NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: Shabazz Napier #13 of the Connecticut Huskies is held by his coach Jim Calhoun during the game against the Gerogetown Hoyas during the second round of the 2011 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament presented by American Eagle Outfitters at Madison Square Garden on March 9, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Part two of our 15 part series on how the off season treated our Big East rivals. Today we will examine the Connecticut Huskies.
UConn of course won the national title last year (BOOOOOO). They did so with a mix of upperclassman leadership coupled with a talented class of freshman. Kemba Walker had a phenomenal year and was the heart and soul of what UConn did last year. UConn was great on both ends of the court ranking 16th in offensive efficiency and 14th in defensive efficiency.
So what will Uconn look like next year?Key Loses:
Early Entry: Kemba Walker (23.5pts, 5.4 rbds, 4.5 asts)
Transferring: Jamal Coombs - McDaniel (5.6pts 2.6rbds)
Juniors: Alex Oriakhi (9.6pts, 8.7rbds)
Sophomores: Jeremy Lamb (11.1pts 4.5rbds), Shabazz Napier (7.8pts 3.0asts), Roscoe Smith (6.3pts 5.2rbds), Niels Giffey (2.2pts 1.4rbds), Tyler Olander (1.5pts, 1.8rbds), Enosch Wolf (1.0pts, 0.9rbds), Michael Bradley (RS)
Ryan Boatright 5'10" PG #77 Scout #42 Rivals #73 ESPN
UConn returns almost all of the important pieces to the national title team. Except, you know, the biggest piece. How much will Kemba be missed next year? It's hard to say, but the cupboard is far from bare. Kemba scored more than twice as many points as the next leading scorer and was also the lead assist man for the Huskies. Surprisingly for the point guard, he was also UConn's 2nd leading rebounder. So there will be growing pains with out Kemba. But a large sophomore class that gained a lot of experience last year should be able to make up for his loss. They will not have any recruited seniors on their roster next year, only 1 Junior, and add only 1 recruit. This is all due to their giant sophomore class that boasts 7players. Of course that only adds up to 9 so where are the other 4 players. Well Jamal Coombs-McDaniel got busted for possession of marijuana a couple weeks ago and then decided to transfer a week or so later. Jamal had always been in Calhoun's doghouse so I'm guessing his arrest was just the straw that broke the camel's back. The remaining scholarships will be tied up due to penalties from the NCAA for rules infractions and low academic progress report numbers. Boatright is the lone recruit for the Huskies. He's really short and is a score first, second , and third point guard. I'm never a fan when the scouting report on a point guard says his biggest weakness is decision making and can't get others involved when his shot isn't falling. He's also a defensive liability. That being said the kid can score, shoot, and dribble. But I expect him to be behind Napier who knows how to distribute better.
Oriakhi and Lamb should make a powerful inside outside combo. How good this team will be will depend on (1) How the team adapts to life without Kemba and (2) How much the remaining sophomores improve. Lamb and Oriakhi are known quantities the rest of the cast will need to step up their games if they hope to win the Big East this season. Still assuming at least moderate progress the team should be in the top 4 of the BEast this coming season.