With basketball and its athletes evolving to a point where positions are all blending into each other, it's a little unfair to use the traditional 1-5 labeling for players. What is Ryan Boatright, a 2? He certainly isn't a 1, that's Shabazz. What does that make Calhoun? Does that mean Giffey's a 4?... Like the BCS, it's an antiquated system. As part of our preview for this season we'll be doing a positional preview of the Huskies roster in three groups: Guards, Swingmen and Tall Guys. Today we begin with the vertically advantaged.
There are four guys who I would lump into this category: Tyler Olander, Phil Nolan, Amidah Brimah and Kentan Facey. I discussed Brimah and Facey at length in an earlier article, so today I'll be focusing more on the returning folks and then everybody's role on the team.
Olander finished last season with 21mpg, 4.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.1 apg and 0.9 bpg. That rebounding number is criminally low, so I would imagine Ollie is looking (praying) for better candidates to fill that time. Expect Olander to have a slightly smaller role this year with the other all three of the other players in this group taking time away from him.
Last year Olander was the nominal starter at Center, but didn't necessarily play starters minutes yielding time to Enosch Wolf and the small ball lineup. Against more traditional teams he could have some strong outings this year with better running mates down low, but conversely, if a matchup dictates that we play small I think he'll be playing less than before. Last year we simply didn't have the personnel to put him on the bench in those situations.
So far in the preseason Olander's minutes have been scarce. Ollie said after the Concordia game that it was due to conditioning; I think it has more to do with younger, more talented people who need the developmental PT with a side order of still in the doghouse for transgressions against the law. Regardless, just know that Olander has put up some solid outings for us in his three years. Who can forget when he dropped 16 and 7 on 8 of 9 shooting in a big win at Notre Dame last year? (I kind of did, Go Olander!) I'm also pretty sure he scored the first bucket in the National Championship... Anyway don't be surprised if Olander has a few solid games this year. Overall though, I would expect his production goes down as Ollie looks elsewhere for impact players down low.
The 6-foot-10, 3-star recruit logged a little over 10 mpg last year as a freshman, nothing crazy but enough to get a taste for the college game, particularly against the grueling Old Big East schedule. In fact, after Enosch Wolf was suspended late last season, Nolan saw a significant lift in playing time, averaging over 20 mpg during the last five games.
While his statistical accumulation was meager, Nolan showed signs that he could develop into a dependable post presence for the Huskies. This offseason he has added some muscle and thus far in the preseason he's been asserting himself down low. I'm hopeful that Nolan can seize this opportunity to earn a large chunk of the minutes in this crowded front-court rotation.
We gave you a scouting report on Brimah going into the season, but if preseason is any indication (hashtag grainofsalt) he may contribute slightly more than we anticipated. He'll certainly be racking up blocks this season against the likes of Yale, Detroit and BU but it'll be interesting to see how he fares against major competition. He's built like a beanpole, but according to KO he isn't as "raw" as people have been saying- so that's a positive.
Again, since we aren't in the Big East anymore and every game isn't a battle, Brimah will have tons of opportunities to hone his game against the lesser opponents across our schedule and should still get meaningful time against Florida, Memphis, Louisville as a defensive stopper/shot alterer/foul taker. A Hasheem Thabeet-ish freshman year, minus dropping the ball whenever it's thrown to you, would be great
I think this guy has what it takes to be a stud for the Huskies... in the future. This year the athletic stretch 4 will be asked to contribute on the rebounding front. Rebound, Rebound, Rebound Kentan, we need it so badly. He'll be a sound defensive presence and won't be asked to do too much offensively while he develops his game and we have four mouths to feed anyway.
I'm confident that Facey can meet the expectations of a limited role this year and build a foundation for the future. Paired with any of the other guys in this group he can definitely do some damage and I can also see him playing the "5" in our small ball lineup.
Our situation down low is probably the biggest reason pundits aren't expecting us to make any significant noise this year. Unlike the guards, a look at our front-court situation begets a litany of questions: Who are these guys?! How much can we realistically expect two freshman to contribute? Can Phil Nolan step up his game? Is Tyler Olander really still there? I thought DeAndre Daniels was a 4? You guys were outrebounded by Vermont last year? What will the rotation look like?
We aren't sure how playing time will shake out and we can't be certain that our rebounding woes have been cured by an offseason workout program and two tall freshmen. The entire season will be an open competition for crunch time minutes, which should be good motivation for all four players. But if we continue to be out-rebounded by lesser opponents, this group will be under heavy scrutiny and we will have to gradually lower this teams ceiling. If you'll allow me put my super obvious sports commentator hat on:
"Basketball is a game of possession and rebounds are critical"
You're welcome internet. Anyway, for this season to be successful this group really just needs to bring us up from crappy to average at rebounding and post defense and we should be fine. I think these four are up to the task.
My prediction? Nolan and Facey emerge as the go-to guys with Brimah coming off the bench when we need some Defense. What's that, you want a bolder prediction? Olander's role diminishes across the season but he drops a 20 and 10 on Memphis to win the AAC Tournament, a la Drew Bledsoe on the 2001 Patriots. How you like them apples.