Welcome to The Sports Bank’s third annual college basketball season preview series. Two years we looked at 99 teams in 99 days. Last year, we were slightly more aggressive and expanded to 111 teams in 111 days and will do so again as we look ahead to the 2012-2013 season.
We will rank the 75 power conference teams and top 36 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order. We’ll break down rosters, transfers, incoming freshmen, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.
With Jim Calhoun’s retirement announcement, the UConn Huskies will enter a new era as they will have a different head coach for the first time in a quarter of a century. Former Husky Kevin Ollie inherits a team that loses several key players from last year’s squad which vastly underachieved and will ineligible for post-season play in 2013.
Last Season: T-9th, 8-10 in Big East, 20-14 overall
Predicted Big East Finish: 11th
Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Tyler Olander (Jr)/Enosch Wolf (Jr)
F: DeAndre Daniels (So)/Phillip Nolan (Fr)/Leon Tolksdorf (Fr)
SG: Omar Calhoun (Fr)/Neils Giffey (Jr)
G: Ryan Boatright (So)/R.J. Evans (Sr)/Brendan Allen (So)
PG: Shabazz Napier (Jr)
Gone: G/F-Jeremy Lamb, C-Andre Drummond, F/C-Alex Oriakhi (transfer-Missouri), F-Roscoe Smith (transfer-UNLV), F/C-Michael Bradley (transfer-Western Kentucky)
UConn was already going to be shorthanded with Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb leaving early for the NBA Draft. Because of the NCAA sanctions against the program due to poor academic standing, players were allowed to transfer without having to sit out a season so Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith decided to fly the coup as well meaning the Huskies lose four of their top six players from last year; three of whom played significant roles on the 2011 NCAA Championship team.
That leaves Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright to lead the program through rough waters, something they failed to do a year ago. The backcourt duo has moments of brilliance but for the most part, was incredibly erratic last season and failed to show the poise or maturity to lead the Huskies during stretches of adversity. It doesn’t help that both players are most comfortable running the point but with only one ball on the court, sharing that responsibility became a challenge. Ollie is going to have to find a way to get Boatright and Napier to share the load while keeping each player engaged in the game.
Highly touted freshman off guard Omar Calhoun will step in to replace Lamb giving UConn an even smaller three-guard look this year. Like Lamb, Calhoun is a pure scorer who can fill it up in a variety of ways. The trio of Napier, Boatright, and Calhoun will probably have to score around 50 points per game since the rest of the Husky roster is rather offensively challenged.
There is not a ton of depth on roster period, but the addition of Holy Cross graduate student K.J. Evans adds a needed boost off the bench right away. Evans averaged 11.5 points and nearly five rebounds per game last year and will compete with the gritty Niles Giffey for minutes on the wing.
Up-front is going to be a bit of an adventure for UConn. Tyler Olander was in and out of the starting line-up last year and certainly didn’t do anything to be worthy of logging major minutes. He is a decent rebounder and has a solid mid-range jumper but suddenly has the sole responsibility of holding down the fort inside for a team that is historically one of the top shot blocking programs.
The athletic DeAndre Daniels figures to start at forward. He struggled to acclimate himself to the college game last season and shot the ball rather horrifically. Daniels is extremely athletic, thriving in the open court but will have to play bigger since UConn lacks their typical big bodies down low.
Freshman Phillip Nolan was a late signee for the Huskies but should be an immediate factor off the bench. He does bring some needed versatility to the frontcourt but lacks the physicality to bang down low meaning he must rely on his length and athleticism. 7-1 Enosch Wolf has barely sniffed the court the past two seasons but will have to use his size more effectively to see quality minutes. German freshman Leon Tolksdorf is a face-up four whose shooting ability could earn him spot minutes as a reserve.
It is going to be a huge year of transition for the post-Calhoun Huskies this year. With no possibility of making the NCAA Tournament and expectations incredibly lowered, it might actually take some pressure off Ollie and UConn this year. Unless Napier, Boatright, and Calhoun can do it all, this team will have another uncharacteristically off season.
Player to Watch: Shabazz Napier
I loved Napier during his freshman season when he was used as a spark plug off the bench. Last year though, he was just never able to fully embrace his newfound leadership role as the team’s floor general which contributed to the team’s overall disappointing season. There’s no questioning his talent and ability but he finds a night-in, night-out consistency to put it all together.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/9 vs. Michigan State (Armed Forces Classic)
11/16 vs. Wake Forest (Paradise Jam)
11/18 vs. Iona/Quinnipiac (Paradise Jam)
11/19 vs. New Mexico/UIC/George Mason/Mercer
12/4 vs. N.C. State (Jimmy V Classic at MSG)
12/29 vs. Washington
OTHER 111 IN 111’S:
#77 Harvard Crimson
#78 Xavier Musketeers
#79 Ole Miss Rebels
#80 Clemson Tigers
#81 Oregon State Beavers
#82 Texas A&M Aggies
#83 Providence Friars
#84 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
#85 Oklahoma Sooners
#86 Lehigh Mountain Hawks
#87 Washington State Cougars
#88 Long Beach State 49ers
#89 Belmont Bruins
#90 Vanderbilt Commodores
#91 Dayton Flyers
#92 Houston Cougars
#93 UCF Knights
#94 Old Dominion Monarchs
#95 Oregon Ducks
#96 LSU Tigers
#97 South Carolina Gamecocks
#98 Seton Hall Pirates
#99 Georgia Bulldogs
#100 DePaul Blue Demons
#101 Boston College Eagles
#102 Penn State Nittany Lions
#103 Arizona State Sun Devils
#104 Virginia Tech Hokies
#105 Texas Tech Red Raiders
#106 Auburn Tigers
#107 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
#108 TCU Horned Frogs
#109 Mississippi State Bulldogs
#110 Utah Utes
#111 Nebraska Cornhuskers
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet (Yup, repeat champ… #humblebrag.)
You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.Follow paulmbanks