Monday, October 25, 2010
Ten Reasons Why UConn Won't Finish 10th
1. Kemba Walker. Kemba Walker is one of the best guards in the country. The only thing stopping him from being a top pick in this years draft is a consistent outside shot. This team hasn’t had a pure leader like this for some time. He knows that this is his team and that this is the last chance at solidifying his legacy in the college game.
2. Jim Calhoun. Sure the NCAA violations and pending punishments have put some rust on Calhoun’s prolific career, but he still has an eye for talent and nothing can take that away. He is a master of rebuilding a team from scratch and he has another major project. He has the track record and there is no reason to doubt him now.
3. Parody in the Big East. Pittsburgh, who is projected to win the Big East, was given a similar ranking last year that UConn has now. The Panthers skyrocketed up the Big East standings due to great play and also some teams expected to do well, Notre Dame, UConn, and Marquette, who had mediocre seasons. There is no reason why UConn can’t have a Pittsburgh type season this year.
4. Sophomores. UConn had a tough year with their freshmen last year with Trice and Smith transferring and Coombs-McDaniels and Oriakhi stayed but had underwhelming seasons. Coombs-McDaniels will need to give Robinson like numbers, which he is capable of doing. Oriakhi will have more pressure on him since Majok left the program. He is molding himself into a Jeff Adrien type of player and he has all the tools to be that rebounding force. The offense will come around for him, but it is imperative that he averages double-digits in rebounds for this team.
5. Freshmen. This is an exciting class. There aren’t any blue chips or one and done players in this class, but it is an eclectic bunch of kids. Giffey, Lamb, and Smith can all shoot the rock, though for the past several years fans have heard this from players like Coombs-McDaniels and Harrelson. Olander and Bradley are long term projects but solid players in the mold of Edwards and Armstrong, and should solidify the front court for then next four years.
6. Underdog role. For some odd reason UConn performs at its best when they are underdogs, so that bodes well for them. If everyone expects them to be mediocre this year, they won’t have the added pressure on their shoulders before they even step onto the court. Not to mention the added motivation to get better in the weight room. By the start of the year, this team should be foaming at the mouth to get back to the Big Dance.
7. The Seniors. While all the attention will be on Walker, the sophmores, and freshmen, Beverly and Okwandu are getting lost in the shuffle. Okwandu has the length and size to be a serviceable big man, but he has the ability to be a shot blocker that this team lost when Majok left. He has shown glimpses of his ability and needs to build off that. Beverly will be a major piece to UConn’s puzzle. He has the ability to play both guard positions and this will allow Walker to play off the ball, which should be a major factor in UConn’s offense this year. But it is Beverly’s experience that will be the most valuable to this team. It will allow the freshmen to inch their way into the game instead of throwing them to the wolves.
8. Pride. There is something about putting on the UConn jersey and playing among the lineage of Allen, Hamilton, Gordon, Gay, Okafor, and Thabeet that instills a bit of pride in the players. Not to mention the pride that Calhoun wields on the sidelines. This team yearns to succeed.
9. Outside shooting. UConn has had problems with outside shooting for awhile now, but each and every year, they bring in players that have shown the ability in High School. This year is no exception with some freshmen that have proven themselves, but Walker and Coombs-McDaniels should be improved. They can’t be worse then a year ago and that can only be a positive.
10. Defense. By the end of the day, this team will hang their hat on the defensive end. They won’t be blocking shots like they have in the past, but Oriakhi, Okwandu, and Wolfe (mid-season) will be able to anchor the defense which they struggled with last year. They might have problems with help defense early on, with all the new editions, but with the speed and defensive attitude of this team, they will be able to keep defenders in front of them. If they can group rebound, then this team will be a solid defensive team.