Jim Calhoun's Connecticut Huskies Don't Deserve Top 15 Love
Connecticut is about to be exposed.
In about a week, UConn will open Big East play as a top-15 team (potentially even top 10), and the Huskies will have done nothing to deserve it.
Is Connecticut a top-25 team? Probably, yes.
Has Jim Calhoun's team played like it? Barely. Considering UConn played miserably against Duke in Madison Square Garden and then blew a second half lead against Kentucky in the same arena, the Huskies should be grateful voters think so highly of them.
Especially since Connecticut hasn't easily won the games a top 15 should. It's okay to have the occasional single-digit game against William & Mary, Hofstra, Central Florida, or Harvard. Those are good teams.
But to struggle the way UConn has against those teams will likely lead to many Big East disappointments.
Connecticut's problems extend to both ends of the floor. The issues range from a lack of depth, to poor rebounding (yes, a Connecticut team that doesn't get after it on the glass), and awful offensive execution.
Jerome Dyson, Kemba Walker, and Stanley Robinson never leave the floor.
All those close games Connecticut keeps playing forces Jim Calhoun to rely on his great three-headed monster. Dyson, Walker, and Robinson have each stayed on the court for at least 83 percent of the teams' minutes (that's over 33 minutes per game).
Most of the other top teams in the country rarely need to play their stars at much more than a 70 percent rate early in the season.
These minutes will take a toll.
If Calhoun is hesitant to give his bench players more than eight or 10 minutes a piece against the Harvards and Hofstras of the world, how many minutes will a Jamal Coombs-McDaniel or Charles Okwandu get when a West Virginia or Syracuse rolls into town?
The rotation did get a little deeper with Ater Majok finally receiving clearance to play this semester. He ate up 16 minutes in his debut against Central Florida and could have a larger role as he acclimates himself to the college game.
Calhoun raved about Majok last year, saying the freshman could have played 20 minutes per game on last year's team, which featured a loaded frontcourt.
If Majok becomes that player, he'll help out in other areas the Huskies have struggled.
During this decade, rarely has a Connecticut team rebounded the defensive glass this poorly. UConn allows its opponents to grab over a third of their misses, a rate that ranks 215th in the country.
Only freshman Alex Oriakhi has been consistently strong on glass as guards Kemba Walker and Jerome Dyson are almost as likely to grab an opponents' miss as 6-9 forwards Stanley Robinson and Gavin Edwards.
Even with the poor rebounding and inability to force turnovers (266th in the country), Connecticut's defense is still ranked in the top 25 in terms of efficiency. UConn has never really forced turnovers, which hasn't been a problem because of the strong interior defense.
In a year where Connecticut isn't as dominate in the paint, it will be necessary for the Huskies to put more pressure on the ball with the super athletic Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker.
Majok's return won't help Connecticut's biggest problem on the offensive end of the floor. The three-pointer is not a part of Connecticut's offense in the least bit.
Just 15 percent of UConn's points come from behind the line; only five teams in the entire country score fewer points off of three-pointers than UConn. No team that relies on the three-pointer as little as UConn does has made a Sweet 16 in at least the last six years.
Kemba Walker and Jerome Dyson have yet to consistently knock down three-pointers each and every game. Stanley Robinson is much improved from distance, but has yet to make an impact from the perimeter.
Help is only on the way if the freshman Alex Oriakhi, Ater Majok, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, Darius Smith, and Charles Okwandu continue to develop and Jerome Dyson's knee gets healthier.
But for now, Calhoun will have to learn to win with what he has.
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