For a team that never quite found its groove last season, it is not a promising sign when you lose three valuable players to graduation and three other key pieces to the future decide to transfer. That is one of the many obstacles Connecticut will have to overcome this season if they hope to return to the top of the Big East standings.
Junior point guard Kemba Walker is the only returning Husky who averaged more than five points per game last season and will shoulder the responsibility of becoming the true team leader. His decision-making and shot selection were questionable at the beginning of the season, but Walker really started to come into his own down the stretch, proving why he is potential NBA Draft first-round pick.
Freshman Jeremy Lamb and sophomore Jamal Coombs-McDaniel figure to replace Jerome Dyson and Stanley Robinson in the starting lineup. Both players were highly recruited out of high school and bring athleticism to the floor, but how they transition to starter minutes and help complement Walker on the wing will be a big indicator to the team's success.
Size is never an issue for Connecticut and this season is no different. Once 7-1 Enosch Wolf becomes eligible after the first semester, the Huskies will have five players taller than 6-8 on their roster. Alex Oriakhi returns to the starting lineup, but will need to add some inside scoring to go along with his physicality. Project big man Ater Majok deciding to leave Connecticut this offseason which could thrust athletic forward Roscoe Smith into the starting lineup from the opening tip of the season. Seven-foot senior Charles Okwandu will also need to become a factor in the paint to make up for the losses of Majok and Gavin Edwards.
This is a transition year for Connecticut as seven new players enter the program. The Huskies are a team that will eventually get back to the powerhouse that we expect them to be; I just do not think that reformation will happen overnight.
Player to Watch: Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, G/F
For a team that shot an abysmal 31 percent from three last season, Coombs-McDaniel will need to improve upon his 27.1 percent to give Connecticut an outside threat. He saw limited playing time a year ago playing behind Dyson and Robinson on the wing, but figures to see a significant spike in minutes on an inexperienced club.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/22 vs. Wichita State (Maui Invitational)
11/23 vs. Michigan State/Chaminade (Maui Invitational)