This UConn Huskies team had its fair share of ups and downs early on in the college basketball season. As Big East play is set to start tomorrow night in Cincinnati, the Huskies find themselves in a familiar position: ranked 10th in the country.
Many analysts question how strong this UConn team is, and believe them to be overrated. The next two months include 18 tough conference games and nonconference games at Michigan and at home against an undefeated Texas.
Connecticut is coming off a year in which it lost to Michigan State in the national semifinal. With the loss of Jeff Adrien, A.J. Price, and Hasheem Thabeet to the NBA, this team has had to reload and find ways to pick up the production.
Where UConn has struggled most early on in the season is down low.
Freshmen Alex Oriahki and Atar Majok have had little offensive presence in the paint and the only big man scoring points is Gavin Edwards off the bench who is averaging 10.8 points per game.
Majok, who only played in three games because of having to sit out the fall semester, has showed potential. He is still getting acquainted with the speed of the game and his overall awareness on the court. UConn has believed that Majok is the piece that would really solidify the frontcourt and turn this team into a Big East title contender.
Oriahki, on the other hand, has started the entire season. He has been one of UConn's biggest contributors on the glass, leading the team in rebounding—grabbing 8.5 rebounds per game. However, he is only scoring 5.5 points per game, and Coach Calhoun has continued to stress the importance of creating score chances for the big men down low. The big three can only shoot and score so much.
As Connecticut stands at this point in the season with a 9-2 record much of the credit goes to the experience and leadership of Stanley Robinson, Jerome Dyson, and Kemba Walker.
After Dyson went down with a knee injury, Walker was called upon and played
tremendously down the stretch into March. Losing Dyson was a crucial blow and his shooting ability may have the difference in playing for a national championship against North Carolina.
But that's in the past. Walker is the floor general of this team. His speed and athleticism has gained him recognition and praise from some of the best coaches in college basketball. This year, Walker has continued his success. He is averaging 13.3 points and 6.4 assists per game.
The transition game starts with Walker, and he is frequently pushing the ball up the court, fearlessly driving to the hoop.
As good as Walker has been, Robinson and Dyson, both seniors, have carried the load. Whenever a big basket is needed, Dyson makes a three on the wing, or Robinson makes an electric dunk, always erupting roars from the crowd.
Dyson hasn't been afraid to shoot this season, and is leading the team scoring 19.8 points per game. He is also grabbing 5.3 rebounds and dishing out 4.7 assists a game which shows his balance. Dyson has been able to do it all early on in the season and his production is going to be even more needed against the best of the Big East.
This Connecticut team is lucky to have the services of Stanley Robinson back for another. Robinson, who thought about entering the NBA draft, came back to Storrs and has been unbelievable on the court.
He is scoring 17.7 points per game, just behind Dyson, and he is second on the team in rebounding, with 7.5 rebounds per game. Robinson is known for his freakish jumping ability and electrifying dunks. Robinson's game is starting to come into form, and this is promising news for the Huskies.
Coach Calhoun has signed on for another five years at UConn, and with two national championships to his name, he's got to be itching for another. He knows his team hasn't played great—losing to Duke, and blowing a lead late against Kentucky. Then again, the fact that they played hard against both these teams shows that this Connecticut team is not afraid to battle with the best of them.
No game is easy in the Big East, and this UConn team is going to learn early on in January that, when unprepared, the competition will use it to their full advantage. The Huskies haven't faced a hostile away-environment this year, but that will change come tomorrow night when it goes to Cincinnati to face a tough Bearcats team.