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5 Burning Questions for UConn Huskies Basketball

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5 Burning Questions for UConn Huskies Basketball

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The UConn Huskies head into the 2013-14 season ready to show the college basketball world what they can do following a season in which they were ineligible for postseason play. The Huskies went 20-10 last season and certainly would have been an NCAA Tournament team had they been eligible.

They begin this year ranked 19th in the preseason coaches’ poll, and most observers believe that this team is among the favorites for the inaugural American Athletic Conference championship, as well as a lock for the NCAA Tournament.

Kevin Ollie did an outstanding job in his first season replacing retired legend Jim Calhoun, and he hopes that his second year in charge will be even more successful. The Huskies will once again use a three guard lineup, led by stars Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright.

Napier’s decision to return to school for his senior season was a huge boost for the program, and he will be expected to lead the team both on the court and in the locker room. Napier averaged 17.1 PPG, 4.6 APG and 2.0 SPG last season, all tops on the team. In fact, his 4.4 RPG was actually second, rather impressive for a 6’1” point guard.

The Huskies will rely heavily on both Napier and Boatright, as well as junior forward DeAndre Daniels and sophomore guard Omar Calhoun. The Huskies believe that this core is talented and experienced enough to be an elite team this season, and they have their sights set on the Final Four.

Before they get there, however, there are some key questions that must be answered. No team is perfect at this early stage of the season, and these are five burning questions facing UConn.

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What Will Team's Mental State Be?

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Ollie was able to capture lightning in a bottle last season, when he turned UConn’s postseason suspension into an “us against the world” mentality that really motivated his young team. This season, the expectations and pressure of the postseason are back, and UConn needs make sure they have the same focus.

However, the Huskies return their entire starting lineup as well as sixth man Niels Giffey, so experience is not a concern. This is a veteran group that knows what it takes to win. Napier became a real leader last season, and he will be expected to steer the ship for UConn.

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Who Will Crash the Boards?

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest concerns for UConn this season is their lack of size. Tyler Olander and Phillip Nolan are the only two returning big men, and they averaged 3.7 and 2.1 rebounds per game, respectively. Olander will start at center, and he needs to be much more active on the boards.

Freshmen Kentan Facey and Amida Brimah will provide depth, and the Huskies have very high hopes for Facey. He needs to be an instant impact contributor in terms of rebounding and shot blocking, because the Huskies remain very thin up front.

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What Will Bench Provide?

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The bench is a major question mark for UConn this season, with the versatile Giffey as the only sure thing. The Huskies expect big things from Facey, but beyond that no one is quite sure what the bench will provide.

Nolan flashed some potential last season, and Leon Tolksdorf is a lethal outside shooter. Freshman shooting guard Terrence Samuel could provide a scoring punch, and like the rest of the bench he offers a physically bigger alternative to the starting lineup.

Napier and Boatright averaged 37 and 36 minutes a game last season, and they will likely repeat that. However, the best teams in the tournament have depth, and the Huskies have to look to develop that throughout the season.

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Will DeAndre Daniels Become a Star?

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

This is perhaps the single most important factor in UConn’s quest to become an elite team instead of just a good one. Daniels is undoubtedly the most naturally gifted player on the team, and his versatile offensive game makes him a matchup nightmare.

For the season, Daniels averaged 12.1 PPG and 5.5 RPG, with the latter leading the team. However, he closed the season on an absolute tear, averaging 21.3 PPG and 9.0 RPG in his final four games. If Daniels can get close to that level consistently, he could become an All-American, and he could be able to take the Huskies very far into March.

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Is a Deep Tournament Run Possible?

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

So here’s the million dollar question: is a long tournament run possible? Absolutely, assuming Daniels develops, the frontcourt is respectable and Napier continues his clutch performances. However, the Huskies still need to prove that they are a complete team, not just a team that watches Napier and Boatright take turns scoring.

Ollie has proven to be a very good coach, and he has the total respect of his locker room. He will be able to keep this team on the right track, and he should get the best out of his star, Napier. A few things will need to break in their favor, but UConn has a good a chance as anyone to make the Sweet 16, and possibly go even further.

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And if you're looking to see how the Huskies handle these burning questions this season, make sure to grab UConn Huskies basketball tickets for any game this year.