Saturday, November 2, 2013

October 2013

With First Night behind them, their first exibition game, and well into their third week of practice, UConn’s season is right around the corner.  This team is loaded with experienced talent throughout the line-up and are already ranked second in the brand new American Athletic Conference and nineteenth in the USA today poll.  This is a hungry team.  They weren’t allowed to play in their conference or the National Tournament last season and have a distinctive goal to make deep runs in both.  They have the players and coaches to do so, but for a championship in both, they will need to show drastic improvement in key areas.

The backcourt will be the catalyst for this team.  Napier is one of the top point guards in the country and has done a better job each and every season of improving his passing, turnovers, and when and where to shoot the ball.  Boatright is a streaky player and needs to find ways to score when his jumper isn’t dropping.  It is important for him to help relieve some of the pressure off of Napier.  Calhoun looks to be getting back into form and has one of the better outside shots on the team, even if it isn’t going to make it into a shooter’s manual.  These three guards compliment each other very well.  One is a decision maker, one is a slasher, and the other is a sharpshooter.  Then they add Kromah, who brings in experience and a player that can add a spark in offensive slumps, foul trouble, or to spell a player.  Samuels is a raw combo guard but he will have to fight hard for those elusive minutes in this crowded backcourt.

The forward position has a lot of versatility.  It starts with DeAndre Daniels, who can play the three, four, and even five position, but he is ideally a three.  He has a nice outside shot but can also attack the rim with both hands.  This team will need him to play closer to the basket and help on the rebounding. He will also need to develop a consistent post game.  Giffey is one of those utility players that can do all the little things.  Like Daniels, his natural position is at the three, but he can slide into the two or four spots.  His ball handling is his weak spot, so he should be either a spot up shooter, which he is very good at, or two or three dribbles into his move.  Tolksdorf adds some experience but still hasn’t figured out how to play around the paint.

The power forward and center position is still influx.  Brimah,  Nolan, Facey and Olander will all be in rotation.  Brimah is the only true five, while Nolan, Facey and Olander can slide into the four or five position.  The one true question is who is going to rebound the basketball.  Who ever can do that will get the start.  Olander is more suited for the four position but UConn’s best line consists of playing three guards, a small forward, and a center/power forward.  So that leaves Olander to play out of position which he struggled with last season.  Nolan came off the bench and showed improvement but now he has to build off of that and develop more.  Brimah has the one thing the others don’t size.  He looks like a five and his long arms make him the best suited for rebounding, but looking the part doesn’t always mean playing the part.  Facey is the mystery of the bunch. He could either battle for the starting spot or be mired down at the end of the bench.

Kevin Ollie has a lot to prove this season.  He impressed everyone last year with how his team played and he also needs to keep that momentum going forward.  With the shape of this conference heading forward, it is dependent on a strong UConn team to shoulder the conference.  No disrespect to Cincinnati or Memphis, but when Louisville leaves, the conference will be lacking the pedigree of Championships.  So a strong UConn will also mean home and home match-ups against elite out of conference opponents, top recruits, and high seeds come tournament time.

This is going to be a really exciting year for UConn.  They’ll get more exposure because of the ESPN television rights, instead of being mired on the SNY network that some cable systems didn’t provide.  The new conference will have a strong presence this year, because they are borrowing Louisville, which will give them some relevance nationally, and UConn will be back to where it should always be, in the NCAA tournament.  And everyone knows that when UConn gets its foot in that door than anything can happen.

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