#25 Connecticut Men's Basketball 2014-2015 Preview

Connecticut Huskies

2014-2015 Overall Rank: #25
Conference Rank: #1 American

UConn Team Page#25 Connecticut Men's Basketball 2014-2015 PreviewBuy UConn Basketball Tickets

The Connecticut Huskies slipped under the radar as the NCAA Tournament got underway this past March. Regular-season sweeps at the hands of both Louisville (Huskies 0-3 versus Cardinals) and SMU (0-2 versus Mustangs) successfully lowered expectations and led to UConn being awarded a seven seed. You know the rest. Shabazz Napier did his best Kemba Walker impression, which, it turns out, is probably the best Walker impression anyone has ever, or could ever, pull off. And Head Coach Kevin Ollie decided he didn’t need experience under his belt; he would just be the best dang coach in the country from day one. Twenty wins in a postseason-banned first year followed by 32 more wins and a national title, and it’s hard to argue.

2013-14 Record: 32-8, 12-6
2013-14 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Kevin Ollie
Coach Record: 52-18 at UConn, 52-18 overall

Who’s Out:
A number of useful and impactful contributors to the national-title winning Huskies are now gone. Niels Giffey and Lasan Kromah, two rotation forwards worthy of their minutes, have graduated. Kromah was a good on-ball defender and third ball handler. Giffey didn’t do much for this team other than be a hustler and one of the very best three-point shooters in the entire nation! DeAndre Daniels has also moved on. The mercurial forward was probably a swell gentleman, but was prone to the largest gaps between him being on and him being off that I can ever remember. Good Daniels was a slashing, un-guardable forward who could hit a three whenever he wanted and grab every rebound in his area code. Bad Daniels was invisible on offense and a turnstile on defense. This past season though, Daniels was much more good than bad; his element will be hard to replace on this roster. The last piece UConn will miss from the championship squad happened to be its best. Shabazz Napier joins Daniels in the NBA. His 18 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game numbers are so ridiculously good and yet still don’t tell the whole story. Napier was this team’s identity and heart. Napier was UConn as much as any player encapsulates any team. Huskies fans thought it would be impossible to replace Kemba Walker. It wasn’t, so I dare not say the same about Napier, but still…

Who’s In:
The Connecticut cupboard is far from bare even with all the departures of top players. To help lessen the load on returning players, UConn has brought in three very interesting recruits. Four-star shooting guard Daniel Hamilton is one of the two best high schoolers from the state of California according to ESPN 100. He’s an aggressive scoring wing who should immediately demand playing time in this lineup. He is joined by fellow freshman Rakim Lubin and junior college transfer Sam Cassell Jr. Both Lubin and Cassell Jr. should also find their way into the Huskies rotation. In addition, UConn is graced with the eligibility of former top recruit Rodney Purvis. Purvis sat out all of last season and is ready to roll in 2014-15. Purvis never got comfortable as a freshman at NC State, but he averaged over eight points per game and, at 6-4, brings size to the backcourt that UConn fans haven’t witnessed in some time.

Who to Watch:
With the freshmen and eligible transfers mixing in with returning players looking for increased roles, Coach Ollie will actually have some good depth to his rotation and some decisions to make regarding playing time. The likes of Phillip Nolan, Omar Calhoun, Kentan Facey and Terrence Samuel are all coming back and expecting to either bounce back off down years or catapult themselves further after good first showings. Either way, playing time will be at a premium. That’s because two spots are essentially written in stone on this team: starting point guard Ryan Boatright and starting center Amida Brimah. Boatright is going to get all the news stories written about him because he’s the next in line. Walker won the title with Napier’s help and handed the reins to Nape. Now Napier won the title with Boatright’s help, and you get the picture. It remains to be seen if Boatright can make that leap. It doesn’t seem like it right now but, again, we said the same about Napier when Walker left. Nevertheless, Brimah may be the more interesting player here anyway. As a freshman from Ghana who’d supposedly played basketball for just a few years in his life before coming to Connecticut, Brimah was a spindly, 7-foot force down low. With some added weight and as he actually learns the game of basketball, his minutes should skyrocket. As should his production, if that’s even possible. With 2.3 blocks per game in barely over 16 minutes of action, it’s hard to imagine what type of weapon Brimah can be if he becomes capable of garnering 30 minutes a night.

Final Projection:
Coming off a national championship and losing arguably its two best players, it would be hard to figure Connecticut would be going anywhere but down. This is technically true as repeating as national champs seems near impossible just based off of probability alone. However, the roster that will be taking the court this season doesn’t seem clearly worse. In fact, it might be better. A lot hinges on the aforementioned Boatright and Brimah, but basketball fans will remember that this team wasn’t all that formidable during the regular season in 2013-14. A magical run took them to the title. Look for a better regular season this time around, with perhaps a conference title, but a bit of disappointment on the back end. You can’t win it all every year.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA Tournament

Projected Starting Five:
Ryan Boatright, Senior, Guard, 12.1 points per game
Rodney Purvis, Sophomore, Guard, DNP last season
Terrence Samuel, Sophomore, Guard, 2.4 points per game
Kentan Facey, Sophomore, Forward, 1.4 points per game
Amida Brimah, Sophomore, Center, 4.1 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 71.8 (140th in nation, 5th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 63.2 (31, 4)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.9 (136, 5)
Field-Goal Defense: 39.2 (13, 2)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.2 (82, 2)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 38.7 (27, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 77.7 (4, 1)
Rebound Margin: 0.5 (179, 6)
Assists Per Game: 12.2 (208, 10)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.4 (89, 4)

Madness 2015 NBA Draft Rankings:
#58 Ryan Boatright

Madness 2014 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#17 Daniel Hamilton


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