Over the last month, UConn has gone from a team with title aspirations to one that is going to have to make a serious rally late in the season if they want to make the NCAA Tournament.
That’s what happens when you lose seven out of nine games in league play. The two wins in that stretch? At home against Seton Hall, when they were without Herb Pope, and at home against DePaul, who is DePaul. In simpler terms, UConn has been downright awful since Sean Kilpatrick’s game-winning three back on Jan. 18 gave Cincinnati a win over the Huskies.
UConn isn’t just losing, either. They are doing so in embarrassing fashion, and the frustration is starting to show through.
For the second time this season, UConn point guard — and team captain — popped off in the media about the issues involving this team. Back in January, after UConn lost back to back games at Seton Hall and Rutgers, Napier questioned whether or not his team was willing to accept leadership.
On Saturday, he went a step further, calling out his teammates for, well, everything after a loss to No. 12 Marquette.
“We had a lot of ups and downs last year, but these ups and downs are totally different,” he said. “Sometimes we look like we’re coming over the hump and then we face a good team and we all let up. I hate to say it, but I have to question a lot of these guys’ hearts.”
“It just looked like out there that we gave up at the end. It’s tough to say because, you know, we’re a great team and for those words to be coming out of my mouth is just horrendous. It’s something you don’t want to happen.”
There’s much, much more.
On the game-changing technical Ryan Boatright got: “It was immature. That’s the one thing I can say, it was real immature.”
On whether he thinks his team is into the game or not: “No, my team is into it. I think they are all into it. It’s just when push comes to shove, who’s out there and who’s going to give it back? Some guys don’t want to give it back. Some guys get punched and want to throw a pillow at somebody. This is basketball. You’re supposed to go out there and give it your all. … Like I said, we get punched and some guys just throw pillows back. You’re not supposed to throw pillows back. You’re supposed to get a 3-pointer, lock up on defense, do the necessary things to get a win, and right now we’re not doing that.”
On whether he says these things to his teammates: “I’m blunt. I tell them all the time what I feel but sometimes I hold a lot back in. I don’t usually say anything before the game. I don’t usually say anything at halftime because I’m blunt and I don’t want to say the wrong thing. But at the end of the game, I told the guys, ‘I got to question a lot of you guys’ hearts. You’re not giving it your all. I make mistakes, but at the same time I learn from my mistakes. I make sure I apologize for my mistakes.’ I told the guys the only reason I’m speaking out is because I’m a captain and at the end of the day I feel as I’m the only one who wants to speak out. Everybody else wants to stay in the locker room and be quiet like we just died.”
Napier is correct that his team has a chronic lack of leadership.
That said, spouting off about issues in the locker room is not being a leader. If Napier rips into his teammates behind closed doors, that’s a different story. If he carries that kind of respect in the locker room, his team will react accordingly. But he will never earn that kind of respect if he continues to air his team’s dirty laundry publicly.
If anything, this season has shown us just how valuable Kemba Walker was last year.
He was able to get this train wreck to play as a team.