#14 Connecticut Men's Basketball Preview

Connecticut Huskies

Overall Rank: #14
Conference Rank: #4 Big East
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2010-11: 32-9, 9-9
2010-11 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Jim Calhoun (607-230 at Connecticut, 855-367 overall)

At times Kemba Walker willed Connecticut to victory. But what made it possible for the Huskies to win the national title was the development of some younger players. The biggest star who emerged late last season was Jeremy Lamb. Now a sophomore, Lamb will take over a bulk of the scoring left behind by Walker. As a freshman, Lamb averaged 11.1 points and 4.5 rebounds. He is a decent outside shooter and a superb all-around scorer. Without Walker around, Uconn needs a new go-to-scorer and Lamb will likely be that guy.

Who’s Out:
Walker averaged an amazing 23.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals during his junior campaign before heading off to the NBA. Even with the gaudy numbers, and keep in mind this team did not score a ton of points, Walker did a lot more than what the numbers say. Walker hit clutch shot after clutch shot and it will be a long time before anybody has a season that can come close to Walker’s 2011-2012 campaign. Jamal Coombs-McDaniel has also wrapped up his career at Connecticut after averaging 5.6 points and 2.6 rebounds a year ago. Charles Okwandu and Donnell Beverly did not play quite as much as Coombs-McDaniel, but both were occasionally important players off of the bench.

Who’s In:
Coach Jim Calhoun has put together another superb recruiting class. Ryan Boatright will be the backup point guard from day one and has the scoring prowess and ball handling skills to be a fine option off of the bench. The bigger names are in the frontcourt, most notably Andre Drummond. Drummond was a great pickup for any program and the 6-10, 270 pound center will be a major force in the paint right away. He should even step right into a starting role. Michael Bradley has some work to do on his offensive game, but the redshirt freshman is ready to see some quality minutes and at least grab some rebounds. DeAndre Daniels has been overshadowed by Drummond, but the big, athletic wing is a great all-around player who will make a big impact at either, or perhaps both, forward spots.

Who to Watch:
Even without Walker, the backcourt is in very good shape. Lamb will lead the way, but there are plenty of other youngsters ready to shoulder some of the responsibility. The most important will be Shabazz Napier. The 6-1 point guard did not have many opportunities to play without Walker on the floor, but he still managed to earn 23.8 minutes per contest and proved to be a very good ball handler who can also do some scoring. Napier is already a threat to make some three-pointers so the opposition has to defend him on the perimeter, but he can easily turn into a consistent double figure scorer with a little more accuracy on his long ball. Roscoe Smith and Niels Giffey will battle it out for the starting small forward spot. Smith played like a freshman at times last year, but he was a freshman. He is not a great shooter at this point in his career, but Smith is a fine rebounder, a great athlete and an all-around fine player. Giffey gained some major experience playing for Germany over the summer and has a very high ceiling. Despite his 6-7 frame, he is not as good of a rebounder as Smith, but with the addition of Drummond, the Huskies will not need quite as much help from their wings on the glass, so Giffey will be an intriguing player to watch this year.

Final Projection:
The elder statesman of the team is junior Alex Oriakhi. He is the only upperclassman on the roster who sees any real playing time. The 6-9, 240 pound junior was one of the many players who stepped up their game down the stretch of last season. When the Huskies were making their miracle run, Oriakhi was playing great ball. He did emerge as a relatively consistent scorer and one of the best rebounders in the league, but Oriakhi also disappeared for games at a time. He will need to be more consistent, but he does have some more help this year too. Tyler Olander started 21 games last year, but averaged less than ten minutes per game. Olander showed plenty of potential, but he will likely see about the same amount of minutes this year. Enosch Wolf is a 7-1 center who still needs to develop his game before he finds himself on the floor too often. The frontcourt is in good hands and the backcourt is even better. What this team lacks is leadership. Can somebody step up and hit the big shots like Walker did last year? There are certainly options and this is certainly a group that will spread the wealth a little more than last season, but they still need a player who can spearhead the defensive effort and help improve the offensive efficiency.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Shabazz Napier, Sophomore, Guard, 7.8 points per game
Jeremy Lamb, Sophomore, Guard, 11.1 points per game
Roscoe Smith, Sophomore, Forward, 6.3 points per game
Alex Oriakhi, Junior, Forward, 9.6 points per game
Andre Drummond, Freshman, Center, DNP last season

Madness 2012 NBA Draft Rankings:
#30 Jeremy Lamb
#51 Alex Oriakhi

Madness 2011 Men's Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#68 Ryan Boatright
#76 DeAndre Daniels

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