Monday, July 18, 2011

The Huskies By Numbers

So I’m doing a UConn season preview for Lindy’s, and they ask that we list the team’s key statistics from last year and how they ranked both in conference and nationally.

Come to realize that UConn didn’t shoot the ball well last year (44.4 percent, 11th in Big East, 182nd nationally) and was even worse from beyond the arc (32.9, 12th Big East, 221st nationally).

The Huskies didn’t score particularly well (72.4 ppg, 7th, 74th), weren’t as menacing as they usually are defensively (64.9, 6th, 84th), and didn’t dole out a whole lot of assists (13 per game, 13th, 155th). Even their usual rebounding dominance was a bit down – their rebounding margin of 4.4 per game was fourth in the Big East.

And while the Huskies were second in the Big East and 11th nationally in blocked shots, that’s a far cry from leading the nation in the category, as they had done several times over the prior decade.

So how in the world did UConn win a national championship last season? Oh yeah … Kemba.

To be fair, UConn did lead the Big East and was 11th nationally in free throw percentage at 76.3 percent. And they turned the ball over just 11.4 times per game, second in the conference.

I realize numbers don’t always tell the whole story … which again leads us back to Kemba and the remarkable leadership, clutch play and intangibles he brought to the table. Despite all the talent returning next season, not to mention the two blue-chip recruits UConn is bringing in, the loss of just that one player will be incalculable. Nobody in the history of the program has meant more to a single team than Kemba did last year – and that’s saying a lot, as this program has churned out Ray Allen, Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon … you know the list.

I think Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright are as good a replacement as you could find, but losing Kemba Walker will still be a lot to overcome. Think about how much Jeremy Lamb benefitted from defenses keying on Kemba. Lamb is great, and he can certainly create his own offense, but it will be a different challenge for him next year as “The Man.”

Think about who’ll have the gumption to step up and hit all those clutch shots. Who’ll take the team by the reins like Kemba did last winter, when he steered it away from all the nonsense that was going on within the program (and it goes deeper than you might imagine) and kept the Huskies' eyes focused on the prize?

Questions that need to be answered. The talent is there – even more overall talent than last year’s team – and there’s no doubt the Huskies will be one of the top teams in the country. Just be careful with any Final Four expectations.

Oh, a couple of other numbers for you: I’ve never been big on knowing and remembering uniform numbers, but some people are. With that in mind, we’ll tell you that DeAndre Daniels will be sporting No. 2 for the Huskies this year and Boatright will wear No. 11.

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