Hey, Porter here. If you're not the type to watch bylines this piece is from our newest contributor Rich MacLeod. I'll let him introduce himself in the comments but we hope you enjoy his work.
What do you see when you look at the 2011-2012 UConn Huskies? Many may see the budding stars, highlight reel plays & a brand new 6'11" recruit. Coming off of the most unbelievable championship run of their three, UConn was loaded. They reatined Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier and added freshmen Andre Drummond and Ryan Boatright. Sure, there was no Kemba this time around, but the word "repeat" came to mind. Even I -- the ultimate pessimist -- would be lying if I didn't say that thought hadn't crossed my mind.
After a quick 5-0 start that built to a a 12-1 record, the top-10 ranked Huskies looked like they were on their way to a season of dominance. The upset loss to UCF may have been a surprise at the time, but looking back, it was a warning sign of the disappointment to come.
The Huskies would go on to lose games to unranked Rutgers, Seton Hall, Tennessee & Providence to name a few. Eventually, as we all know, UConn went from being the No. 4 team in the country to unranked.
That's all in the past now, but it's still worth reflecting on last year's team. My biggest problem with last year's squad was the lack of heart -- and I wasn't the only one who thought so. Emotional leader Shabazz Napier questioned the team's heart after a tumultuous stretch, losing to several teams that were far less talented than they were. But it wasn't all a loss. My favorite moment of the season came when that same point guard drilled a game-winning three-pointer in Villanova. I could dig deeper into the season, mentioning moments such as the three heated contests with Syracuse, the stunning losses or short-lived aspirations of a title defense in March-but we all know what happened.
This year there is no Lamb, no Oriakhi, no Drummond, no Roscoe Smith and most importantly, there is no Jim Calhoun. The Huskies are banned from the postseason and without many of their former stars (especially their big men) it woudld have been easy this team to pack it in.
They could have just said, "You know what? We're not that talented, we shouldn't win these games." But they haven't done that. They beat a heavily favored ranked team to start the season (which was even sweeter because of who it was against) and, better than that one win, no matter who they're playing, they never give up. The lack of size & rebounding can be very agitating, and yes, they struggle, but when guys like Shabazz, Boatright & even Enosch Wolf are contributing, it's just fun to watch.
Are they as talented as last year's team? No. In fact, it's not even close. But this team has the intangible that was lacking last season. Although it'll end with no aspirations of a postseason birth, it's been more fun watching this team than at any point last season.