Nobody seems to talk about the Connecticut Huskies men’s basketball team. Maybe it’s because their star, Shabazz Napier, is not a fabulous freshman flying above the rim and being seen on every sports highlight reel. Nope, he is just a boring senior who is leading his team in points, rebounds and assists.
Maybe no one talks about the Huskies because they play in the AAC and even hardcore fans have trouble naming the teams in it. Maybe no one talks about them because Kevin Ollie — not the out-spoken Jim Calhoun — is the head coach, who seems to take more pride in developing players instead of shooting his mouth off. It doesn’t matter why UConn seems to be forgotten, because they will just keep winning, like the Huskies did against Detroit at Gampel Pavilion Thursday.
The Huskies started slow against the Titans and trailed for the first 9:30 of the game. Eventually, their length, speed and overall talent overwhelmed the visitors, as they moved to 3-0 with a convincing 101-55 victory. UConn struggled early, because their defense reacted slow and allowed Detroit to take and make open jumpers. Once the defense started to move and disrupt passes and shots, the game got out of hand. Point guard Ryan Boatright led the charge with his speed, creativity and passing on the break. Boatright made a key steal, turned it quickly into a layup, swished a three-pointer, and made a perfect pass on a three-on-two break during the Huskies’ comeback run. UConn turned a 17-13 deficit into a 48-26 halftime lead. Boatright finished with 12 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Napier finished with a great line of 10 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, and Omar Calhoun led all scorers with 17 points.
This game is just an early show of what the Huskies can do, and those three players are a prime example of how talented this team is. Connecticut is playing with mostly the same roster that won 20 games last season and recorded a 10-8 Big East record. That team would have been selected to the NCAA tournament, but was ineligible. Because of the success of last season, confidence does not seem to be a problem. Four players are averaging more than 10 points per game, eight players are playing at least 15 minutes, and the team is outscoring their first three opponents 259-194. While the remainder of the non-conference schedule before Jan. 1 is not as challenging as other higher-ranked teams, it will allow the Huskies to mature before taking to AAC opponents.
The Huskies are built to win because they have a balanced team where contributions can come from every player. With at least two games to play against defending champs Louisville, Memphis and the conference tournament, UConn should have enough prep to record a possible upset and even make a strong NCAA tournament run. The UConn Huskies are for real this season, and if other teams are not paying attention, they will be come March.