Canada more closely was a good idea.
That’s the kind of innovation I’d like to see from Mora, because it would be insane to expect him to just bring in higher-rated recruits. He needs to use the portal, build better relationships across the footprint, try harder in-state, and find new talent pipelines, because improving UConn’s status in the recruiting market is going to take some time.
Anyway, for the range of recruits UConn goes after, it’s helpful to take ratings with a grain of salt. Don’t expect too much from any of these players in the near future and do not, I repeat, DO NOT, tweet at recruits.
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