UConn will struggle to repeat without Shabazz Napier, DeAndre Daniels

Tom Pennington

If DeAndre Daniels foregoes his senior season to join Shabazz Napier in the NBA, the Huskies may have an even tougher road to a championship next season.

Connecticut's run from third place in its conference to No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament to NCAA champion is nearly unprecedented in the history of the sport. Only when No. 8 seed Villanova made its miracle run in 1985 has such an underdog reached the top of the college basketball landscape. For the Huskies to repeat that feat with the same squad would be an even longer shot, one that becomes infinitesimal considering Connecticut is likely losing its two best players.

Senior guard Shabazz Napier was the life force of UConn, cleaning up post-season awards as he lifted the Huskies to the title. Napier is out of eligibility and will enter the NBA Draft, possibly joined by teammate DeAndre Daniels. The junior forward is coming off a second straight phenomenal season, where he upped his production to 13.1 points and six rebounds per game while play inspired defense. The Huskies lose another starter as well, with senior forward Niels Giffey moving on.

In their stead will be a talented crew, but one that falls short of this year's team. Ryan Boatright should get the reins of the offense, and the senior will be the latest Huskie to attempt a Kemba Walker impression. But that's if HE doesn't decide to forgo his senior season and ply his trade in the NBA. If I had to guess, Boatright stays and puts up flashy numbers and UConn's latest gunner guard.

Alongside Boatright will be junior guard Omar Calhoun and N.C. State transfer Rodney Purvis, who will be serviceable guards for coach Kevin Ollie. Purvis was the No. 16 recruit in his class, so the transfer still has a lot of upside. The lone UConn recruit in ESPN's Top 100 is Daniel Hamilton, a four-star shooting guard who is ranked No. 31.

Key for Connecticut's season will be the development of big men Amida Brimah and Kentan Facey. Brimah is a force around the rim on defense, averaging 5.7 blocks per 40 minutes of playing time. He will need to improve on offense, as he has shown no ability to score on anything but putbacks and alley-oops. Facey is a 6'9 forward from Jamaica, who is cleared to play three more seasons after initially dealing with some eligibility issues.

Kevin Ollie, in just two seasons at UConn, has already proven to be one of the better coaching prospects in the country. He took a Hero Ball All-Star like Napier and paired him with a defensive unit that beat up a slew of talented teams in March and April. With the offense likely in Boatright's hands and Daniels possibly missing from the paint, look for Ollie to squeeze every bit of production out of his current roster but fall short of winning a second straight NCAA championship.

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