Editor's Note: The BIG EAST will be previewing both the men's and women's team from each BIG EAST member each weekday from October 22 to November 8 in advance of the 2012-13 season. Use hashtag #BECountdown to join the conversation on Twitter.
Connecticut Huskies Men's Basketball
The Big Picture:
The big news came in September when Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun retired. The torch has been passed to assistant coach and former Husky standout Kevin Ollie. Last year’s young team had to find a way to succeed without Kemba Walker, who helped carry the Huskies to the 2011 national championship. The 2011-12 squad did taste success, finishing 20-14 and earning an NCAA berth, its 22nd under Calhoun. The challenge for the upcoming season is that UConn will be young again, but it will have to cope with the departure of two players who were NBA lottery picks and two other regulars who transferred. The Huskies believe the transition to Ollie will be smooth, but there will be an adjustment on all levels without the familiar Calhoun on the bench.
The talented backcourt includes junior Shabazz Napier and sophomore Ryan Boatright. Napier was second on the team in scoring last year, averaging 13.0 ppg. Boatright was third at 10.4. (Watch #BEMediaDay Interview) Boatright usually came off the bench, but both players saw over 30 minutes of action per game. Napier was third in the BIG EAST in assists with a 5.8 mark and eighth in steals at 1.7. Junior forward Tyler Olander started nine games and averaged 4.2 points and 3.9 rebounds. DeAndre Daniels and Niels Giffey both averaged double figures in minutes played, mostly at small forward. Daniels made 12 starts, averaged 3.0 points, 2.1 rebounds and showed some promise offensively. Giffey contributed more on the defensive end, while averaging 2.6 points. Enosch Wolf, a 7-1 junior, saw only limited playing time last year, but he will be counted on to help Olander close to the basket.
Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond went in the first 12 picks of the NBA draft. The 6-foot-5 Lamb was the Huskies’ leading scorer with a 17.7 average that also placed him third in the BIG EAST. He also averaged 4.9 rebounds. Drummond, a 6-foot-11 center, averaged 10.0 points and a team-leading 7.6 rebounds. Another frontcourt starter, Alex Oriakhi, transferred. He averaged 6.7 points and 4.8 rebounds while starting 28 games. Forward Roscoe Smith also went the transfer route. He played 18.2 minutes per game and averaged 4.4 points and 3.4 boards.
Last year, the Huskies had to replace Walker, their scoring and emotional leader. This season, they can rely on a talented backcourt, but need frontcourt players to step up and hope that the injury bug does not bite. With the departure of four players from last year’s regular rotation, newcomers may get a longer look than usual to contribute. Up front, 6-foot-10 freshman forward Philip Nolan will push Olander and Wolf for immediate playing time along with 6-foot-8 forward Leon Tolksdorf who has followed Giffey and Wolf to Storrs from Germany. Guard R.J. Evans, a senior transfer from Holy Cross, should contribute. Even with Napier and Boatright, rookie guard Omar Calhoun (no relation to the former head coach) brings highly regarded shooting skills and a 6-foot-4 frame. He figures to help right away. On top of all this is the head coaching change.