When thinking of blueblood programs in college basketball, the obvious ones come to mind. People will usually talk about Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina and Duke when it comes to those top tier programs. But, what about a team that has won four national titles since 1999, including two since 2011?
That school would be UConn, which has had one of the weirder decades in college basketball. There are the four national championships, but also the one year postseason ban due to a low APR rating, the switch from Jim Calhoun to Kevin Ollie and missing the NCAA Tournament a couple seasons, including last year.
So, where do the Huskies stand this year? Are they primed for another Final Four run and if so will they be a top seed or a No. 7 seed like 2014? Or will they falter to another NIT berth and another disappointing season under Ollie?
Well, let’s take a look at their newcomers and what to expect out of the Huskies. UConn has had a quietly successful offseason, mostly by having Daniel Hamilton pass up the NBA for another season in Storrs. Hamilton was the best playmaker for the Huskies last season, yes even better than Ryan Boatright and can play either the stretch four position but is a natural small forward. He’s a 6’7” wingman from Los Angeles who was named Freshman of the Year in the AAC last season, after leaving the Huskies in rebounding with 7.6 boards per game. He also was the only freshman in the country to score 300 points, 200 rebounds and 100 assists.
Joining Hamilton is talented yet troubled is Seton Hall transfer Sterling Gibbs. Gibbs notoriously was suspended from Seton Hall last year after throwing a punch during a game against Villanova as the Pirates fell apart during conference play last season. Prior to Seton Hall he spent a year at Texas before transferring closer to home. He’s expected to challenge from the starting point guard spot and does a great job of taking care of the ball while also finding open teammates. If he can keep his composure on the court and in the locker room, UConn could find itself in another Final Four.
As is usual with the Huskies, their defense should be one of the best in the country, especially when it comes to protecting the rim. This is thanks to the depth in the post led by Kentan Facey, Amida Brimah and transfer Shonn Miller. Miller, like Gibbs, is a transfer joining UConn this year, coming from Cornell. He’s spent two years at the Ivy school and has averaged nearly two blocks per game for the Big Red.
Expect Ollie to use a rotation with Facey coming off the bench to spell minutes. Ollie can also go small with Hamilton at the power forward spot and splitting up minutes between Brimah and Miller.
Looking forward, the Huskies will compete for the AAC title with SMU and be a top-25 team for the majority of the year. If the team chemistry is there, a Final Four run is in this team, but expect some low points throughout the season until everything clicks.