Tuesday, September 06, 2005

2005-2006 Connecticut Team Preview


2005-2006 Team Roster from Official Team Site: ROSTER.

The Connecticut Coaching Staff: UCONN STAFF.

Home Court: Gampel Pavilion (on-campus) and Hartford Civic Center (off-campus): FACILITIES.

OVERVIEW: Prior to the 2003-2004 season the popular pick to win the National Championship was Jim Calhoun’s Connecticut Huskies. This year, the Hall of Fame coach might be entering the season with a similar target as one of the early favorites to cut down the nets in early April. The Huskies are once again loaded with talent, but they are not without some lingering question marks that could make accomplishing their ultimate goals a little more difficult than in 2004.

The Huskies are as talented and deep as any team in the country. They took a hit this June when prized big man recruit Andrew Bynum opted for the NBA draft, but that still shouldn’t detract too much from their talent advantage over most clubs in 2005-2006. After all, there are not many teams that can boast a line-up that features three potential NBA lottery picks in the 2006 draft and, possibly, six players overall being taken in that draft. That does not even include a past ACC freshmen of the year that will be a 5th year senior for the Huskies. Last year’s national champions North Carolina Tar Heels probably did not go this deep in talent.

But, there are questions. At this time, highly touted redshirt freshmen AJ Price has not been cleared to resume basketball related activities. As most know, Price suffered an Arteriovenous Malformation which caused bleeding in the brain and left Price fighting for his life. It will remain unclear until later this fall whether Price will be cleared to play. On top of that, Price and starting point guard Marcus Williams are subject to a Connecticut campus police investigation of stolen laptops. Williams is currently in Argentina competing with the USA Under-21 team in the World Championships, and a decision on the case is expected upon his return. The uncertainty at the guard position is a major concern that the UConn staff has attempted to cover with some late period additions to the roster.

STEPPING UP: For Jim Calhoun’s first national championship there was Richard “Rip” Hamilton. For Coach Calhoun the second time, there was Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon. Who will step up this time? Well, the player most expected to do so is sophomore Rudy Gay. Gay averaged nearly 12 points and over 5 .5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks as a freshmen for UConn. Gay is a versatile player that shot over 46% from the floor and beyond the 3-pt arc and was able to hit over 70% of his free throws. Standing nearly 6’9, Gay is a nightmare match-up on the wing with his length and athletic ability, he also has the skill to dominate from the wing. As a sophomore, he will have to take more of an assertive role on this team and become more consistent. He began to make strides toward that effect down the stretch last year scoring double figures in 12 of the teams last 14 games leading up to their 2nd round NCAA loss to North Carolina St. In that time he averaged nearly 15 PPG, shooting over 50% from the floor. Even with all the talent surrounding Gay, the Huskies will still need to have that one player that can be counted on to be there every game and when they need a big play, to look in his direction. Gay might be the most talented player in college basketball when combining everything he brings to the table and if he is able to step forward for the Huskies this season, they could all follow him VERY far!

