Saturday, October 07, 2006

First big question

We’ll start the season with the simple and obvious.

By the way, if you want to share a number or concept, jump right in.

How will eight freshmen react to college basketball?

Let’s examine some numbers.

The only other UConn freshman class with eight players during the Jim Calhoun era arrived in Storrs in 1991-1992.

They were:

1991-1992
1. Richie Ashmeade, guard, Queens Village, NY
2. Jeff Calhoun, guard, Mansfield, CT
3. Brian Fair, guard, Phoenix, AZ
4. Rudy Johnson, guard, Jacksonville, FL
5. Donny Marshall, forward, Federal Way, WA
6. Donyell Marshall, forward, Reading, PA
7. Kevin Ollie, guard, Los Angeles, CA
8. Nantambu Willingham, center, Atlanta, GA

2006-2007
1. Ben Eaves, forward/guard, Lancashire, England
2. Doug Wiggins, guard, East Hartford, CT
3. Jerome Dyson, guard, Rockville, MD
4. Curtis Kelly, forward, Queens, NY
5. Stanley Robinson, forward, Birmingham, AL
6. Jonathan Mandeldove, forward, Stone Mountain, GA
7. Gavin Edwards, forward/center, Gilbert, AZ
8. Hasheem Thabeet, center, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

Some geographical similarities: Queens. Connecticut. Arizona. Georgia.
A possibility: Jeff Calhoun and Rudy Johnson redshirted their first seasons. This may or may not happen with some(one) from this current class.
Long-shot similarity: Centers with first names that have significant African meaning.

1991-92
Freshman season: Only Donyell Marshall and Brian Fair averaged more than 20 minutes per game. Both Kevin Ollie and Donny Marshall played sparingly but enough.

Overall record: 20-10 (10-8 Big East)
Team finish: Second-round NCAA loss (Ohio State)

1992-93
Sophomore season: Seven remain. Five with sophomore playing status. Richie Ashmeade transfers to Rutgers after averaging three minutes and one point per game. Guards aplenty. Four sophomores (Both Marshalls, Ollie and Fair) earn majority of minutes and start majority of games.

Overall record: 15-13 (9-9 Big East)
Team finish: First-round NIT loss (Jackson State)

1993-94
Junior season: Seven remain. Five have junior status. Donyell Marshall emerges as go-to player. UConn earns Big East regular-season title and Marshall the Big East POY. Marshall declares early for NBA Draft.

Overall record: 29-5 (16-2 Big East)
Team finish: NCAA Sweet 16 loss (Florida)

1994-95
Senior season: Four from the original freshman class close out careers in four years. Big East regular-season title. Rudy Johnson remains with junior status. Fair and Ollie finish careers together in the backcourt while Donny Marshall is second-leading scorer. Sophomore Ray Allen becomes go-to player. Nantambu Willingham, whose first name means “man of destiny”, finishes with 101 career points.

Overall record: 28-5 (16-2 Big East)
Team finish: NCAA Elite Eight loss (UCLA)

Four year total: 92-33
Three NCAA Tournament appearances
Two Big East regular-season titles
One NIT appearance

Analysis: Taking into consideration GSR, APR and the natural laws of attrition (which hovers around the 11-41 percent mark depending on collegiate sport), the 1991-92 class began and finished at UConn as expected.

Even though this year’s class is expected to produce more and at a faster rate because of the past NBA Draft, some freshmen will follow similar paths like some in the 91-92 class. Granted, college basketball is a different world than it was 15 years ago. So is the Big East. Also, the number of top players fleeing to the NBA has grown (Will the early declaring or hardship rules change again within the next four years, therefore adding an unforeseen variable?). With some current players in the class already tagged as owning “NBA potential” this seems to be applicable.

Overall: Forecasting future success is impossible but the current freshman class will produce better numbers than the 1991-92 class based primarily on overall subjective talent. Entering the season, the prospect of eight freshmen is enticing, but by January that number may change. If time serves as an accurate barometer, by November, 2007, that number will change. And by November, 2009, the laws of attrition will appear obvious (redshirt, eligibility, transfer, NBA, injuries, etc.).

With that in mind, enjoy the class for one more week, because every player is a Nantambu Willingham when the first practice commences Oct. 14.

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