#65 UCONN: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #65
Conference Rank: #10 Big East Conference
2009-10: 18-16, 7-11
2009-10 postseason: NIT
Coach: Jim Calhoun (575-221 at Connecticut, 823-358 overall)
After reaching the Final Four in 2009, Connecticut struggled last year and ended up in the NIT, where they did not do particularly well. Coach Jim Calhoun has not failed to reach the NCAA Tournament two years in a row since he was rebuilding the Huskies in the late 80s and even then he won the NIT championship in 1988 and reached the quarterfinals in 1989. The next 20 years have been pretty consistent in their success. However, that impressive 20 year streak is on the line this year.
Key Losses: G Jerome Dyson, F Gavin Edwards, F Ater Majok, F Stanley Robinson
Uconn needs help everywhere on the floor, but it could be the two newcomers on the perimeter that spark this team. Shabazz Napier is a superb point guard who could be forced into a starting role right away; that is if the Huskies want to run a two point guard system. But Napier will need to play quite a few minutes no matter what. Jeremy Lamb would likely earn a starting role if Napier does not. Lamb is a late bloomer, but if he continues to improve as much as he has over the last year, he will be tough to leave off the floor. He is a lightweight, but Lamb is also 6-5 and that size will make him an attractive option at guard since he can help out more on the glass than Napier.
Kemba Walker is the only returning player to average over five points per game last year and will be the unquestioned leader of Connecticut. The 6-1 point guard will not only have to get the rest of the offense moving, but he will likely be asked to do a lot of scoring on his own. After averaging 14.6 points and 5.1 assists last year, he is certainly more than capable of filling both roles. However, Walker will need some help and, at least in the backcourt, most of that will have to come from the newcomers. Donnell Beverly is the only other returning guard who saw any significant playing time last season. The 6-4 senior only averaged 1.6 points per game, but he will have to spend some time on the floor, especially early in the season while the freshmen get adjusted to life in the Big East.
Uconn was dealt a big blow when Ater Majok opted to leave the program. Majok was only eligible for 26 games last year, but started 22 of them. He was not a big scorer, but he flashed a ton of potential during his freshman campaign. That leaves a huge hole at the power forward spot. Jamal Coombs-McDaniel can spend some time there, but he is more of a small forward. Coombs-McDaniel had a decent freshman campaign and averaged 3.3 points per game, but most of that was from long range. He is not the type of player to bang around in the paint. Charles Okwandu, a seven foot center, has the size to be a force in the paint, but he has not been very productive throughout his career. The only for sure thing in the frontcourt is Alex Oriakhi. The 6-9, 240 pound center had a superb freshman campaign and really stepped up when his team needed him. His offensive game is still developing, but he did average 6.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks last year and will be asked to do a lot more this time around.
Who to Watch:
Without Majok, the newcomers in the frontcourt will have to do a lot. Roscoe Smith is the most talented of the bunch, but he is more of an athletic wing than a power forward. However, that may not stop him from playing a lot of minutes at the four spot as long as he can match-up defensively. Tyler Olander would be the more traditional power forward and the local product may suddenly find himself starting. Michael Bradley needs to add a little strength, but at least he is another big body that Coach Calhoun can throw into the fire and hope for the best.
This could be a decent team if the newcomers are ready to roll from day one, but that may not be enough to get them to the NCAA Tournament. Without Majok, depth and inexperience will be huge issues and things could quickly spiral downward if Walker cannot hold the team together. The most likely scenario is Uconn’s talent will win some games and their inexperience will lose some games they should win, and that could be enough for an NIT berth.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Kemba Walker, Junior, Guard, 14.6 ppg
Jeremy Lamb, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, Sophomore, Forward, 3.3 ppg
Tyler Oldander, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Alex Oriakhi, Sophomore Center, 5.0 ppg
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