Since their 2010-11 National Championship season, the Connecticut Huskies Men’s Basketball Team has been dying for an opportunity to get back into dominant form. With the departure of current Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker, who went No. 9 in the 2011 NBA Draft, the team not only lost its best player– it lost its undisputed leader.
After a first-round exit to Iowa State in the NCAA Tournament a season later, the Huskies were handed down a postseason ban for the 2012-13 season, due to academic violations. This was one of the factors that led legendary coach and Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun to retire as head coach, allowing assistant and longtime NBA veteran Kevin Ollie the opportunity to coach at his alma mater.
In his first season, which many feared would be a complete disaster, he managed to rally the team and inspire them to a 20-10 record, all while playing for no postseason prize or title. Now sitting at a perfect 9-0 and ranked No. 9 in the AP Poll, the Huskies have the opportunity to get back to the days in which they were widely considered a national powerhouse.
One of the characteristics of their 2010-11 championship season was pulling off extremely close games, in which the cards seemed to be stacked against them. Through nine games, UConn has won one game by two points and two games by one point. Without smart coaching and the ability to be clutch, especially by senior Shabazz Napier, the team could easily be 6-3, and unranked. But, the key and the point is that they aren’t.
With matchups against Stanford, who is currently 7-2, at Washington, who is 5-4 and against Eastern Washington, who sits at 5-4, Connecticut has the ability to enter American Athletic Conference play at a perfect 12-0, and most likely a top five ranking.
During the 2010-11 championship year, UConn was led by a trio of Walker, Jeremy Lamb and Alex Oriakhi. This season, the trio of Napier, with 15.3 points per game, DeAndre Daniels, with 13.8 and Ryan Boatright, with 12 has led the Huskies. While it remains to be seen if this trio will reach the NBA like Walker, Lamb and Oriakhi, it is very obvious that this season rests on their shoulders — and UConn fans shouldn’t be concerned about that.