As part of a series of snapshot previews of upcoming UK opponents, the BBL takes an early look at the UConn Huskies.
UConn’s success will start and stop with PG Kemba Walker and SG Jerome Dyson. Walker was a super-frosh last season, who by March emerged as the Huskies top ballhandler. He possesses uncanny speed and quickness. Dyson blew his knee out late in the season and according to Coach Calhoun, the team was never the same again. A good slasher and outside shooter, he’ll start the year as UConn’s go-to offensive threat.
Replacing defensive enforcer and NBA draftee Hasheem Thabeet won’t be easy, but the Huskies will trot out a combination of depth, experience and talent in the paint. Stanley Robinson is the headliner, a 6’9 forward who will dazzle with circus dunks while providing shooting touch and athleticism. The heft of the bunch will come from a four-man rotation, led by 6’9 senior Gavin Edwards, who shined in the ‘09 NCAA tourney spelling Thabeet and now departed Jeff Adrien.
A lot will be asked of UConn’s freshmen class this season. Thankfully for Huskies fans, Calhoun pulled a consensus top 10 class emphasizing versatility and size. The highlight is McDonald’s All-American Alex Oriakhi, a muscular 6’8 beast who is a rebounding, shot-blocking demon. Ater Majok, an African dissident who was ineligible last season, may be the surprise, displaying an inside-outside game to go with 6’10 size. The newcomers are rounded out by combo guard Darius Smith from Chicago, and 6’7 swingman Jamal Coombs.
UConn and UK will in many ways be mirror images of each other this season. Both will rely heavily on a lightning quick PG, beefy interior and hyped-up incoming class. Neither team appears to possess a game-changing outside shooter, but both display incredible athletes with the ability to get to the rack. Each team will make its mark with sticky on-the-ball defense and playing a ton of bodies.
What to Watch
Sure, it’s only October, but we’ll speculate. The BBL thinks this game will be determined by the matchup between Walker-Dyson and Bledsoe-Wall. Walker and Dyson are two of the best perimeter defenders in the Big East and both are experienced. But will they be able to slow down UK’s electric rookie tandem?