The day we've all been waiting for has finally arrived, as basketball season officially kicks off tonight with the annual First Night celebration!
Besides marking the official date we can all stop paying attention to football, tonight also marks a new beginning of sorts for UConn basketball. At this time last year, the Huskies were still members of the Big East conference, Kevin Ollie was still on a seven month contract, and an excitement about the future was tempered by the grim reality that no matter how well the team performed, there wouldn't be any light at the end of the tunnel with the postseason ban in effect.
Fast forward one year, and what a difference a year makes. Last year's team wound up winning 20 games while capturing the hearts of UConn fans everywhere, and Ollie cemented his place as UConn's coach of the future by securing a new five year contract. With the shadow of coaching uncertainty and a looming postseason ban lifted, recruiting has taken off, and now this year's team is finally getting some respect with a No. 19 ranking in the preseason polls.
Meanwhile, the women's team overcame some of the toughest competition its ever faced and wound up winning the program's eighth national championship. So things worked out pretty well for them too.
The Huskies will raise banner No. 8 tonight, and along with all the usual introductions and dance moves, this year's itinerary will see the traditional dunk contest replaced by a heavily hyped mixed-gender showdown between "Team Geno" and "Team Kevin," which will hopefully satisfy everyone's appetite to see Ryan Boatright throw down lobs from Bria Hartley and maybe find out of Tyler Olander can defend Stefanie Dolson.
Tonight will also mark the first and only game action of the year for transfer guard Rodney Purvis, who will have to sit out the upcoming season due to NCAA transfer rules. Purvis was a highly touted recruit out of high school who originally chose North Carolina State over UConn, but after a difficult year, he ultimately decided to take his talents back to Storrs, and now he'll get to show them off in front of a packed Gampel Pavilion crowd.
First Night is being broadcast on ESPN3 tonight, so be sure to check it out.