RETURNEES: Rudy Gay might have been a little tempted to test the NBA waters last season, and UConn fans were certainly holding their breath, as Gay would have most likely ended up as a top 5 pick, but Gay is returning to lead a talented group of Huskies this season. Coach Calhoun also welcomes back seniors Rashad Anderson, Denham Brown, Hilton Armstrong and Ed Nelson along with juniors Josh Boone and Marcus Williams. Williams runs the show for the Huskies and once he grasped the idea of the Coach Calhoun-way, Connecticut was a much better team. Williams averaged 8.4 assists in league games and scored in double figures in 10 of their last 11 games. He returns as one of the top point guards in the country. Boone got off to a phenomenal start last year, averaging 17.5 PPG and 11.3 rebounds in UConn’s first 10 games, but tailed off the rest of the season and finished with averages of 12.4 PPG and 8.4 rebounds. As Gay and Charlie Villanueva became more consistent offensive threats, Boone’s offense became much more inconsistent. Still, he returns as one of the top rebounding big men and post defenders in the country. Senior Rashad Anderson also returns and was 3rd in scoring average last year for UConn with 11.9 PPG. Anderson also battled healthy problems as a skin abscess caused him to be hospitalized and the complications led to a dramatic weight loss and he missed 7 games late in the year. Obviously not the same player as before the infection, Armstrong managed just 11 points in their last 4 games. Denham Brown also returns on the wing and averaged 10.4 PPG last season. Brown and Anderson are very dangerous scorers that can fill it up quickly once they get going. Fellow seniors Hilton Armstrong and Nelson also return to bolster the front line. Armstrong is ready for a break out season after waiting behind stars Okafor and Villanueva the last few years. An excellent rebounder and shot-blocker, Armstrong can run and jump with the best of them in the front court. Nelson was the ACC rookie of the year at Georgia Tech in his freshmen season and transferred to UConn after his sophomore season. Nelson is a valuable reserve that accepted a lesser role and adds a physical toughness to the Husky interior that has been lacking a times.

INCOMING: Obviously it is a blow to lose a McDonald’s All-American C from your recruiting class, and Andrew Bynum’s decision of NBA riches definitely takes a little of the luster off the recruiting class. Marcus Johnson is a 6’6 WG out of California that can score from the perimeter and Jeff Adrien is a hard-working 6’6 forward that can go inside and mix it up and is working on extending his game out a little more. Both would be top freshmen on any team and would expect a lot of playing time in most situations, however, with the talent going so deep for Coach Calhoun this season, neither will be called upon to do much more than add to that depth. Late in the recruiting period, UConn added combo guard Craig Austrie and, very recently, point guard Robert Garrison. Neither are high-level recruits, but both would be very solid system players over the course of their careers and could blossom as they both are talented. Connecticut’s hope is that AJ Price is medically cleared to play and the laptop investigation is nothing serious, if so, Austrie and Garrison would be a nice source of depth this coming season. If they are pressed into action at the point guard spot, things get a tad bit dicey, but both should be able to do a competent job with the talent surrounding them.

LOSSES: Another draft, another Husky in the lottery, get used to it, it should continue at least another season as Charlie Villanueva was the latest UConn early entry to go in the draft. Some may argue Villanueva never fully reached his potential at UConn, and, staying for just two seasons, that is probably true, but he was a player that really benefited from playing under the Hall of Fame coach that Jim Calhoun is. Antonio Kellogg was dismissed from school and Ryan Thompson, who had another season of eligibility, graduated and opted to move on.

SCHEDULE: When you are such a high profile program with the talent UConn has, the Big East will take advantage of this and match you up with the most attractive television opportunities and the conference has done this. With mirror opponents that include Villanova, Louisville and Syracuse, this schedule is obviously right there as the toughest in the conference. I am sure Jim Calhoun would not have it any other way as he is a master at molding his troops for the battles of March.

OUTLOOK: The talent is there and Jim Calhoun is one that always seems to be able to mold that talent into a group that plays their best basketball when it really matters in March. He also has the track record of getting to the final four and winning the whole thing, so they are rightfully taking their place amongst the nation’s elite programs and favorites this year to win it all. They have the point guard in Marcus Williams, they have the star in Rudy Gay and they are surrounded by other talent that would star for other teams across the country. Calhoun will have to juggle the players just a bit to keep the most efficient line-ups on the floor as they have at least seven players that could start on nearly every other team across the country and keep them cohesive and wanting to play defense. They might hit a couple speed bumps along the way as Calhoun works on different aspects of each player, he has a mentality as a coach to break them down over the first few months and build them back-up for the stretch. His track record of success from being able to do just that speaks for itself and this year, Storrs is one of the places to be, once again!


At 3:40 PM, Blogger universityloveconnection said...

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University of Connecticut


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