By Jon Rothstein
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1. TALENT OOZES
Like we’ve seen with past teams in Storrs, the overall talent level on the roster for this particular group of Huskies is staggering. In addition to returning everyone from last year’s national championship team minus Kemba Walker, Jim Calhoun added three blue chip freshman in Ryan Boatright, Deandre Daniels, and Andre Drummond.
In almost every other program in America with the exception of a select few, these three would instantly be starters. At UCONN, they’re simply a piece to the puzzle.
2. DEANDRE CAN DAZZLE
Drummond may come in with the most sizzle out of all the Huskies freshman but Daniels isn’t far behind.
Exceptionally polished for a first-year college player, the 6-foot-8 wing figures to push for a starting spot at small forward next to Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb on the perimeter. A terrific shooter with great range, Daniels eerily resembles Dermarr Johnson when he played at Cincinnati for Bob Huggins in 1999-2000.
3. WINGS WILL FLY
No team in college basketball will have as many quality wings as UCONN. In addition to Lamb and Daniels, Roscoe Smith returns primed for a solid sophomore season and maybe the most improved player on the Huskies is Germany native Niels Giffey.
The 6-foot-7 sophomore played during the summer with the German National Team and displayed a solid feel for the game to go with a refined handle along with a lethal outside shot.
4. STYLE OPTIONS
Calhoun has won many ways at UCONN — in 1999 and 2011, he used undersized power forward on the baseline. In 2004, he overwhelmed opponents with size. This year, he figures to do a little bit of both.
With three solid big men in Drummond, Alex Oriakhi, and Tyler Olander, look for the Huskies to initially try to pound teams into submission. However, the speed and skill this team has should not be discounted. End of game scenarios with Napier, Boatright, Lamb, and Daniels or Smith on the floor together could happen with regularity once Big East play begins.
5. DRUMMOND’S PRESENCE
He doesn’t look like a first-year player but Drummond amazingly is. A massive force in the paint, the most heralded Huskies recruit seems eager to be coached and could allow Oriakhi to have a monster season as he cleans up the scraps on the offensive and defensive glass.
THEY SAID IT:
“He’s 6-foot-11, 277 pounds, and further along as a freshman than other big guy we’ve ever had here and the only that’s close to him is Emeka (Okafor). The sky’s the limit for him.” -Calhoun on Andre Drummond
“He’s as relentless as they come. He’s feisty and he’s a pain. Everyone here loved Kemba (Walker). Not everybody is going to love Shabazz because he’s a pest.” – Calhoun on Shabazz Napier
“He’s going to play two-guard for us. It wouldn’t shock me if he’s a pro in a few years.” – Jim Calhoun on Deandre Daniels
There’s no questioning that UCONN has every piece needed to win the Big East and challenge for another national championship. The only other teams in the country with comparable talent to the Huskies are North Carolina, Kentucky, and Syracuse — so the key for this team will ultimately be finding a new leader. Early on that figures to be Napier, with doses from Lamb and Oriakhi sprinkled in as time progresses.
Calhoun has always said that he’s always preferred expectations heading into a season — this group will bring them in a major way.
What do you expect from Calhoun’s squad? Make your prediction in the comments below…