1. Daniel Hamilton is this team's best player
There has been quite a bit of talk and questioning regarding who will become this team's "alpha dog." While Hamilton is not the vocal leader that Kemba Walker, Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier were, he is the engine that makes this team so dangerous.
Hamilton's greatest skill relates to how much better he makes his teammates. It is not simply that he makes great passes, but when he gets into the lane or runs the fast break, Hamilton gets into spots that suck in the defense and open up his teammates.
Compared to last year, his decision-making and handle seem much improved. Hamilton may not score 25 points per game, but he will have the biggest imprint on a game's outcome. We are watching a potentially very special player.
2. Expect a lot of press, but not a lot of pressure this season
While the 30-second shot clock may not be a huge factor, Kevin Ollie will be trying to make it feel like a great change. For nearly the entire game, Ollie employed a 2-2-1 or 2-1-2 press. This is done not to wreak havoc or create turnovers, like Shaka Smart's VCU teams or West Virginia, but to limit opponents' offensive sets and time trying to score.
While the rule change takes fives seconds off the possession, UConn tries to steal another six seconds or so from the offense using moderate pressure. As a result, UConn defends the half court set for a much shorter period of time. New Haven ran a motion offense and was forced into many shots late in the clock. It is generally difficult to sustain defensive focus and pressure for such a long time against an offense like this, but by shrinking the attack time in possession, UConn made its own life much easier. Look for this "low pressure" press often this year.
3. The 2012 problem is not a big concern
The 2011-12 team was had so much talent and potential, but it could never put it all together. There was never any cohesion with that team, especially offensively. This year's squad already plays well together on offense and seems comfortable creating opportunities for each other.
The UConn guards are always in attack mode. At every chance, Jalen Adams, Rodney Purvis, Sterling Gibbs and Hamilton are looking to get into the lane and make the defense uncomfortable. The guards make crisp passes and decisive dribbles in attempts to score and shift the defense. This does not mean that everything will simply click into place, but this will not be a team fighting itself throughout the game.
4. UConn's best lineup might be Jalen Adams, Sterling Gibbs, Rodney Purvis, Daniel Hamilton, and Shonn Miller
This is not a knock on Amida Brimah or the other big men, but it's hard not to be excited about what this unit can accomplish. Defenses will really struggle guard the speed and versatility of this lineup. Against New Haven, admittedly not and incredibly talented team, this group was the most unstoppable.
Miller appears big enough to guard centers and does a great job of positioning himself to rebound. Ollie has talked about "positionless basketball" and this lineup can accomplish that. In this grouping, everyone can dribble, pass, and score. With a concerted effort by all five to rebound, that potential deficiency becomes less of a problem, especially with other teams running a lot of smaller lineups like this. Watch for UConn to run this unit on the court early and often with much success.
5. Jalen Adams could be the most talented point guard, but he should not start
In the first half, Adams showed everything that made him such a prized recruit. He has great handles, an accurate shot, and vast court vision. Adams' game reminds me of a Derrick Rose or John Wall. His athleticism and pressure are incredible and when it works, he will light up the scoreboard and rev up a crowd.
Adams had a number of drives and finishes that wowed everyone watching. However, he is a freshman and will make the mistakes typical of a young player. By being the sixth man, Adams can inject energy into the offense, rather than beginning the game with the weight of star expectations on his shoulders. He will impress, but he needs to watch and learn first. His time will come.