Fresh off a stunning title winning Maui Invitational that placed Kemba Walker in the temporary pantheon of college basketball players everyone is going gaga over, I have this simple analogy that should best articulate the expectation level we should set for Jim Calhoun's club for the rest of the season:
Walker is Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, and the Huskies are the 2010 Wolverines football team.
Enjoy this now, Husky fans, it's not going to last. This team is good but they're not great, and they are by no means "one of the best teams in the country."
Should we toss out their off-season drama and lack of experience, and declare them as an upper-echelon Big East team that we simply underestimated coming into the season? Well, if we must, let's at least collect our breath, get some perspective and re-visit a handful of teams that found early season success but were far removed from conversations on elite teams just days, weeks, and months later.
- Last year, led by freshman Kenny Boynton, Florida accumulated early season victories against Michigan State and Rutgers to capture the Legends Classic in Atlantic City. The Gators must have something right? Wrong. After starting the season 8-0, the Gators went 2-3 in December (including an awful loss to South Alabama in Gainesville) setting off a series of unfortunate events that ended with a 9-7 SEC season and NCAA Tournament 10 seed.
- In 2007, after running through the Pre-Season NIT, and boasting an average scoring margin of 19.4 points through December, Texas A&M rose to as high as #9 in the coaches poll by mid-January. It was all for naught. The Aggies went 8-8 in conference play, dropped out of the top 25 entirely, and lost to UCLA in the second round of the tournament. Even worse, I can't even name a single player from this club.
- And my personal favorite, the 2006-2007 Clemson Tigers. Always one to jump out to a quick start then find themselves begging for an at-large berth by late February, the Tigers were the last remaining undefeated team at 16-0 creating an abnormal amount of "buzz" (whatever that means) around Littlejohn Coliseum. But then the wheels came off and the axles just blew out. The Tigers lost nine of their first 11 ACC conference games, struggled mightily on offense and were put out of their misery in the first round of the ACC Tournament. To the NIT it was. That exceptional start was long forgotten.
- Additionally, we all know what happened to the 2009-2010 Texas Longhorns.
While it's only half the games of an NBA season, a college basketball season is long; many variables can manifest themselves between November/December and March. The Huskies, while there's no denying they have a star point guard that will be able to carry them through a rigorous Big East schedule, really don't have any other options on the wings. Down low, Alex Oriakhi, while currently averaging 12 rebounds per game, still has bouts of playing with two left feet. En route to the championship, Walker accounted for 38 percent of the Huskies scoring, and logged 76 total minutes against Michigan State and Kentucky. While laudable and awesome, that sort of output is difficult to sustain.
It was a blast to watch Walker do work out in Maui, I just don't think winning one early-season tournament should serve as precursor for a successful season. Hopefully, we can all temper our level of excitement.