The UConn Huskies have to be thrilled with their start to this season, as they are 8-0, ranked No. 12 in the country and coming off a big win against the No. 15 Florida Gators. UConn has just four non-conference games left before the inaugural AAC season begins, and they will be favored to varying degrees in each of those contests. However, there are still some key areas UConn needs to work on during those games, and one of the biggest is their post defense.
During Monday’s game against Florida, Patric Young was able to dominate in the post, scoring 17 points and grabbing 7 rebounds. His physicality was something that UConn’s big men just couldn’t handle. No one in UConn’s stick-thin front court weighs more than 230 pounds (and that is Tyler Olander, who is not a defensive minded player). Starting center Phillip Nolan fouled out of the game, and he struggled to defend Young and to box him out.
Amida Brimah has been a revelation for the Huskies this season, but he is more of a weak side shot blocker than a straight up post defender. He simply does not have the strength to bang bodies with more physical post scorers. Neither does fellow freshman Kentan Facey, who has struggled to find minutes this season. Unfortunately, these four players are all UConn has up front, and they are far from done with playing against high level, physical post players.
Obviously, none of these players are going to suddenly gain weight and strength midseason, as they will need a full offseason of strength training to add the bulk they need. The best solution for Kevin Ollie is going to be doubling down on post scorers with his guards. Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright are lightning fast guards with quick hands, and they can help out by quickly going for steals following entry passes. This takes the risk of leaving three point shooters open, but with good rotations and game planning, it can be an effective strategy.
Another option for Ollie is moving Brimah into the starting lineup over Nolan. Brimah is very raw, but he is also very tall and has incredible shot blocking skills. Those two things give him a better chance of making up for his strength deficiency than Nolan or Olander. UConn knew going into the season that their froncourt was their weakness, and it is up to Ollie to start making adjustments to try to lessen the problem.
The next few games are great chance to experiment with different schemes and lineup combinations before conference play begins, and don’t be surprised to see Brimah’s minutes increased, as well as Facey’s. UConn’s post defense is the type of Achilles’ heel that could cost them in big games down the road, and they must get it straightened out.