Here’s a quick, position-by-position breakdown of the Connecticut Huskies. Stats do NOT include the Huskies’ 80-54 win over DePaul last night, due to deadlines and publication at the Marquette Tribune.
Point guards Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier:
A changing of the guard has taken place in Hartford as Boatright, the freshman, has taken over point guard duties from Napier, Connecticut’s point guard on last year’s national championship team. Boatright has answered the increase in minutes with averages of 17 points and five assists in 36 minutes his past three outings.
The freshman’s efficiency has been a relief for the Huskies who have struggled with the sophomore Napier’s 2.9 turnovers per game and 31 percent shooting in Big East play. Boatright can score from anywhere on the court, makes good decisions and has the speed and athleticism to make him a tough cover on junior guard Junior Cadougan.
Napier has started all four games since Boatright entered the starting lineup on Feb. 1, giving the Huskies two distributors at their disposal. The results, however, have been lackluster. In the past four games, albeit against stiff competition, Connecticut has averaged 62.2 points per game (1-3). Working both Napier and Boatright into the offense is a work in progress, but both have talent and the latter has played as well as any Big East point guard the last two weeks.
Shooting guard Jeremy Lamb
Connecticut has not lived up to its preseason No. 4 ranking, but Lamb is not the reason why. The preseason All-Big East member is averaging 15.2 points in Big East play and, despite the Huskies’ struggles, has remained one of the most exciting players in the country. At 6-foot-5, the sophomore has few limitations on the offensive end with the ability to shoot from the outside, handle the ball and finish in traffic.
Lamb’s coming out party occurred last year at the Bradley Center, when he went 9-for-14 from the field, scoring 24 points and picking up the slack for a cold Kemba Walker in a 76-68 Huskies win. Whether senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom or sophomore guard Vander Blue draws the assignment of checking Lamb, it will be a matter of containing, not stopping, one of the Big East’s premier scorers.
Forwards Tyler Olander and Roscoe Smith
Smith, a key contributor to last year’s championship team, has regressed in his sophomore season. Most of his numbers are down and he has not been the defender he was a year ago, when he averaged 1.2 blocks per game. Still, he is an athletic 6-foot-8 forward who could give the Golden Eagles trouble off the bench.
On the other hand, Olander has been a spark for the Huskies. His starts have been sporadic, but he has been efficient both in the starting lineup and off the bench. Shooting 46.3 percent from the field and grabbing 3.4 rebounds, the 6-foot-9 sophomore has played well in spot duty.
Freshman DeAndre Daniels and sophomore Niels Griffey see limited minutes, contributing defensively.
Centers Andre Drummond and Alex Oriahki
A consensus top-3 2011 recruit, the freshman Drummond has more than lived up to his billing. The 6-foot-10, 270-pound specimen has rounded into form late into the season, grabbing 8.3 rebounds and blocking 2.3 shots per game in the Big East. His athleticism for a center is unparalleled and the Golden Eagles will need to hope sophomore Davante Gardner, recovering from a knee injury, is ready to go Saturday. Drummond does an excellent job getting position in the paint and is a strong finisher, shooting over 53 percent in conference play.
After a breakout campaign last year, Oriahki has struggled in his junior season. The 6-foot-9 center has come off the bench in three of Connecticut’ last four games and has averaged 5.8 points and 4.5 rebounds. The last time Marquette traveled to Connecticut, however, Oriakhi finished with 12 points and 15 rebounds.