It was pretty easy to forget about the Connecticut Huskies heading into the college basketball season. Iconic coach Jim Calhoun is no longer there, they weren’t eligible for the postseason last year, and they got lost in the shuffle of conference realignment.
While the best of the Big East moved to the ACC, the Huskies weren’t even able to stay in the new Big East, which remains a strong conference even without the Huskies. Instead, UConn is stuck in the American Athletic Conference, which was built more for football than basketball.
But while UConn may not play in an elite basketball conference anymore, this year’s team has the potential to play at an elite level like so many of the UConn teams of the past. Leading the way for this year’s Huskies is head coach Kevin Ollie, as well as a trio of talented guards in Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright and Omar Calhoun, which is a trio that’s capable of carrying the Huskies a long way this year.
Napier is the motor that makes the Huskies go. He’s small but quick, with great playmaking ability that allows him to both setup others and find his own shot equally well. He’s difficult to stay in front of when he wants to attack the basket, but he can also step back and shoot from the perimeter at a high percentage.
He’s a senior that brings to the table the experience of playing on UConn’s 2011 national championship team. Napier is the team’s leader and a fearless player that’s ready to make clutch shots and big plays in key situations.
Boatright is lightning-quick and nearly impossible to stay in front of, especially with the elimination of hand checking in college basketball this year. He has elite dribbling skills and can be unstoppable in the open floor, but he also shoots at a high percentage from 3-point range. He’s a natural point guard, but with Napier on the floor with him, Boatwright is able to focus on attacking the basket, which is his biggest strength.
Calhoun gives the UConn backcourt some much-needed size and another pure scorer. He’s a catch-and-shoot scorer who is shooting a higher percentage so far this season than he did last year as a freshman. He should get plenty of quality looks from the outside this year due to the penetration abilities of Napier and Boatright. Calhoun may not be as reliable or consistent to the other two, but he’s the perfect complement to the small and quick duo.
These three guards should see plenty of time on the floor together, and while that could create some trouble for Connecticut from a defensive and rebounding standpoint, the trio has a chance to be electric on the offensive end of the floor, which can help make up for their deficiencies in other areas. They’ll be able to score at the basket and on the perimeter, while also being a force in transition that can get up and down the court as fast as any team in the country.
Of all the great backcourts in the country, and there are some incredible backcourt duos in college basketball this year, it’s nearly impossible to find one that has three players as talented as Napier, Boatright and Calhoun. The freedom of movement in college basketball this year will play right into their hands and make them a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
The Huskies are far from perfect, but their guard play is unlike any other team in the country, which makes them difficult to stop offensively. The explosiveness of their backcourt has a chance to carry them a long way this year.