Sunday, August 28, 2011

UConn Gets Andre Drummond, Title Repeat Hype

About 11 weeks ago I talked about how UConn had added DeAndre Daniels to their frontcourt. At the time I talked about how UConn's biggest weakness was the backcourt, where they have three excellent players but nobody else, meaning that depth is a real issue. I noted that UConn was out of scholarships (they're only allowed 10 scholarships this year, instead of the normal 13, because of Jim Calhoun's bad behavior), but added that "Jim Calhoun has never been a coach to hesitate to cut one of his own guys loose, and one of those bigs will find their scholarships pulled if Calhoun can find a little bit more depth".

With that stated, UConn has landed a really big time recruit: Andre Drummond. Drummond is 6'10" or 6'11" and is arguably the best center in the 2011 class. He was actually a 2012 recruit, but appears to be able to qualify for 2011. If the NBA still allowed high school grads in the draft, Drummond would probably have been in the Draft rather than going to college. And naturally, it looks like Calhoun is going to be pulling a scholarship from Michael Bradley.

I've talked about this before, but the NCAA needs to step in and fix this. Not only is there a competitive disadvantage for coaches that have morals and refuse to cut kids that they recruited, but it's also simply unfair that kids are locked into letters of intent and can't leave a school without a punishment (a transfer year), but coaches can cut kids loose whenever they want. A simple rule I'd put in would be that if you have a kid sign a letter of intent, he counts against your scholarship total (13 in basketball) for four years, or until he graduates or gets signed by an NBA team, a D-League team, or a top level European team. If he transfers you lose the scholarship, no matter why he leaves (this is to prevent coaches from pressuring kids to "decide" that they want to transfer conveniently whenever the school needs a scholarship opened up, which is disturbingly common in college basketball and football). Without that rule in place, Jim Calhoun's scholarship reduction isn't even a real punishment. He can keep recruiting as many players as he wants, and he just is limited to keeping the 10 best players he can get, regardless of who was already on the roster.

As for the basketball impact, this is a tremendous signing. Back in April when I was previewing the Big East, UConn had a lot of big bodies, but not a lot of frontcourt athleticism. Alex Oriakhi was the only real athletic big coming back. Adding DeAndre Daniels and Andre Drummond, however, gives the Huskies two absolutely dynamic athletes. Combined with an explosive backcourt of Jeremy Lamb (who is going to be a contender for Big East Player of the Year), Shabazz Napier (the poor man's Kemba Walker) and Ryan Boatright (a blue chip 2011 recruit who can handle the point) and UConn is going to have a tremendous starting lineup. The concern, as I already said, is backcourt depth.

I've been saying since April that UConn is overrated coming into the season, and I still believe that to be true. After they signed DeAndre Daniels the media consensus was that they were a Top Ten team, and I instead argued that they were the fourth best team in the Big East and were looking at a 4-5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. After signing Drummond, the media consensus is that they're one of the four best teams in the country, and are a true national title contender. I disagree that they're in that class. To me, North Carolina, Ohio State, Syracuse and Kentucky are a step ahead of the rest of the country, and UConn isn't yet in that class.

Certainly UConn is now a Big East title contender. I'm pushing UConn past Pitt, and now have the Huskies as one of the three elite Big East title contenders, along with Syracuse and Louisville. And while I'm not putting UConn as a 1 seed yet, I do think they're a borderline Top Ten team. I have six or seven weeks until I need to publish another BP68, so I have time to think about it. But right now I'm likely to give UConn a 2 or 3 seed.

The Andre Drummond signing is tremendous for UConn's basketball prospects, even though it's sad for ethics that I haven't seen a single UConn fan complaining about what they're doing to Michael Bradley. But until the NCAA fixes the rules, it's hard to expect coaches to put morality ahead of winning.

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