Connecticut’s Kevin Ollie Has A Huge Test Ahead Of Him

By Daniel Karpuc
Kevin Ollie
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

After going 20-10 last season which included a postseason ban, Connecticut Huskies head coach Kevin Ollie proved that he is an adequate replacement for legendary UConn coach Jim Calhoun. Starting this season 9-0, hype began to form in Husky Land. Would Ollie be even better than Calhoun? That’s when the unraveling began.

The Huskies have now lost three out of their last five games. They look completely disjointed on both offense and defense. Confusing lineup decisions and changes have seemingly affected team chemistry, and the constant shuffling of rotations might be a source of this confusion.

Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright have been asked to carry almost all of the offensive load and work off high-ball screens, with the intent of driving and dishing or isolating and taking a bad shot from the perimeter. There is no flow to the offense.

After UConn’s win versus Detroit back on November 14, Ollie told the media in the post-game press conference that he employs a system in which no one on the team can hold the ball for more than three seconds and that he constantly gets his players to run plays without dribbling the ball at all. I wonder what happened to that philosophy. It was there in the beginning of the season.

Niels Giffey, one of the best shooters in the country, is shooting a ridiculous 72 percent from 3-point range. In the beginning of the season, he produced a high scoring output in the first half of games, yet Ollie would bench him for much of the second half for no reason.

Recently, Giffey has been shifted into the starting lineup, although his minutes have remained similar to that at the start of the year. Also forced to play the “four” position, Giffey is outmatched by size when defending in the paint and has no business asked to do such a task.

In the loss to SMU, Giffey had just two shot attempts, hitting one bucket. On a team begging for someone to step up and score other than the two in the backcourt, Ollie should draw up looks for Giffey and tell him to be more aggressive.

Then comes the Omar Calhoun debacle. After a few games of struggling, Ollie benched the former promising freshman and has played him very sparingly. One of the team’s gifted offensive players, he has lost his confidence, and it’s very evident that he comes into the game very cold off the bench.

The coach and player have both lost confidence in one another, and if Ollie doesn’t sit down and talk to Calhoun and eventually get him more playing time, I strongly believe Calhoun will transfer following this season.

Coaching a young team must be tough, but this team has the mix of veterans involved as well. Ollie needs to reach the older guys first, and the younger guys will follow. Right now, it seems like he’s on an island and the team is trying to swim ashore.

Dan Karpuc is the Connecticut Huskies beat writer for Follow him on Twitter @dan_karpuc, “Like” him on Facebook, and add him to your network on Google.

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