The question of whether this is Kemba Walker’s tournament to lose is an interesting one.
He is, in fact, the best player left in the tournament. It isn’t even all that close.
When Kemba gets it going, he can flat out take over a game. He’s a nightmare to try and stay in front of, but he no longer is infatuated with trying to score over big men around the rim. While his mid-range jumper has become a deadly weapon, he’s developed a reputation for knocking down tough jumpers from deep in clutch situations.
Throw in the fact that he is a perfectly willing and capable distributor of the ball when defenses start to collapse on him, and Kemba is an absolutely ideal fit for this UConn team. The Huskies are talented, but all of that talent is young. What could be better than an experienced, talented leader taking the brunt of the defensive focus and setting up his teammates in a position where they can easily succeed.
The problem, however, is that Kemba has a habit of forcing the issue on the offensive end of the floor. He has a tendency to over dribble, and there are times where his shot selection is less than ideal. It is those times that UConn struggles.
Those situations have been few and far between in the Big East and NCAA Tournaments, however, and that is the direct result of the play of Kemba’s teammates.
Jeremy Lamb’s growth this season has been tremendous. He’s gone from a timid and unsure freshman to a confident scorer and a clutch performer on both ends of the floor. Not only has he averaged 16.0 ppg in the Big East and NCAA Tournaments, he made the plays down the stretch that won UConn’s games against San Diego State and Arizona.
Alex Oriakhi has the ability to be an absolute menace on the interior. When he is playing well, he is carving out space around the rim. Defensively, that results in blocked or changed shots. Offensively, it results in a lot of easy buckets and offensive boards.
Shabazz Napier hits some clutch shots, Roscoe Smith and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel have become double digits scoring threats, and even guys like Charles Okwandu and Niels Giffey have contributed at key moments in this Husky run.
UConn cannot survive without Kemba’s production.
Saying otherwise is silly. Its wrong. Its the kind of thing that will make me not trust whoever made that statement in the future.
But UConn also cannot survive if Kemba is the only one producing. We’ve seen it happen too many times this season. Kemba finished the game with 30 points on 28 shots, no one else reaches double figures, and the Huskies end up losing by ten.
The key for the Huskies will be Kemba’s supporting cast. If they play well, UConn has a very good shot to win another national title. If they don’t, the Huskies will head home with a loss, either on Saturday night or Monday night.
Kemba Walker may be the best player still dancing.
But whether or not UConn wins this tournament will be based on what the rest of the Huskies can provide.