Looking at this roster, Kevin Ollie is going to have to summon all of his creativity to make this thing work.
The Huskies' offense is clearly at its best in transition and given the likely problems this size-challenged team will have on the boards, forcing turnovers is probably the most viable way to stay afloat. But can you run a press defense with only seven or eight reliable rotation players? And can you risk foul trouble every game by playing tight, tough defense?
The best offensive lineups UConn could possibly put out all include Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright and Omar Calhoun, and I would guess all three will start and play 25+ minutes. Two of the three probably need to be on the court at all times to avoid the offense completely stagnating, with R.J. Evans coming in to spell each one as needed.
Tyler Olander is also a necessity to play 25+ minutes by the sole fact that he is the only big man who's shown himself capable of hanging with Division I opponents to this point. Enosch Wolf and Phil Nolan will certainly get a chance to develop during the early season as (hopefully) UConn handles some of their lesser non-conference opponents.
I actually do think UConn's offense should be markedly improved with Calhoun's arrival, but I'm extremely worried about a defense that was quite average a year ago WITH rebound-consumer and block-monster Andre Drummond.
This is a very tricky situation for any coach to walk into, particularly a first-timer, and EXTRA PARTICULARLY a first-timer on an eight-month contract. Help will be on the way as Ollie makes his case to the recruits of America, but the timeline is kind of scrunched.
The moment UConn was banned from the NCAA Tournament, 2012-13 was going to be a rough year no matter who was coaching. It's unfortunate that Ollie is being thrown into this fire essentially as an interim coach. He probably should have been given a two-year contract, allowing him to bring in his own players. But I think everybody in our community wishes him the best of luck, and we all hope that he is judged fairly, and on the basis of proper expectations.
For me, those expectations are soberingly low (feel free to disagree in the comments). To put it in golf terms:
- Bogey: Finish below .500 overall
- Par: Finish above .500 overall
- Birdie: Finish above .500 in the Big East
- Eagle: Win more than 20 games
- Hole-in-One: Win 25 games or Big East regular-season title
I'll peg the Huskies for a 17-13 record (8-10 Big East) with enough hopeful moments to expect that UConn will be back in contention with a junior- and senior- dominated team (plus a post player or two) in 2013-14. Here's hoping I'm being overly cautious.
In the meantime, this is our team, this is our school, these are our players and this is our coach, and we're on the first goddamn flight of stairs. That's all the incentive I need to see this thing through.
Merry Basketballmas, and Go Huskies. Beat Michigan State.