What's up yall? Thanks for checking out the site. I'm trying out this whole sports blogging thing, so what is a better way to start than talking about my beloved UCONN Huskies. The Huskies come into this season with moderate expectations after winning only six Big East games and missing both the NCAA and NIT tournaments. That doesn't mean UCONN lacks the talent to be an elite Big East team. I'm reminded alot of the 1997-1998 season. After missing the NCAA tournament the year before (coincidentally the last time the Huskies were left out of the dance) with the youngest team in the Big East, UCONN bounced back to earn a top ten AP ranking and a two-seed in the NCAA tournament. The core of the teams are similar as well - a point guard with a chip-on-their-shoulder and something to prove (AJ Price meet Khaled El-Amin), a talented but overwhelmed freshman two (Jerome Dyson meet Rip Hamilton), and an undersized bulldog of a power forward (Jeff Adrien meet Kevin Freeman).
You always know what you are going to get with a Calhoun-coached UCONN team - uptempo and fast breaking offenses, aggressive and over-playing perimeter defense, and should you get into the paint, a multitude of shot-blockers waiting. The problem last year was that noone knew how to score. There was no Ray Allen or Caron Butler or Rip Hamilton to run an offense through or bail you out when things get stagnant and you need a bucket. It seemed that for the most part, the baby Huskies would be playing not to make a mistake, as opposed to trying to make a play. How much of that was being inexperienced versus being intimidated by the bright lights or even being flat out scared of the wrath of Jim Calhoun, I don't know. What I do know is that the Huskies seemed to be able to hang around with anyone, but once the opponent put a run on them, they could not stop the bleeding and never could get back into sync. Two examples stick out in my mind: the Syracuse game in the Big East tournament and the game at Pitt. The 'Cuse hit UCONN with a quick 8-point run to extend a second half lead to 10, and against Pitt UCONN went punch for punch with the Panthers until Pitt used a 7-0 spurt with about eight minutes left to push the lead to nine. On both occasions you knew that UCONN would not be able to recover simmply because they did not have the firepower offensively.
This brings me to my next point. With this year's squad, I believe there are three things that will determine the Huskies success this year. First, what AJ Price is going to show up this year - the one that led Amityville High to three straight LI titles, or the poor decision-maker and horrendous shooter (38%, 27% from 3) we saw last year. UCONN needs him to become one of the dominant PG's in the league like everyone thought he would be, in the same mold as an El-Amin or Doron Sheffer. Second, how will Hasheem Thabeet develop? He already has the defensive ability - great timing on blocking shots, althought he does get over aggressive sometimes. But he has no hands and no post moves. If he can develop along the same curve as Emeka Okafor, or even anywhere near that, he could be the best center in the league not in DC. But if he doesn't develop a jump hook (which would be unSTOPable at 7'3"), then he becomes a clog in the paint because he does not understand offensive basketball principles (he can't pass and he clogs up the paint for Adrien and penetrating guards). Lastly, will Jerome Dyson be next in line with names like Allen/Hamilton/Gordon or will he be another Albert Mouring or Tony Robertson? Will Stanley Robertson live up to his potential as a go-to scorer? Will Curtis Kelly learn to finish against Big East competition? Will Donnell Beverly be better than the last Bay Area PG to grace the Storrs campus (Antonio "smoke-more-weed" Kellogg)?
Regardless, I believe UCONN is going to have a good year. Maybe I'm bleeding Husky blue, but I don't think 20 wins, 10-12 in the expanded 18 game Big East schedule, a top-25 ranking and a top-5 tourney seed is out of the question. There is too much talent, too much size, and too much coaching expertise to have another down year.