So it has been pretty quiet around here, what with UConn on a nearly two week break, but with the basketball season getting ready to start up again, now feels like a good time to evaluate where this Husky team is and where it needs to be.
It should be noted that my opinion probably differs quite a bit from the other authors on this blog. They'll call me a massive homer, I'll say they unfairly magnify the teams flaws and don't trust the coach. We'll argue all season, I'll be mocked, and then we'll all celebrate a nice Sweet 16 trip together.
Anyway, for the rosy view, hit the jump.
Talking with Meacham after the Kentucky game, it became very clear that there are at least two wildly opposed ways to look at the Huskies right now. Meacham saw a mistake prone team that was a turnover machine with no-depth and no ability to close out games. I saw a squad that battled back to hang tough with a good (though very overrated) Kentucky team and showed a lot of potential despite some obvious limitations. Sure, the Huskies made some dumb mistakes (Dyson picking up his 4th foul on Wall's breakaway with about 7 minutes left; the botched play as time expired) but they are the type of mistakes that can be fixed.
Make no mistake, I do not believe this team is going to be good enough to get to a Final Four. I do however think that they will win 20+ games and throw their weight around in March. Kemba Walker is getting more impressive by the second and blew me away with his performance against Kentucky. Plus, it appears he has started to develop an outside shot and is able to give UConn a (admittedly limited) outside weapon, something they badly need.
Stanley Robinson disappeared against Kentucky, which I thought was a depressing regression after a very solid start to the season. Luckily, Gavin Edwards stepped up and put together a very good game. We came into the season expecting UConn to have a big three (Walker, Dyson and Robinson), but if it winds up being a big two plus either Edwards or Robinson (and occasionally both) I'll take that. As long as three of the four put in good games I'll feel alright about UConn's chances to win.
Perhaps the point where Meacham and I disagree most is Dyson. Where Meach sees a mistake-prone, out of control Senior who loves nothing more than getting his own shot, I see a guy who all too often (especially against UK) is the only guy in a UConn uniform willing to try and make his own shot. I'm willing to live with Dyson taking two or three ill-advised shots a game because UConn needs him to score his 20 points and often he is the only one able to keep the offense from falling into a huge lull, especially if Kemba is on the bench.
Which brings us to UConn's real worry so far. The bench has been dreadful (and no, I do not care that Edwards technically does not start -- the fact that Charles Okwandu was allowed to start against UK was infuriating). Plus, as thin as UConn is in the front court, there is absolutely no one who has stepped up to give Kemba or Dyson a break. Plus, as we saw in the Duke game, if either of them gets in foul trouble (and with their super-aggressive style this is a real possibility going forward) you can pretty much write off the rest of the game. UConn will lose.
Of course, all of this could be a moot point with the arrival of Ater Majok (you'll be able to read a lot more about Majok when Meacham's UCF preview goes live over the weekend). Calhoun has been talking him up for over a year now, so I am excited to see what he brings to the floor this weekend, but I am not holding my breath. I have been burnt enough by Cal's player projections to know that until I see the real deal on the floor, I should not get my hopes up. I have a very hard time imagining that a freshman who hasn't suited up in 18 months and has never played competitive ball in the states is going to be the difference maker for this team. (For the record, I am really do hope I am wrong here).
I still have high hopes though. Maybe its the optimist in me, but I think UConn's problems can be fixed, or at the very least they can be worked around. I do not think this year's team will wind up being elite, with or without solid production from Majok, but I think if Kemba and Jerome can get significant help from some combination of Sticks and Edwards, and someone, anyone steps up on the bench, UConn can be very dangerous. Kentucky is perhaps the only team UConn will face all year that has more weapons than the Huskies -- the speed and athleticism that Calhoun puts on the floor each night is hard to match. The key going forward is going to be just how well those weapons can come together.