Last time we saw Ryan Boatright, he pulled away with the final rebound of the 2014 NCAA Tournament Final before hurling the ball into the air as the UConn Huskies closed out their fourth national championship.
Boatright saw his teammate Shabazz Napier constantly field questions comparing the 2013-'14 team to Kemba Walker's 2010-'11 team. Those questions were entirely unfair as anyone with two bits of sense knew that these were completely different situations and that Walker and Napier had different styles as players. Both had a flair for the dramatic, and the unassailable drive to succeed, but at the end of the day UConn's 2014 and 2011 championship runs were completed in very different ways under different circumstances with differently situated rosters. But that is a conversation for a different day.
We love simplicity, and we looove narratives, such as "the passing of the torch" which everybody seems to be so concerned about regarding Ryan Boatright and the lineage of great lead guards at the University of Connecticut which preceded him.
Luckily for us, and for Boatright, he won't actually have to hold any physical torch on the court and as it turns out he's really good at basketball. He has three years of experience under his belt and while this year's team is counting on a bunch of new players to contribute significantly, the senior Boatright will be responsible for stoking the flames of the UConn fire during the inevitable peaks and valleys of a college basketball season.
In fact, you could argue that this year's team more closely follows the model of Kemba Walker's 2011 team. Think of Danny Hamilton as the Jeremy Lamb, and Terrance Samuel as the freshman Shabazz Napier. Since his freshman year Boatright has been reminding us of Kemba Walker. Hopefully he can leave a similar imprint on the program in his final year.
Tonight we have Bryant coming into Gampel Pavilion to start the season. Before the game, the Huskies will receive their national championship rings, though interestingly enough, most players on the roster won't receive one because they weren't here last year.
As reported earlier this week, Rodney Purvis will be out today serving a one-game suspension for playing too much basketball in the off-season. I don't even... whatever it's just one game. This opens the door for Sam Cassell Jr., who has been impressive in the pre-season (requisite grain of salt comment), to see a larger role tonight. Sophomore Terrence Samuel should also see more minutes as a result of Purvis' absence.
What I'd love to see from UConn is a dominant performance. We didn't see it during the pre-season but Ollie and his staff obviously kept things fairly vanilla in the games that don't count. In the first game of the season against a team that recently joined Division 1, he isn't likely to open up the playbook too much, but hopefully we see a second level of intensity now that the numbers count. Nothing short of a comfortable win would be acceptable tonight.
Bryant's head coach went to BC, gross. Also their team doesn't have anyone taller than 6-foot-8 so for those two reasons I want to see a dominating performance-- especially from Amida Brimah and Kentan Facey. I think the scoring will take care of itself, we are too athletic and skilled for it not to. With the Huskies' next action being next weeks Puerto Rico Tip-off, I'm hoping to see them play smart, disciplined basketball against what should be an over-matched opponent.
TEN MUTHER-EFFING TOES IN LET'S GO!!!!!!