Heading into this season, many people believed that Jim Calhoun was headed for a rebuilding year with seven new freshmen on the team. Coming off a season where UConn went 17-14 and lost three starters, even the media picked the Huskies to finish 10th in the Big East Conference.
Fast-forward to today, December 22, 2010 this UConn team is 9-0 and the No. 4 team in the country. Whether that ranking will remain as the season continues will depend on how the Huskies perform the rest of the season.
Tonight, UConn looks to go 10-0 at home against Harvard.
The biggest reason why UConn remains successful is behind the guard play of Kemba Walker. Walker, a junior out of the Bronx, has brought his game to another level. He is the second-leading scorer in the country, averaging over 27 points per game.
Walker's style of attacking the basket helps him get to the free-throw line and at the same time he can step back and hit the three. It was something that he was lacking his first two seasons in Storrs. Now, as a legitimate shooter he has a whole new dimension to his game.
As good as Walker has been, Alex Oriakhi has been very productive in the post. He showed glimpses last season, but is starting to find a consistency in scoring and rebounding this year.
He's averaging a double-double, 11.4 points per game and 10.0 rebounds per game.
His performance in Maui caught the eyes of many college basketball analysts and he will be counted on to continue his impressive play if the Huskies want to remain a force in the Big East.
After the two leaders of Walker and Oriakhi, UConn has a lot of balance and no real third significant scorer. Although some see this as a problem, the Huskies have different guys who can step up their production on any given night.
Roscoe Smith and Jeremy Lamb are two freshmen who are long and have length to score and rebound.
Smith is averaging 7.2 ppg and 5.8 rebs while Lamb is averaging 7.6 ppg and 5.0 rebs.
Guard Shabazz Napier has made an impact by letting Kemba Walker play off the ball when he comes in. Napier is averaging 8.6 ppg and is a tenacious defender.
Where UConn needs help is in the post.
Charles Okwandu had his best game as a Husky on Monday when he scored 9 points 7 rebounds and had 5 blocks. It was against Coppin State, but it was still a pleasant sight to see after he began the season with more fouls (7) than points (5).
Enosch Wolf, a seven footer from Germany, just joined the team on Sunday. Calhoun has praised his basketball IQ, but he is going to need to use his size and strength to be effective in conference play. In limited minutes Monday he scored four points.
I think Wolf has the game to be able to come in and use his body in a way that will help UConn against other big frontcourts.
Jamaal-Coombs-McDaniel continues to struggle from three. Coombs will be a lot better off when he starts worrying about his shot falling and he starts driving to the rim. He has the size to slash in towards the basket, but it seems like he is always settling for jump shots.
Niels Giffey will be fine. He has been inconsistent this season, but has a fluent jump shot and puts a lot of pressure when defending.
Tyler Olander is young and hasn't performed well this season but it is going to take time. Donnell Beverly as a Senior guard knows his role on the team and does the little things that helps these young Huskies.
Over the next month, we are going to learn a lot about this team; the same squad that went to Maui and beat three quality opponents in Wichita State, Michigan State and Kentucky.
It starts on Monday when the Huskies travel to Pittsburgh. From there they still go to Notre Dame and Texas. In between, they have home games versus South Florida and Rutgers. They also go to Depaul before playing a national game on Martin Luther King Day at Gampel Pavillion vs. Villanova.
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