With Amida Brimah now out for two months, the UConn men's basketball team will have to rely on big men who have played in fairly limited roles so far this season. Wednesday against Central Connecticut, those bigs will have a chance to get some quality minutes against a struggling opponent.
The Blue Devils (1-8) picked up their first win of the season Friday against UMass Lowell, who went on to lose to UConn by nine Sunday. Under longtime UConn assistant coach Howie Dickenman, Central ranks 335th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 348th in adjusted defensive efficiency this season. UConn's 37th-ranked offense and 30th-ranked defense will need to take advantage.
Defense was an issue for UConn against UMass Lowell, when Brimah was sitting out with a testicular contusion. The Huskies allowed Lowell to score 79 points, tied with Syracuse for the most points by a UConn opponent this season. UConn entered the game ranked 18th in adjusted defensive efficiency, but the weak showing saw the Huskies fall to 31st, with results elsewhere moving them up to 30th entering Wednesday.
Despite being a popular school among Connecticut students, Central only has one in-state connection on its roster: junior forward Malcolm Simmons. He only played in the opener against Hartford. The Blue Devils biggest threats will be Khalen Cumberlander (13.4 points per game) and Brandon Peel, best known as Charlie Villanueva's doppelgänger. He averages 10.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
Dickenman was on the Huskies' bench even before Jim Calhoun arrived, serving as a UConn assistant coach from 1982 to 1996. After Sunday's game, Kevin Ollie said he owes a lot to the Central coach.
"I love Howie," Ollie said. "I wouldn't be here without Howie believing in me, seeing me at Boo Williams (basketball camp) and probably convincing coach (Calhoun) that I was good enough."
Phil Nolan is set to start in Brimah's absence. The senior started the last 10 games of last season after starting 19 the year before, including the national championship game. Nolan is averaging 1.6 points and 0.9 rebounds in eight appearances this season, averaging 6.4 minutes per game.
While Nolan will start, expect to see plenty of Kentan Facey and Steve Enoch. We looked at their numbers and the production from Brimah UConn needs to replace.
Following UConn's win over UMass Lowell, Kevin Ollie and several players talked about playing without Brimah.
How will the Huskies fare? How will the roles of Nolan, Steve Enoch and Kentan Facey be affected? What else should Kevin Ollie do to replace Brimah's production? Share your thoughts on these questions and more in the open thread below throughout the game.