Going into last season, we knew the front court would be a weakness. There was no proven center on the roster, and while much was expected of DeAndre Daniels, his inconsistent nature kept anyone from thinking our low-post play would be very good.
But two things happened, particularly down the strech: DeAndre Daniels "figured it out" and Amida Brimah emerged as an effective, albeit foul-prone, low-post defender. Boosted by those efforts, along with some feisty, timely rebounding from Niels Giffey, UConn overcame this weakness and made a run to the national championship.
Giffey and Daniels are now gone, but going into this season, we were less concerned about rebounding and front-court play. We believed Brimah would make a leap, that a bulked up Phil Nolan could contribute more, and that rising sophomore Kentan Facey would provide some efficient minutes.
Right now it looks like only the last of those three things is actually happening. So I'm calling for UConn to give the damn ball to Kentan Facey.
Or anybody down low, really, but I think that person should be Facey.
Opposing defenses have been able to cheat heavily towards protecting the perimeter, preventing our guards from penetrating and effectively stifling our offense. As a result we have seen poor shot selection and very few easy buckets.
In games against quality competition (i.e. taking out Coppin State and CCSU) we haven't even been pretending to run plays down low. If the Huskies can show that they at least sometimes think about sending the ball into the post it would do wonders to open up the offense.
Amida Brimah, while talented and hardworking, still isn't familiar enough with the game to fill this role (there's nothing wrong with that, it's just the reality). His best offensive performances have come against teams with few, if any, legitimate big men and his overall inexperience with the game shows on both sides of the court but especially on the offensive end.
Facey is similarly raw, but has demonstrated a natural knack for grabbing rebounds and skillfully putting the ball back in the bucket. Moreover, we have seen glimpses of quality post moves and just enough range to believe he could be an effective offensive option down low. Given the opportunity to experiment against the bottom half of the AAC, I'm hopeful we can get Facey some post looks in order to build his confidence across the season.
UConn's offense sputtered mightily in the early part of this season. They were lucky to escape their visit to Florida with a win, but did so thanks to resurgent shooting efforts from Omar Calhoun and Rodney Purvis. But the offense has struggled for other reasons besides the well-documented shooting woes. Ball movement has been poor because teams are daring UConn's guards to take outside shots, or work within the area outside of the paint to try and find one. Deliberately sending the ball inside, even if it is passed back, could help open up passing lanes and provide opportunities for talented penetrators like Terrence Samuel and Rodney Purvis to take it to the hole.
Too often this team has failed to create good shooting opportunities- leaving Ryan Boatright to force a contested shot or someone else to throw up an attempt outside of their range. Getting the ball inside to Facey with the opportunity to either ball-fake and make a play at towards the basket or take a short mid-range jumper might be just what the doctor ordered.
This will also be helpful in breaking the zone. Right now the only play we run down low is the entry pass to Hamilton in the middle of the zone where he can either dump down low or take the mid-range jumper. Hamilton is also a key part of the only low-post play we seem to be running with any regularity or success, the alley-oop to Amida Brimah. This needs to change.
As we learned last year, Kevin Ollie teams are built to succeed when it matters most. We know that right now he is using a limited playbook due to the inexperience on this team. But for the Huskies to reach their full potential, there has to be somebody they can go to down low. Unless Rakim Lubin comes out of nowhere (his shot looked nice against USF!) or Phil Nolan shows us something we haven't seen before, that person will have to be Kentan Facey. I believe he can do it.