College Basketball Preseason Top 25: #14 Connecticut

The Huskies will go as Shabazz Napier goes this season. (Reuters/Mike Seagar)

The Huskies will go as Shabazz Napier goes this season. (Reuters/Mike Seagar)

14. Connecticut Huskies

After a year that saw more turmoil than any other since the program moved out of the Yankee Conference in 1986, UConn is back where it belongs–in the thick of the national conversation. You’ve got to give it up to head coach Kevin Ollie. In his first season on the job, Ollie had to accomplish all of the following:  a) convince his star players not to leave, b) replace a living legend, c) convince everyone to play hard even though there was no shot at an NCAA bid, and d) recruit well enough to keep the program at a steady level despite taking a giant step down in competition. Somehow, he accomplished all of that—on a short-term contract no less—and still won 20 games. It was almost miraculous.

Now, UConn looks forward to its first year in the American Athletic Conference, and expectations are high. The Huskies return a solid group of upperclassmen, including heart-and-soul senior point guard Shabazz Napier (17.1 ppg, 4.4 apg) and speedy backcourt mate Ryan Boatright (15.4 ppg, 2.9 apg). The duo could make up one of the best backcourts in the country. Also back is 6-5 sophomore Omar Calhoun (11.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg), who has a ton of talent but struggled with injuries and his shooting stroke last year. Expect Calhoun to be much better this season. The most explosive player on UConn’s roster is 6-8 junior DeAndre Daniels (12.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg), who has NBA scouts drooling and could emerge as the best player on the team this season. Daniels can do it all–shoot, rebound, drive and defend.

The Huskies also bring in top-rated point guard Terrence Samuel and George Washington transfer Lasan Kromah, both of whom could contribute right away. The major concern with UConn though, will be the front court. It would have been a strength for UConn if their big men didn’t act like idiots in the offseason. The Huskies have already lost 7-1 center Enosch Wolf, who showed loads of promise last year, after Wolf was arrested for beating up his girlfriend. Months later, 6-9 power forward Tyler Olander was arrested for DUI, and his career is now in jeopardy.

 BOTTOM LINE: There is plenty of talent on the Huskies team, even without Olander and Wolf. The schedule is easy, so the Huskies should coast to 25 wins without much of a problem. But whether or not UConn makes a deep tournament run is going to depend on how well Boatright and Napier play together. Both players took too many shots last year, and Boatright killed the Huskies with some terrible decisions late in games. Neither one has learned how to complement the other, and that could mean reduced playing time (for Boatright) if Calhoun steps up. If the backcourt duo can find some harmony, this team is dangerous. There’s too much talent here to expect anything less than a run at the American title.

Click here to see our Entire Top 25.



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