The Connecticut Huskies find itself in an uncommon position as they begin the 2012-13 campaign at Ramstein Air Base in Germany today.
Not only is it the first game that the Huskies haven’t been led by Jim Calhoun (removing the health-related absences) since a Big East Tournament loss to Seton Hall on March 5, 1986 (the dreaded 8/9 game), but there’s also the issue of being banned from postseason play.
Kevin Ollie, who was Calhoun’s point guard for four years from 1991 to 1995, is the man in charge and he’ll have quite the challenge on his hands not only against Michigan State today but throughout the season.
Full commitment is key in any situation, much less one where the players know the carrot of competing for a national title isn’t available. The slogan for Ollie’s team this season is “ten toes in” and it’s an appropriate one.
Guards Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright are expected to lead the way this season, and they’ll be joined on the perimeter by freshman Omar Calhoun and senior R.J. Evans. But it’s the questions in the front court that have many thinking that the Huskies will struggle in 2012-13.
DeAndre Daniels posted a double-double (15 points, 14 rebounds) in the Huskies’ exhibition victory over UMass Lowell, but he’ll have his hands full with the front court players that Michigan State brings to the table.
Tyler Olander is the most experienced front court player with Niels Giffey also being a member of that 2011 national champion squad, and players such as Enosch Wolf and Phil Nolan will likely be called on as well.
But even with odds that would make many cringe Ollie has remained optimistic throughout, and from his “we’ll take the stairs” comment during the introductory press conference to “ten toes in” it’s clear that he has no plans of ducking any challenges.
Will it be enough to get athletic director Warde Manuel to make Ollie the man to lead the UConn program beyond this season? We’ll begin to find out the answer tonight.