Heading into this season, it was widely believed that the x-factor for the UConn Huskies was junior forward DeAndre Daniels. The Huskies have a star backcourt of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, but they need another scorer to complement them, particularly one who can play closer to the basket. Daniels got this season off to a slow start, but he is starting to find his form.
Daniels has scored 24 and 23 points in his last two games, wins over Boston University and Boston College. His breakout performances mirror his strong finish to last season, when he averaged 21.3 PPG over his final four games. Daniels is a versatile stretch four who creates a lot mismatches on the offensive end, and the Huskies were banking on him stepping up his performance this season.
His play over the last two games demonstrates why Daniels was pegged by many as a potential breakout star this season. He hasn’t been rebounding or making threes at quite the rate he was last season, but Daniels has still been able to show an effective mid range game and some solid post moves. These allow him to be a high efficiency scorer, and he has made over 50% of his attempts in each of the last two games.
If UConn is going to challenge Louisville for the AAC title, they will need Daniels on top of his game. Relying on only guards makes a team a one dimensional and predictable, and as good as Napier and Boatright are, UConn wants to have a player who can contribute some scoring closer to the basket and draw the defense off of their backcourt. Daniels has to be that player on a consistent basis, because the rest of UConn’s big men are more defensive than offensive minded players.
If his performance in the last two games is any indication, Daniels is ready to take a big step forward and become a more consistent offensive option for UConn. If Daniels can continue to be a effective second option to Napier, then UConn will be a much more dangerous and versatile offensive team, and it should lead them to quite a few wins this season.