The Connecticut Huskies finished their 2014-15 campaign in a disappointing fashion, but go into the 2015-16 season with high hopes. Kevin Ollie, despite constant NBA rumors, has reaffirmed his commitment to UConn basketball and will hope to lead a team that is inexperienced playing together, albeit experienced, to the 2016 NCAA tournament.
The development of sophomore Daniel Hamilton will be absolutely crucial to the success of UConn in 2015-16. As a freshman, he looked capable of becoming an elite college basketball player by averaging 7.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 10.9 points per game. He should be the focal point of the Huskies’ game plan and will be joined by talented recruits Jalen Adams and Steven Enoch, who will be able to make an immediate impact.
Other experienced returners include Rodney Purvis, Amida Brimah, Omar Calhoun and Kentan Facey, but the real surprise was former Seton Hall star Sterling Gibbs transferring to UConn. Gibbs averaged 16.3 points, 3.8 assists, 2.1 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game last season, making him an immediate asset for Ollie as the Huskies transition to a new young point guard.
In non-conference play, this squad will face off with three of the Big 10‘s best, as well as the Texas Longhorns in Austin and the Georgetown Hoyas in January. The games against the Maryland Terrapins and Hoyas could prove too much for UConn, but the Ohio State Buckeyes, Michigan Wolverines and Longhorns are winnable games. Connecticut should enter conference play on a high note, because there is no reason this team should lose more than three non-conference games.
In conference play it will get a little more difficult for UConn, because there are four or five teams that should be capable of making the 2016 NCAA tournament without including the ineligible SMU Mustangs. The Memphis Tigers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Temple Owls and Tulsa Hurricanes will be extremely tough opponents, and the lack of experience on this UConn roster could be a problem on the road.
I expect Connecticut to finish in the top three of the American Athletic Conference and make it to the 2016 NCAA tournament as somewhere close to a No. 8 seed. Do not be alarmed if UConn fails to meet expectations in 2015-16, because this is a squad that is primed to be legitimate national title contenders as early as the 2016-17 season.