Through three games, the Connecticut Huskies are off to a historically bad start to the 2016-17 season. Not only did Northeastern defeat UConn for the first time since before Jim Calhoun even arrived in Storrs, but the team started season 0-2 for the first time in nearly 50 years. Scraping past Loyola Marymount in game three hasn’t done much to assuage any concerns either.
Those concerns are numerous. Outside shooting has been an Achilles heel, UConn has also struggled to get stops, share the basketball well, and find any sort of inside presence offensively.
The good thing about struggling early is that there’s time to right the ship. It's only November. The team plays half a dozen more games before it even enters conference play. Head coach Kevin Ollie has time to right the ship. Fortunately, he also has the pieces to make that happen, assuming he can find the proper mix.
Early on, some of the veterans have been bigger problems than solutions. Kentan Facey looks aggressive around the blocks, but he hasn't been able to convert his shots. Amida Brimah has been a mixed bag. Rodney Purvis is not making plays on either end or playing to his strengths.
That might mean it's time to turn to newer faces. Gilbert looks like a real asset already, just two games into his collegiate career. His unfortunate injury is a setback, though Ollie has indicated Gilbert should be back soon.
Vance Jackson represents a solution to some problems with his outside shooting prowess, something which most other Huskies lack at this juncture. Another candidate is Christian Vital, who will need to step up quickly with Gilbert out as the Huskies ready for the Maui Invitational.
Along the interior, Amida Brimah is solid defensively, but a liability on offense. He has always dealt with foul trouble and is prone to being pushed around. The 7-footer has a nice touch as a shooter but certainly can’t bang down low. As a senior, he is who he is— a necessary piece for this team but not somebody who can be counted on offensively in the post. Perhaps it’s time to give Steve Enoch some more run?
If Gilbert, Jackson, a healthy Christian Vital and sophomore Jalen Adams begin to assert themselves, suddenly UConn looks a bit more fearsome, and hopefully more in line with what some had predicted of them this year. Balanced with even the slightest interior threat from Brimah, Enoch and/or Facey would open up more shooting and driving lanes for these talented underclassmen.
On this team, Terry Larrier feels like the only veteran in a comfort zone right now, and even he is a brand new face to this school. Often, relying on experience is a key to reaching great success when you aren’t recruiting like a Duke or Kentucky. In the case of this year’s UConn team, however, it’s time for the youth movement to get started.