Preseason Sweet 16: Connecticut Huskies
By Clark Kellogg, Yahoo Sports
October 20, 2005
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The Connecticut Huskies had what many would call a successful season last year. They went 23-8 overall and 13-3 in the Big East, tying Boston College for first place in the conference.
But a surprising second-round NCAA tournament loss to North Carolina State was evidence that the team lacked consistency. Despite good depth, a powerful frontline and some brilliant play from point guard Marcus Williams, the Huskies often sputtered. Turnovers were a problem, as were reliable defense and perimeter shooting. On the flipside, rebounding was an area in which the Huskies excelled, and because of their shot-blocking prowess, opposing teams shot only 39 percent.
Despite losing Charlie Villanueva to the NBA, this year's frontline could still be one of the nation's best with Josh Boone, Hilton Armstrong, Rudy Gay and Ed Nelson running the floor.
Boone is a major force on the glass but needs to develop a go-to move to be an effective scorer in the post, and Armstrong appears to be poised for a big season. However, if the Huskies are going to be a Sweet 16 team or better, they need seniors Rashad Anderson and Denham Brown to have terrific seasons, and that means shooting better than the 38 percent they combined for last year.
They also need to take better care of the ball and run more plays through Gay. The 6-foot-9 sophomore could (and should) be a 20-ppg scorer, but only if he gets enough touches. He has range, can finish off the dribble and is effective in the post – and his versatility makes others better.
A cloud hovering over this team is the status of Williams. The talented point guard was suspended over the summer after being charged with theft, and it still is unclear when he might rejoin the team. But for the purposes of my Sweet 16 assessment, I'm going to make the assumption that he will play the majority of the season, giving the Huskies one of the best penetrators and passers in the country.
Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun has a terrific track record with wing scorers (Ray Allen, Caron Butler, Rip Hamilton and Donyell Marshall), and undoubtedly will see to it that Gay has the chance to be the team's focal point on offense. But the greatest challenges are finding a backup point guard for Williams, and getting better production from seniors in secondary roles. An excellent teacher and master motivator, Calhoun will find a way.
Overall, the Huskies have the talent to have a terrific season – maybe even picking up the Big East title again on their way to a good tournament run. But the Williams situation and the lack of another proven point guard are major concerns.
Clark Kellogg is Yahoo! Sports' NCAA men's basketball analyst. Send Clark a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Thursday, Oct 20, 2005 10:31 am, EDT