Year of the Huskies

The University of Connecticut men’s basketball team is off to a stellar undefeated start as of Tuesday, December 3. The 8-0 Huskies are looking to compete in the postseason once again after being barred from participating in postseason play during the 2012-2013 season due to a myriad of academic issues.

The 2012-2013 season was a challenging one for the Huskies as there was little incentive to compete due to the restrictions from playing in the offseason. Many players transferred and others left early for the NBA. However, head coach Kevin Ollie kept the team focused and UConn was able to finish with a solid 20-10 record for the season. The bulk of the team’s roster during the 2012-2013 campaign has returned and improved going into this season. Guards Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright return to lead the team once again and are backed by many stellar perimeter players, giving the team the tools it needs to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament. This season’s team seems strong enough to make a deep run as long as Napier and Boatright continue their consistent performances and players like forwards DeAndre Daniels and Niels Giffey step up and execute solid performances in the paint. However, the Huskies’ undefeated record could be deceiving. UConn has not won these games largely against top-tier teams; in fact, all of its wins have been against unranked opponents. The team has won by a mere four points total against teams from the Big 6 Conferences (Maryland, Boston College and Indiana). UConn needs to win against quality opponents as did against Florida on Monday, which is ranked 15th in the nation as of Sunday. 

The team is also playing in the newly formed American Athletic Conference this season, which is entirely different from its play in the Big East Conference last season. The American Athletic Conference does not retain the types of powerhouses that the Big East did in previous years, so UConn will need to prove its worth and turn out some quality, consistent performances as postseason bids for this new conference will not be as abundant as those given to the Big East.

The team only has one non-conference game against a ranked opponent, Florida, and plays only two currently ranked teams in conference play, Louisville and Memphis, which does not provide many opportunities to prove its worth and earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. Especially startling is the poor start of sophomore guard Omar Calhoun, who was heralded as one of the future cornerstones of the young squad. Calhoun has been underwhelming at best, making a mere 38.5 percent of his shots this season. If UConn is to compete, it will need players such as Calhoun to step up and turn out quality performances. UConn will also need to rely on its bench players in order to compete with teams such as Louisville and Memphis, which have experienced, deep rosters filled with stellar talent on both ends of the floor.

UConn has had a great start this season, but it is a bit overhyped. However, considering the cloud of academic problems it has faced the past couple of seasons, the Huskies seem to be back on track to compete in the postseason once again.

Contact Matt Washuta at [email protected]