Loss of Amida Brimah Leaves UConn With Limited Options

Posted by Jared Kotler on December 24th, 2015

As Connecticut prepared to wrap up non-conference play this week, the Huskies suffered a key loss as center and defensive stalwart Amida Brimah broke his finger in practice. Brimah’s injury will require surgery and cause the junior to be sidelined for six to eight weeks. As one of the best rim protectors in college basketball, his loss will be tough to overcome. The hope for Kevin Ollie is that his team’s depth will find a way to pick up the slack heading into next week’s game at Texas followed by the start of conference play.

UConn will try to figure out how to handle the loss of center Amida Brimah. Photo Credit: Getty Images

UConn will try to figure out how to handle the loss of center Amida Brimah. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

So where does UConn go from here? Standing at 8-3 with a couple quality wins over Michigan and Ohio State but not much else to show for this season, the Huskies will need to put together a strong performance in the American if they want to get back to the NCAA Tournament. Here are two areas where Ollie must focus on improvement.

Small Lineup: In Sunday’s win over UMass-Lowell and last night’s victory over Central Connecticut State, UConn saw what life without Brimah was like. Ollie used a new look three-guard lineup in the first game, giving freshman Jalen Adams his first career start. The insertion of Adams into the starting lineup forced 6’7” graduate transfer Shonn Miller to move to the center position, and according to the UConn blog A Dime Back, UMass-Lowell went 8-of-10 on two-point baskets in the first half. Their guards seemed to drive past the Huskies with ease, and without Brimah there to defend the rim, finishing plays was relatively easy. The Huskies did better in holding Central Connecticut State to just 40.6 percent from two in their next game, but the 1-9 Blue Devils rank among the 10 worst teams in Division I basketball. The lineup featuring Miller at the pivot may have worked against the likes of UMass-Lowell and Central Connecticut State, but when UConn faces Texas next week, a big man like Cameron Ridley may eat them alive on the interior.

Bigs off the Bench: UConn is fortunate to have some depth off the bench to make up for Brimah’s absence. Although no one will be able to perform at his level, the pantry certainly isn’t bare. If Ollie chooses to avoid the small lineup, look for senior Phil Nolan, junior Kentan Facey and freshman Steven Enoch to get their chances to step into the role of starting center. Nolan has only scored 15 points in nine appearances and did not see any action in the UConn’s 20-point win over Ohio State. Facey and Enoch have both played valuable minutes this year, with Facey logging 10 points and 12 rebounds in last night’s game and Enoch showing promise with six points and a couple boards of his own.

The linchpin of Connecticut’s defense is its top-rated block percentage of 17.6 percent, mostly a result of Brimah’s rim-protecting aptitude. With only 10 weeks left in the regular season and the junior big man expected to miss most of that window, it will be necessary for Ollie to find viable solutions for his team as soon as possible. The Huskies do not have the non-conference resume needed to withstand a mediocre performance in the American this season, so settling on strategies to replace his production as well as they can is of the utmost importance.

Jared Kotler (9 Posts)

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