Connecticut defections piling up

April, 23, 2012
4/23/12
2:09
PM ET
A few weeks ago, Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun reacted to news of his team's 2012-13 Academic Progress Rate-inflicted postseason ban with positive vibes.

"There's no question [the regular season] would become a heck of a lot more important to us," Calhoun said at the time, and he was right. But the Huskies' chances of building a Big East title contender are becoming slimmer with each passing week.

That change in status is thanks to a host of defections, the latest of which came this past weekend when CBSSports.com reported that sophomore forward Roscoe Smith would be transferring out of the program and seeking a new destination for his talents this summer.

This is not a devastating loss in and of itself. Smith averaged just 4.4 points per game in 2011-12. He was much more of a bit player than a star by any definition of the term. His contributions to Connecticut's 2011 national title were important, particularly on the defensive end, particularly in the tournament. But Smith is hardly a program-defining player.

No, this is more a quantity problem than a quality one. Smith is just the latest transfer. The first was forward Alex Oriakhi, a key player in the 2011 title run, who decided to transfer to Missouri for his senior season when the Huskies' APR ban became formal. Oriakhi can play right away, and it's not hard to understand his decision. Likewise, small forward Jeremy Lamb and forward Andre Drummond are both gone, headed to likely selections in the NBA draft. That's a huge swath of the Huskies' frontcourt, not to mention its elite talent, gone in the matter of a few weeks.

But as he told Andy Katz Saturday, Calhoun is still staying positive:
"We've had 25 years without a losing season and we want to keep it going to 26," Calhoun said.

Calhoun said the backcourt of returnees Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright and newcomer Omar Calhoun, who hasn't shown any sign that he won't honor his commitment, will be one of the top in the Big East.

"Scoring-wise, we'll be fine," Jim Calhoun said of the three guards. "We'll need help up front."

Assuming that trio of guards can congeal, that's not exactly a bad backcourt. It's pretty good, actually. Really good, potentially. Omar Calhoun is the No. 32-ranked player in the country, and the No. 7-ranked shooting guard, in the class of 2012. UConn won't be totally devoid of talent.

But as Calhoun and Andy both noted, Connecticut's returning frontcourt may be in desperate need of help. There are players there -- DeAndre Daniels, Tyler Olander, Enosch Wolf, Niles Giffey, and Holy Cross transfer R.J. Evans -- but Olander is the only player with legitimate game experience, and none among that crew will strike fear into the hearts of Big East opponents like Louisville and Syracuse.

Then again, neither did Smith. But his transfer does clarify an already rather obvious point: The 2012-13 Connecticut Huskies men's basketball season is going to be a ramshackle sort of affair. In that way, it may also be a lot of fun. If we learned anything in 2011, Calhoun is never better than when he's backed into a "you can't succeed with these guys"-kind of corner.

But other than that? The reasons for optimism are steadily growing fewer and further between.

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