STORRS, Conn. – “Next man up.”
It's a catch-phrase that coaches like to use when a rotation player goes down and there is a gaping hole left.
The positive spin is that it's an opportunity for someone that hasn't played to step in.
Well, the next man is up for the Huskies and it couldn't come at a worse time.
UConn center Enosch Wolf is suspended from the team indefinitely following his arrest Monday morning (5:55 a.m. to be exact) after an alleged domestic disturbance on campus.
Wolf, all 7-foot-1 of him, is not practicing with the team and isn't around and that mean's the juniors minutes have to go to someone else.
With No. 6 Syracuse (20-3, 8-2 Big Easy) coming in on Wednesday to the XL Center in Hartford the Huskies (16-6, 6-4 Big East) are left to fill a void.
Wolf's contributions in the box score were modest this season averaging only 3.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per game in a little over 13 minutes off the bench. Wolf does have the flare for the big game and has had some impact games including a career-high 12 points in a loss to N.C. State in December.
The best way to describe Wolf's play is useful. What's useful about Wolf? His size.
UConn's only true center, Wolf's ability to clog the lane and be a body remains is biggest asset.
UConn will now have to face an athletic Syracuse frontline without their biggest player.
So, who are UConn's next men up?
In the starting lineup that falls to forward Tyler Olander, who has had a disappointing season averaging only 4.5 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. Olander's play, especially on the boards, has been a concern for the size challenged Huskies and with no Wolf to spell him, the Huskies are going to need the 6-foot-8 225-pound junior to anchor the middle.
UConn coach Kevin Ollie has continued to start Olander and believes he can do big things. Without Wolf, now Olander has to carry the load inside.
“He’s giving us (effort) but it has to be on another level,” Ollie said of Olander. “We want him to get rebounds. We want him to get double-doubles, and I believe he can do it...But to get that, it has to take massive action by him. It has to be immediate. You have to feel him out there. He has to be involved, and he has to make himself involved. There’s nothing I can do, I’m on the bench, nothing I can do so he has to take it on himself.
Olander is one player who will have to up his play, but where do the Huskies go for size? The only option will be little used freshman Phil Nolan who is athletic and 6-foot-9, but lacks in the bulk department at 210 pounds. Nolan is active, though in his limited minutes has struggled to hold position and finish inside against the older and stronger players. Nolan has logged only 25 minutes in Big East play this season and has played only one minute in the last three games. Nolan has one rebound in Big East play. Nolan's time is now.
"No more waiting, no more seeing,” Ollie said of Nolan. “He's going to have to learn through experience and give effort and energy."
The only other big on the bench is freshman Leon Tolksdorf, who is more of a perimeter oriented player. Tolksdorf is 6-8 has scored only 10 points all season and has played only 14 minutes since the New Year.
The options are slim for Ollie and the likely avenue is to continue to play small with starting forward DeAndre Daniels and forward Niels Giffey (4.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg.) anchoring the inside. Both Daniels and Giffey are small forwards by trade, but have been pushed into action as bigs. Giffey has shown the toughness to play the position at 6-foot-7 205 pounds and did have 10 rebound in a loss to St.. John's a week ago. Using that duo inside will result in a lack of size and strength, but could provide some extra shooting against the Syracuse zone.
Giffey and Daniels both have 3-point shooting ability and are comfortable shooting jump shots. While that unit may suffer on the defensive end, if it can rebound the Huskies could take advantage with a quick and shooting-oriented lineup.
“I have to do it off of circumstance, it's something we have to look into and with any foul trouble it's a lineup we have to go to,” Ollie said. “With DeAndre and Niels it gives us an ability to stretch the floor more.”
Those are the options for the Huskies and none of them are appealing.
Ollie isn't fazed by it. Sometimes it isn't spin when a coach says “Next mans up.”
It's a fact.