The UConn Huskies have gotten their season off to a very positive start, as they are 4-0 and have looked like they will be among the top teams in the American Athletic Conference. Shabazz Napier is playing as well as anybody in college basketball, and the rest of the team is doing a very good job of supporting their star player.
However, the Huskies still have one major concern they must address, and that is rebounding. Napier leads the team by averaging 9.5 RPG, but no coach wants his point guard to be the team’s leading rebounder. Fellow point guard Ryan Boatright and sixth man small forward Niels Giffey each check in at 3.8 RPG, tied for for second on the team. The leading rebounder among the Huskies’ big men is starting center Phillip Nolan, at a very low 2.8 RPG.
UConn has won the rebounding battle in two of its four games and tied in a third, but they have not played the level of opposition they will see once conference play begins. UConn’s big men simply haven’t been good enough on the boards, and it will come back to hurt the Huskies. In addition to Nolan’s low numbers, DeAndre Daniels is at 2.5 RPG, Amida Brimah is at 2.0 RPG and Tyler Olander is at 1.3 RPG.
Making matters worse, it’s not like these numbers would improve if any of these players were on the court longer. The rebounds per 30 minutes statistic does none of these players favors, with Olander at 5.3, Nolan at 5.2, Brimah at 3.8 and Daniels at just 3.1. These numbers mean that rate at which UConn big men grab rebounds is far below what a top 25 team expects out its forwards and centers, and that none of these players has shown the potential to be the dominant rebounder UConn needs.
There is one player on UConn’s roster who has looked like he has the potential to solve these problems, however, and that is Kentan Facey. Facey has only played in three games and averages just 6.7 minutes per game, but he has posted a very strong 10.3 rebounds per 30 minutes figure. Obviously this is a small sample size, but Kevin Ollie would be well served to start extending Facey’s minutes and trying to find out if he can continue his solid rebounding for longer stretches.
In addition to Facey, the Huskies need Daniels and Brimah in particular to improve their rebounding. Daniels will play major minutes at the four this season, and he has to be at least a respectable rebounder from that position. Brimah’s incredible shot blocking skills demand that his minutes be increased, but he must have the rebounding to match his shot blocking.
The Huskies still have plenty of time to sort things out, but they have to be somewhat concerned. UConn is ranked 158th in the country in rebounding, and they must improve on that in order be successful in the AAC. Everyone thought that rebounding would be UConn’s biggest weakness coming into the season, and it appears that those concerns are being realized.