Historical Hypothetical: Episode 1

Jim McIsaac

What if UConn wasn’t banned from the 2013 post-season?

Greetings Husky fans. I wanted to share my thoughts for what would have gone down in the event the NCAA had not banned UConn from the 2013 post-season. As I've mentioned, I am extremely bitter about this and would like to start an open discussion for what we were robbed of by this ridiculous sanction. This isn't fan fiction, but rather an exploration of what would have been different.

Flashback, it’s April 2012 and the NCAA is about to make a decision on Connecticut’s appeal of the (insane) 2013 post-season ban. They accept and repeal it. Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith do not transfer. I also truly believe that Lamb and maybe even Drummond would have stayed as well. Hear me out:

Lamb was a top-5 prospect coming into the 2011-2012 season. During the season he gradually fell down draft boards as he showed a complete unwillingness to take over in the clutch. He also had a very clear need to add muscle to his frame to be strong enough to bang at the NBA level. Nothing improves or kills draft stock like the NCAA Tournament, and an embarrassing first round exit at the hands of Iowa St. was the nail in the coffin of his Top-5 hopes. He needed another year to add 10-15 pounds of muscle, learn to take over games, and be the leader of a deep tournament run. The fact that he spent most of this past year in the D-League (though he did do very well) proves that he still needed some time.

Drummond had a very inconsistent year and while he displayed amazing athleticism for a big man, he never dominated in the way that he should have. Just like Lamb, the season hurt his draft stock. He ended up being taken 9th, which shows that he could have spent another year in college to lock down top-3 status. Whether there is value taking in that risk is debatable, particularly as he's looked pretty good so far in the League. News about him leaving didn't come out until after the ban, which at least means that he was willing to consider staying if we were eligible.

I’m willing to say for the sake of argument that Drummond goes (you can’t teach tall), but Lamb stays. This starting lineup looks like:

1- Shabazz/Boatright

2- Lamb/Calhoun

3- Roscoe

4- Oriakhi

5- Olander/Wolf

We could also go small and put Oriakhi at the 5, Roscoe at 4, Lamb at 3 and any combo of Shabazz, Boatright, Calhoun at 1 and 2. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a very solid 8 man rotation that still has solid contributors off the bench in Neils Giffey, DeAndre Daniels and Phil Nolan, guys in reality who were forced into larger roles they weren't ready for.

As far as the coaching change, nothing about this hypothetical situation keeps Jim’s bike accident from happening and his overall health from declining. I think the coaching situation plays out with Calhoun still retiring, but handing things off to Ollie in a more stable, less shitty situation, possibly allowing us to do slightly better with the 2013 recruiting class.

So how does this team fare in the regular season? Close losses early in the season to New Mexico St, NC State and Marquette (OT loss) become wins. Instead of figuring it out alone, Shabazz has a go-to guy in Lamb and they develop extraordinary chemistry, thriving in Ollie’s wide open offense. Calhoun and Boatright provide an energetic offensive spark while Roscoe and Oriakhi provide a solid veteran presence with steady double-doubles. Our biggest problems all year, rebounding and post scoring, are non-existent with Oriakhi manning the paint and crashing the boards. We probably still lose at Notre Dame in January, but that’s their first loss of the season instead of number 4.

We lost 6 more games the rest of that year. I would argue to the death that the max that this hypothetical team loses down the stretch is 3. But with how tough the Big East schedule is and some sneaky teams on the bottom of the league, let’s just call it 4. So instead of 20-10 we’re looking at a 25-5 regular season record. A very conservative estimate for improvement given that they have 3 high-quality starters that the real team didn't have.

That record would put us in the 4 seed for the Big East Tournament. We’d get a bye the first two rounds, and end up likely playing the 5 seed, which was Syracuse last year. Win or lose, that Quarterfinal match-up, with the backdrop of it being the last Big East Tournament as we know it, would have been an absolute riot: UConn versus Syracuse in the final installment of a legendary rivalry for one last time at MSG. What a terrible, terrible shame this wasn’t allowed to happen.

I don’t want to put on my Mike Wilbon hat and make up the results of a single elimination tournament, but I would bet our hypothetical heroes get pretty far in this tournament. If I had to force a guess, I say we lose to Louisville in the finals.

A strong showing in the BET means that we’re likely to overachieve on our AP/Coaches poll ranking, I think we’d end up with a 2 seed. I’m not going to further torture myself with what could have been, but feel free to let the mind wander about the possibilities for what would have been a Top-10 team in a year where the tournament had no clear favorite.

Lastly, let’s address the elephant in the room: How did the ban affect conference re-alignment? Maybe, MAYBE, we get that ACC spot over Louisville, but honestly I doubt it. I'd love to hear how you guys feel but I don’t think the ban played a huge factor. It was certainly ill timed, and something that an opponent of ours could use to besmirch our academic reputation, but at the end of the day they took the school ranked #160 in US News College Rankings. Uconn is #63.

So that... is what we were robbed of by the NCAA's arbitrary decision to crack down on academics and scapegoat us to show the general public that they care about the "student-athlete"

Right…

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