We’ve seen seasons like this – transition years – at UConn before. A freshman leading the team in scoring. A team that is completely unprepared to play on the road. A team that will grow up by taking some beatings in the Big East.
And ultimately, a team destined for the NIT.
Those teams, 1996-97 and 2000-01, won national titles within three years of their mediocre seasons. The difference is one team had Rip Hamilton, who was far more advanced as a freshman than Ray Allen, the star he replaced. The other had Caron Butler, who saw Connecticut as an obstacle, as opposed to a breeding ground, before the NBA. Hamilton won it all and Butler laid the foundation for Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon’s championship.
You saw the greatness Hamilton and the fire in Butler. No current Husky is even remotely close to either of those guys. Jerome Dyson, who I love, is off to nice start in his career. But I’m still not sure if he is complete exceeding expectations or if the rest of the guys are just failing to deliver.
A.J. Price hasn’t played in an organized game in two years, but it’s not like the guy completely gave up basketball either. He has proved absolutely nothing. Hasheem Thabeet is even worse than originally thought on offense and he isn’t exactly a beast on the boards either. It’s nice to have a shot blocker and it’s easy to call him a work in progress, but if (as expected) he leaves after this year, UConn will have accomplished very little when you think about all the effort that went into landing him. Jeff Adrien was fantastic in his role last season, but his size limits him when forced to start. He works hard, but he’s never going to put up the scoring numbers needed to make up for Thabeet’s minimal capability.
After Marcus Johnson, who is an athletic tweener, the rest of the team has players that are too much like one and other. So much so that it’s hard to find a constant rotation. Curtis Kelly and Stanley Robinson are the exact same, but neither brings much to the table yet. Doug Wiggins and Craig Austrie are capable backup point guards battling each other for time, but when added to Dyson and Price, there’s not room both of them to play.
The problem with the current Huskies is that projection has replaced actual results in the way we judge teams today. When Rip and Caron were freshmen, we all knew their respective teams weren’t very good. Now, young and average has been replaced with potential to dominate and it's given this team a false sense of security.