One year ago, when a young and uncertain UConn team was matched up against Wichita St. in the Maui Invitational opener, we were talking about how a win could not only help the likely-to-be-on-the-bubble Huskies come tournament time. This year the Huskies once again find themselves in a preseason tournament on a tropical island (albeit in a different ocean this time), but instead of an upstart looking to make some noise against a deep field, they're considered to be an overwhelming powerhouse expected to roll their way through (most of) the field. Oh, and this tournament also has a very, very stupid name inspired by the hotel they're playing in: The Battle 4 Atlantis.
They start tonight against UNC-Asheville who is 2-2, with respectable losses to NC State and North Carolina and wins over noted non-powerhouses Brevard (NC) and Mars Hill. Ken Pom says they're the 149th best team in the country (making them the best team UConn has faced so far), and statistics say you should watch out for the senior backcourt duo of Matt Dickey (15.8 points per game) and J.P. Primm (5.3 assists per game).
Of course, UConn has the backcourt pretty well covered, what with Shabazz Napier (he of the recent triple double) and Jeremy Lamb (he of the all-world-everything). The Huskies real concern so far has come in the front court where Alex Oriakhi and Andre Drummond have been notable disappointments, at least on one end of the floor. I'll refer you now to UConn By The Numbers, which is my favorite UConn blog that I don't edit. Please note that when both Oriakhi and Drummond are in the lineup the the offense slows to a crawl (a not anywhere near satisfactory 1.00 points per possession), but the defense is off-the-charts amazing (.59 points per possession). Sidnew: It's also worth considering that UConn's offense is at its best with neither Oriakhi nor Drummond in the game and the defense is better in those situations than it is when either Drummond or Oriakhi are alone, but that's a post for another time.
The point of it all is this: Oriakhi and Drummond have been struggling, especially offensively. Luckily for them they're facing a squad tonight who has a 6'4" forward leading the team in rebounds, so if there was ever a time to get going, this is it.
The game tips at 7 (or, at least it is scheduled to -- Florida St. is playing before them and UConn's start time will depend on when that game ends.) It's on HDNet, or a hodgepodge of channels across Connecticut, so good luck finding it. Join us in the comments, and go huskies.