When the pups take the court for the first time Wednesday night, in an exhibition game against American International, try to give them a chance to grow.
When one of the six freshmen takes a bad shot and misses wildly, leading to a fast-break on the other end, don't hang your head too much when Jim Calhoun is forced to call a timeout.
Kemba Walker and Alex Oriakhi are the only returning players who averaged double-digit minutes on last year's 18-16 team, and as a whole, the Huskies lost 64% of their scoring from 2009-2010.
Needless to say, the team will rely heavily on what Calhoun believes to be a stellar recruiting class.
While the freshmen certainly have potential, and Walker, a junior, might be the best point guard in the Big East, the Huskies can't possibly put it together overnight. The first exhibition contest of the season will be just the first step towards making this group a cohesive unit. One game against Division II competition won't show us much, but it will be a start.
Calhoun will likely tinker with the lineup throughout the game, trying to find what combinations work best.
A smaller lineup would allow the shooters to get more involved, and early speculation has been that scoring might actually be a strength this year. Smith, Shabazz Napier, and Jeremy Lamb are all freshman who are supposedly comfortable with the ball.
We probably won't see the Huskies play big very often, but Calhoun will try 7-foot senior Charles Okwandu on the court with Oriakhi, which would be a somewhat experienced combination. If Okwandu can stay on the court long enough, maybe rebounding won't be as big a problem as people fear.
Even though much of the AIC game will be experimentation- an early glance at what does and does not work, make no mistake about it: the Huskies have a game to win. Sure, it's an exhibition and doesn't count, but this is their first look at outside competition. It is the first chance for the entire roster to come together and defeat an opponent. Even if they win by 50 points, it won't mean too much, but it will mean that the Huskies were able to execute and find some sort of working combination on both ends of the court.
How this team manages to win, be it against AIC or anyone, will have to start with Walker.
Him and Okwandu are the only players remaining from the 2009 Final Four team, and Walker had the luxury of learning under NBA point guard A.J. Price. He has shown shooting prowess and composure in tight situations. If it weren't for Walker's 23 points and 9-10 free throw shooting, UConn probably would not have beaten Missouri in the Elite Eight two years ago.
Last year, Walker was the one constant in an up-and-down season. Stars Stanley Robinson and Jerome Dyson disappeared at times, but Walker seemed to always stay in control. He wasn't perfect, and sophomore point guards never are, but the effort was always there. By the end of the season, he was the Huskies' second leading scorer (14.6 ppg), second best three point shooter (33.9%), and had a solid assist to turnover ratio (1.74).
If this year's group can replicate his discipline, a competitive team could materialize in time for Big East play.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Non-conference tuneups and a trip to Maui for Thanksgiving come first, and Calhoun will make sure his team takes it one game at a time.
The exhibition contests will let the coaching staff see what needs to be worked on in practice. We will all know early what the Huskies need to improve on if they want to end better than their predicted 10th place finish in the Big East.
We won't know it all, but we will begin putting the pieces together this week.