Tuesday, November 1, 2011
UConn Huskies 2011-2012 Preview
It will be hard to top what was one of the most magical and improbable runs in school history. A team led by a superstar point guard, underachieving sophomores, and talented but unproven freshmen. They came out of the box strong but struggled through Big East play. With their backs to the wall, they played five games in fives days in New York City to win the Big East Championship and then riding that momentum, they cut down the nets in the NCAA Tournament. It was an unbelievable and memorable run.
This team will have some weighty expectations. They have a talented sophomore in Jeremy Lamb, who proved to be a reliable sidekick to Walker and was the best player on the USA Under-19 basketball team, but he didn’t have the expectations that are on his shoulders this year. Can he become a first option and a leader that this team needs him to be? He has all the tools to be that type of player and has a maturity to his game that few players possessed at this point in their careers.
There was no doubt that early in the season Napier was capable of becoming a reliable point guard. His gritty play on defense frustrated opponents and he showed that he could knock down the outside shot, though his selection at times were questionable, but his energy and ability to move Walker to the two guard spot allowed the offense to run smoothly. Shabazz will have more responsibility and needs to focus on the simple play rather than the spectacular. He’ll be backed up by Ryan Boatright, who is a fast paced and athletic guard. He’ll play the same role that Price, Walker, and Napier played in their freshman year, which is that sixth man role to provide a spark off the bench or be a teaching tool for Calhoun if Napier needs reining in.
The shooting guard is a lock with Jeremy Lamb solidifying the position. He is primed to take that next step in his development and become the primary option to the offense. He has such a versatile game that it will be hard for teams to game plan against him. There is a gaping hole in that two-guard position behind Lamb, but Calhoun has options. Boatright and Napier can play that position or they can go big with Smith, Giffey and Daniels moving into that spot.
The Wing position is still up in the air. Roscoe Smith couldn’t find consistency in his outside shot and it effected his offensive game. He still shined on being a tough-nosed defensive minded player and began rebounding better down the stretch of the season. Giffey never found his stride but if he can find his outside shot and limit his dribble drives then he could find valuable minutes. He will have a lot of heat from the freshman DeAndre Daniels, who is a more fluid offensive talent. Roscoe has the starting job so far, but if Daniels shows that he can provide points against comparable talent and can play solid defense, then Smith and Giffey could lose minutes.
The power forward position is intriguing. If Oriakhi wants to play at the next level then he will need to be a power forward. This is a great opportunity for him to get minutes and put some work on tape for NBA scouts. There is also Michael Bradley, who sacrificed his scholarship for Andre Drummond, and Calhoun might feel encouraged to reward that kind of selflessness that isn’t seen a lot in sports.
The center position is one of strength. Andre Drummond headlines the position, but behind him is Alex Oriakhi, Michael Bradley, and Enosch Wolf. Oriakhi has the experience and will more than likely start at power forward but slide into the center position throughout the middle part of the games to avoid fouls.
It has been a long time since UConn has assembled such a deep and versatile line-up. The scary part about this team is that there is still a tremendous upside. Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier are scratching the surface to what they can do and Oriakhi and Smith have much more to show out of their respective games. Add that with a true blue chip in Andre Drummond and two solid recruits in Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels, this team might not strike lightning in a bottle again, but they have the right chemistry to create the thunderclouds.