2007-08 UCONN Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #18
Conference Rank: #4 Big East
2006-07: 17-14, 6-10, 12th
2006-07 postseason: none
Sometimes the game of basketball can be made to be more complicated than it really is. You can have all the shotblocking 7-3 centers and 6-7 super athletes you want, but if nobody can put the little orange ball in the slightly bigger metal circle, you are going to go 17-14 and barely make the Big East Tournament. Connecticut returns everybody of importance so the expectations to turn things around are high, and rightfully so, but the shooting numbers across the board better pick up or the Huskies will not find the drastic improvement they are looking for.
The lone departures are Rob Garrison and Ben Eaves, who are transferring to Niagara and Rhode Island, respectively. Both played in just 12 games last year and neither will be a big loss.
Donnell Beverly is a decent point guard, but nothing special by Uconn standards. At 6-4, he has nice size for his position and he is very quick. Beverly will find his teammates, but he needs to work on his defense and shooting before he will play a big role for the Huskies.
Who to Watch:
Jerome Dyson led the team with 13.8 points per game as just a freshman last year. The 6-4 shooting guard was one of the few bright spots for the 2006-2007 season and that at least gives hope to the future. A.J. Price will run the point once again, but it is his shooting that epitomizes the woes of the Huskies. Price shot just 27.3 percent from long range and he attempted nearly three a game. Either he has to become a pass first point guard or he better start making more than 27 percent of his attempts. Dyson made a few more three pointer’s than Price, but he will do most of his damage getting to the basket and the charity stripe. Doug Wiggins has the potential to be the shooter the team needs, but he needs to be more consistent after a relatively inconsistent freshman campaign. For now, he will back Dyson at the two guard spot. Craig Austrie takes good care of the ball and has proven to be an effective point guard. He is also one of the more productive long range shooters on the team, which is not saying too much, but having Wiggins and Austrie coming off the bench is a huge asset to Connecticut. Marcus Johnson and Stanley Robinson both earned some starts last year and will battle for the starting small forward job. Johnson, a junior, and Robinson, a sophomore, are good defenders but, of course, struggle scoring. Robinson is the better shooter and rebounder and will be starting if he can keep it up.
The frontcourt has a couple of interesting starters in Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien, although the depth is not as talented as the backcourts. Thabeet is a big, big presence under the basket on the defensive end. The 7-3 center thought about heading to the NBA, yet ultimately decided to return for his sophomore season in Storrs. He averaged 6.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game. The team does not really need him to do more in the scoring column besides the occasional putback bucket, since his defense is so stifling. Few players are more intimidating to run into when trying to get to the basket in college basketball. Adrien is the scorer up front and averaged 13.1 points and a team high 9.7 rebounds as a sophomore last year. With Thabeet by his side, Adrien becomes more effective in every facet of his game. The big problem for Thabeet and Adrien is turnovers. Hopefully a year of experience will keep them down, otherwise all the frontcourt production will not do much good. Curtis Kelly, Gavin Edwards and Jonathan Mandeldove will provide the depth up front. None were very productive last year, but they were just freshmen. They have the potential to step up and play a bigger role off the bench this season and the team has plenty of potential too. For the Huskie haters out there, hopefully you milked Connecticut’s failures for all it was worth last year, because it may be a while before the program misses out on the postseason again.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
A.J. Price, Junior, Guard, 9.4 points per game
Jerome Dyson, Sophomore, Guard, 13.8 points per game
Stanley Robinson, Sophomore, Forward, 5.1 points per game
Jeff Adrien, Junior, Forward, 13.1 points per game
Hasheem Thabeet, Sophomore, Center, 6.2 points per game