We've had some time to let the confetti settle, brag incessantly to co-workers, friends, roommates, cashiers, stewardesses, old ladies sitting next to us on airplanes, etc. about the greatness of UConn basketball and yet another miraculous championship run by a UConn Huskies team that was all heart.
Very few teams have done what Kevin Ollie will attempt to do next year though - defend the National Championship. Before Florida pulled it off in 2006 and 2007, the last repeat champion was Duke in 1991 and 1992. Before that, the UCLA teams of the '70's were the last to win it all two years in a row. With the indomitable Kevin Ollie at the helm, UConn fans are thinking dynasty. So can the Huskies repeat next year?
This year, a team that we knew had the talent, that we all believed in, finally put it together and started playing their best basketball when it mattered most. Head coach Kevin Ollie is much more than a masterful motivational speaker. He is an incredible in game coach, a stellar recruiter and a compassionate leader. His time in the NBA has exposed him to the most successful strategies being employed by the worlds best basketball coaches and his Huskies play with a style that is specifically designed to win in March. And win they did.
While Ollie is certainly a huge reason for the Huskies success this year, he's always quick to point out that players win games. This year he had the advantage of usually having the best player on the court at any given time in Shabazz Napier, and in DeAndre Daniels someone who was a match-up terror as a legitimate outside shooter and low post threat. UConn loses Napier, Lasan Kromah, Niels Giffey and Tyler Olander to graduation and I think there is a very good chance that Daniels goes pro. Napier is irreplaceable and both Kromah and Giffey were major contributors on both ends of the floor, but there is some really good talent coming in and if some of the younger guys are ready to step up then anything's possible.
Here are my keys to a UConn repeat in 2015:
1.) Players (not) going pro
I think Daniels goes, but I'll pull back on my confidence from last week. He could stay and it wouldn't be all that surprising, especially if a repeat is possible and he thinks he can significantly boost his draft status. Right now nbadraft.net has him as a second round pick in 2015.
People seem to believe that Ryan Boatright has his eyes on the NBA, especially since he mulled the decision after last year. I find it hard to believe that his demand will be that high even though he was absolutely incredible in the postseason this year.
I think Daniels goes and Boatright stays, if that is the case we can absolutely repeat. If Boatright goes too, our chances plummet.
2.) Rodney Purvis
In an interview this past weekend, Kevin Ollie referred to NC State transfer Rodney Purvis as a Ferrari in the garage that he can't use. Well next year, he gets to put on his driving gloves and let that horsepower loose. Purvis was a McDonalds All-American in 2012 and much is expected of him in what might be his only year in Storrs. The ceiling is high for this uber-athletic combo guard, if he can be the kind of game-changing talent he has been billed as, then we may be able to overcome the loss of Shabazz Napier so long as...
3.) The underclassmen step up
Our returning players all gained valuable experience this year and also enjoyed a front row seat to the Shabazz Napier show. With Napier gone, there will be a void in leadership but also the team needs to figure out how they will replace his 18 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists.
I expect Terrance Samuel to step up his game with the increased minutes he will likely receive. I would like to see Phil Nolan and Amida Brimah turn low post play from a weakness to a strength with one more year of lifting and practice. And for the love of god I need Kentan Facey in the lineup. Whenever he was in the game, Facey seemed to have a natural knack for rebounding - he should be able to give us productive minutes off the bench and could even start at the 4 if Daniels is gone.
Lastly, Omar Calhoun. The whipping boy for the first half of the season before he was pulled from the starting lineup, Calhoun's poor play was a pretty big surprise for Husky Nation after a very solid freshman campaign from the highly rated guard. This past offseason Calhoun was recovering from a hip surgery, was unable to hone his game and struggled to shake off the rust over the course of the season. Hopefully he's able to have a more productive offseason and gets back to the level of play which we all know he is capable of.
The main reason I'm confident of a possible repeat is that we still have the next great college basketball coach running the show. And he isn't going anywhere. Can UConn repeat? Abso-freaking-lutely.
What do you think Husky fans?