This has been one of the most exciting and active off-seasons in memory. Though UConn loses Ryan Boatright to graduation and Terrence Samuel and Rakim Lubin to transfer, the Huskies gain Jalen Adams and Steve Enoch as recruits, Sterling Gibbs and Shonn Miller as graduate transfers, and underclassman transfer Terry Larrier.
With all these changes, there is incredible excitement surrounding Kevin Ollie's 2015-2016 squad, but also uncertainty.
Last season, we saw a team dependent on one player with numerous pieces struggling to fit into roles. Ryan Boatright often played as a one-man hero, mostly capable, sometimes not able to give enough. Outside of Boatright (who by all measures was absolutely excellent), most of the team showed flashes, but failed to deliver the consistency of results needed.
If we look through the roster, there are incredible options on this team and it will be up to Ollie and his staff to figure out what the most effective lineup is while also managing minutes and egos. The talent is there, but putting it together will be the question.
So who will start? I'll go through the traditional 1-5 roles to give us a start:
Point Guard: Either senior Sterling Gibbs or freshman Jalen Adams will start at the point. Adams appears to be incredibly talented with the ability to pass and score the ball, but no freshman is a certainty. For Seton Hall last season, Gibbs had a strong assist rating and a low turnover rate, lower than any UConn regular the previous season according to Kenpom. UConn has not started a freshman at point guard since Taliek Brown. Thus, I expect Sterling Gibbs to start at point guard.
Shooting Guard: In Ollie's first two seasons as head coach, he went to his roots by understanding the value of a second ball-handler on the floor with Shabazz and Boatright. Even last season, Terrence Samuel played over half the team's minutes, giving UConn the opportunity to play Boatright off the ball and put him in better scoring situations (similarly to Napier the year before).
This is very possible with Adams this year, but I would not expect it to start games. Last season, Rodney Purvis was hot and cold, sometimes getting completely lost and visibly frustrated in games. He seemed to turn it on towards the end of the season. He is a player who feeds off good play and emotion. Ollie will probably start Purvis and use Adams as the sparkplug off the bench. Still, expect to see many lineups with Gibbs, Purvis, and Adams on the floor at once.
Small Forward: Unless Ollie loves the three-guard lineup with Daniel Hamilton as a stretch power forward, expect Hamilton to be slotted into the three. Hamilton showed incredible passing ability in his freshman year and was the team's best playmaker for others. Hamilton gives Ollie the flexibility and playmaking skill he wants on the floor.
Center: Yeah, I know. I am going out of order here, but I have a reason. There is no question that Amida Brimah is the center. Brimah is an intimidating college center who made strides last season, but still has momentary lapses of judgment. We have seen his incredible skill as a shot blocker and offensive rebounder, but the other elements of his defensive game are a point of weakness.
In his desire to block every shot, Brimah often finds himself out of position and leaving weak side rebounds available for easy put backs. By the Kenpom ratings, Brimah was a worse defensive rebounder than Ryan Boatright last season, which for a seven-footer is awful.
Power Forward: That last line is the reason why I put power forward last. Luckily, where Brimah struggles, Shonn Miller excels. Miller was the sixth-best defensive rebounder in the country last season. For the beginning of last season, Kentan Facey appeared to have the ability and skill to play this key rebounding role, but he was inconsistent and his minutes really dwindled throughout the season. Facey should receive a decent number of minutes next season, but expect Shonn Miller to start.
While this is my expectation to begin the season, there are obvious changes that could occur. Last year, Ollie shuffled the lineup throughout the season, before settling on Boatright, Purvis, Hamilton, Nolan, and Brimah at the end of the season. He seemed to like beginning the game with a more standard lineup before switching into matchup-specific groups and sticking to the hot hand.
The real wildcard for UConn is how well Adams can play and what kind of role he can carve out for himself as a freshman. However Ollie decides to play it, there are high expectations this season with an incredible mix of talent and experience.