|Jeremy Lamb :: Robin Alam/Icon SMIedit
Expectations remain high for the defending national champions. UConn surprised the college basketball world with its improbable run, winning an unprecedented five games in five days to capture the Big East Tournament championship and then claiming the program's third national title. But All-America Kemba Walker -- the heart and soul of the Huskies -- has moved on to the NBA, leaving a major void.
Plenty of talent remains, including rising star Jeremy Lamb and All-Big East candidate Alex Oriakhi, the team's only upperclassman. Elite big man Andre Drummond, who made a surprise decision in late August by opting to attend UConn instead of prep school, is one of three impact freshmen.
UConn's frontcourt situation vastly improved with the arrival of Drummond, an athletic 6-foot-10, 275-pound center with enormous potential. He'll serve as an anchor up front. Oriakhi, who averaged 9.6 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks as a sophomore, will need to show greater consistency in his game.
"When Alex was assertive inside, we were a different basketball team," coach Jim Calhoun says. "He had games he was just incredibly impressive. So we need more of that."
The remaining frontcourt cast is dominated by underclassmen. Versatile sophomore Roscoe Smith, who started 33 games last year, has impressed Calhoun with his work ethic and will play an increased role. Sophomore Tyler Olander has a nice shooting touch and added muscle but has to work on the toughness needed to battle inside in the rugged Big East.
Swingman Niels Giffey should benefit from his time on the German national team over the summer. Unproven big men Enosch Wolf, a 7-1, 260-pound center and Michael Bradley, a 6-10 redshirt freshman, will be counted on to contribute.
Lamb, an All-Big East rookie team selection, had a sensational ending to a solid freshman season. He averaged 16.2 points and shot 58 percent from the field in the NCAA tournament and then led Team USA in scoring (16.2 ppg) at the U19 World Championship over the summer.
Shabazz Napier -- an All-Big East rookie team pick who appeared in all 41 games off the bench last season -- is ready to take over the starting point guard duties, be a defensive pest and add scoring punch.
Calhoun spent the offseason contemplating retirement, but the Hall of Fame coach elected to return for his 26th season at UConn. This underclassman-dominated group will rely heavily on Calhoun's guidance to handle the pressure of playing as the defending national champion.
Replacing Walker won't be easy. It will take more than one player to make up for his leadership and star power. Expect an adjustment period.
"We're pretty skilled," Calhoun says. "I like our development. We have questions of muscle and questions of leadership. When a guy has the greatest season in the history of the University, how do we adapt? Not necessarily replace him, because that's not going to happen."
Ryan Boatright (G, Fr.): A scoring point guard who averaged 31.2 points as a high school senior.
Andre Drummond (C, Fr.): One of the top-five incoming freshmen in the nation will provide a dominant force on the low block.
Michael Bradley (C/F, Fr.): The 6-10, 235-pound center, who redshirted last season, will help on the boards but lacks offensive polish.
DeAndre Daniels (F, Fr.): An athletic, skilled wing with enormous potential.