The AAC is unknown territory this season. The newly-formed conference has the potential to compete with the top conferences across the nation (that is, until Louisville departs net year), but also has the potential to fall into the mid-major category. Syracuse, Georgetown, Villanova and Marquette have been replaced with Memphis, SMU, Temple and Houston. It’s a conference that faces a lot of questions, but at least one program isn’t too hard to figure out.
After being banned from all postseason play last year, the Connecticut Huskies will look to return to the NCAA Tournament this March by bringing back all but one of their players from the previous season. Had it not been for the team’s violations, there’s no doubt that last year’s squad would have seen tournament play.
UConn was ranked no. 18 in the AP Top 25 and no. 19 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll, but they have the talent to be ranked much higher than that by the end of the season. Projected to finish second in the AAC, UConn has the opportunity to be the best in the conference, especially after Louisville‘s Chane Behanan was suspended indefinitely and because of all of the skilled players that they have brought in to add to a team that has been playing together for the past two years.
Shabazz Napier, unanimously selected for the Preseason All-AAC First Team, will look to lead this team to the promised land. The senior point guard averaged 17.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.9 steals per game last year, numbers that should only improve in his final season.
Napier has had the experience of winning a National Championship in his freshman year and has shown that he is the leader of this team. If his play can be even more consistent than it was in his junior year, the sky is the limit for the Huskies.
The questions the Huskies face lie in its frontcourt. Tyler Olander is in his senior year, but hasn’t shown much improvement over his three years in Connecticut. With Enosch Wolf departing the team to play in Germany, UConn will have to rely on its young talent after struggling to rebound and to establish a post presence in the past couple of seasons.
Luckily for UConn, freshman Kentan Facey has been cleared to play and has the skills to improve the Huskies frontcourt woes, along with sophomore Phillip Nolan and freshman Amidah Brimah. Don’t be surprised if Olander loses his starting job to one of these up-and-coming UConn big men.
With talented players on both offense and defense like Ryan Boatright, DeAndre Daniels and Omar Calhoun, UConn is in prime position to make some noise not just in the AAC, but in the entire nation. This under-the-radar team won’t go unnoticed for long. They tip off their season this Friday against Maryland.
How do you think the Huskies will fare this season? You can see for yourself live by grabbing some UConn Men’s Basketball tickets for any game this season. The marquee matchups include visits from Florida and defending national champion Louisville, on Dec. 2 and Jan. 18, respectively.