A year after sitting out of the NCAA Tournament while on probation, the UConn Huskies are set to re-establish themselves amongst nation's elite during the 2013-2014 college basketball season. Entering a new conference, with most of their key players returning, Kevin Ollie's club should begin the year ranked in the top 15, and could be a Final Four contender.
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Here's what you need to know about the 2014 Huskies.
2013 Record: 20-10 overall, 10-8 Big East
2013 Postseason: N/A (Ineligible for the NCAA Tournament)
Key Returnees: Shabazz Napier, Sr., G (17.1 ppg, 4.6 apg), Ryan Boatright, Jr., G (15.4 ppg, 4.4 apg), DeAndre Daniels, Jr., F (12.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Omar Calhoun, Soph., G (11.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg), Niels Giffey, Sr., F (4.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg), Tyler Olander, Sr., F (4.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
Key Losses: R.J. Evans, G (3.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg)
Key Additions: Kentan Facey, PF
Like in 2013, the 2014 UConn Huskies will only go as far as their guards take them, Shabazz Napier in particular. Napier is coming off an All-Big East season, in which he finished fourth in the conference in scoring and third in total three-pointers made (68), despite missing a number of games with injury. If fully healthy in 2014, Napier could pop-up on a number of postseason All-American teams.
Beyond Napier, the Huskies will look for a strong junior campaign from Napier's backcourt mate Ryan Boatright. Boatright had a solid sophomore season in which he averaged over 15 points per game, but must improve his 33.3 percent three-point shooting. Omar Calhoun rounds out a three-guard starting line-up, after averaging 11.1 points per game as a freshman.
But where UConn will once again be tested against college basketball's elite is in the paint. Last year's NCAA sanctions stripped them of their depth and left major holes in 2013, holes which will again be an issue heading into next season.
While DeAndre Daniels is talented (averaging a team-high 5.5 rebounds per game last season) he is more of a small forward than low-post player, meaning that a key for the 2014 Huskies could be the re-emergence of senior Tyler Olander. Olander's numbers dipped across the board in 2013, despite moving from the bench into the starting lineup last season.
Beyond Olander, sophomore Phil Nolan and incoming freshman Kentan Facey should get minutes in the frontcourt, while the school awaits word on whether center Enosch Wolf will return to the team. Wolf didn't play a single game for the Huskies following a February suspension.
One additional thing to consider about the success of UConn in 2014 is that beyond their talent, the Huskies should be able to pile up wins against inferior competition in the newly formed American Athletic Conference.
In the new conference, the Huskies will be joined for one final year by defending champion Louisville (before they move to the ACC), Cincinnati and fellow NCAA Tournament teams Memphis and Temple, which come over from Conference USA and the Atlantic-10, respectively.
However, the Huskies will also avoid a slew of talented Catholic schools that will remain in the "old" Big East, including Marquette, Georgetown and Villanova, which all made the NCAA Tournament in 2013. Notre Dame will move on to the ACC from the old Big East as well.
Add it all up, and the Huskies truly could be a national championship contender come next March.