With the season's opening tipoff about an hour away, The UConn Blog staff makes their predictions for the upcoming season. Hopefully these turn out a little better than our predictions for football.
How does the top three shake out in the AAC at the end of the regular season?
Mac: Louisville is going to be a tough egg to crack, but I think UConn has it in them to take down the defending champs and claim the first American regular season title. Between the College Gameday showdown at Gampel and the season ending showdown at the KFC Yum Center, these could be some of the most exciting college basketball games of the season. Memphis is going to be good too, but my prediction is UConn, Louisville and then Memphis, in that order.
John Rook: Louisville UConn Memphis
Andrew Callahan: UConn Memphis Louisville
Who wins the AAC Tournament?
Mac: That's a much tougher call, because anything can happen in a tournament setting. For the sake of simplicity, I say the championship game will be between UConn and Louisville again, and whoever wins the regular season title will also win the tournament title.
Andrew Callahan: Memphis
John Rook: UConn-hear me out.
Pound for pound, Louisville is a better team than the Huskies, who still have rebounding issues and will rely on younger players to contribute. However, it's really hard to consistently win at a high level in college basketball. You don't have a lot of back-to-back national champs or conference tournament winners. Getting through a bunch of good teams means you have to survive at least one poor showing on your part, one great showing by someone else. It never fails.
Louisville ran through everyone last year. I don't think they do it again. I wouldn't be surprised if the Cardinals are picked off before the AAC Tournament final, opening the door for UConn.
In the Huskies, you're going to have a very, very hungry team. Most of the roster went through NCAA purgatory last year, and I'm sure the sting of sitting home in March remains. There won't be any quit in them. I think that, with their talent, will drive them to a conference tourney title.
Mac: Shabazz Napier, no question. The team will obviously depend on Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels throughout the season, but at the end of the day Shabazz is the unquestioned leader and this team will go as far as he can take them.
Andrew Callahan: Shabazz Napier
John Rook: I'm picking Shabazz Napier for this one. He makes this team go. If he makes good decisions with the ball, distributes, gets the team running, and plays with controlled emotion, then the Huskies will be hard to beat.
John Rook: I'm going with Amida Brimah on this one. It sounds like, down the road, Facey could be a pretty special wing player, and I like some of what I've seen from Terrence Samuel, but both of those guys will be battling for time against some really talented players. Brimah has to beat out Tyler Olander and Phil Nolan for the center position.
Plus, it appears Brimah is a natural shot blocker despite his lanky frame. The Huskies desparately need a big man who can reject shots into the second row from time to time, and I have a feeling that will get him a lot of playing time as the season progresses.
Mac: Phillip Nolan
Callahan: Omar Calhoun
Aman: Amida Brimah, I think he can bring block parties back to Storrs.
Biggest Win of the Season?
Mac: UConn over Louisville at Gampel Pavilion on Jan. 18.
John Rook: Louisville at Gampel is an obvious one, but I'm gonna go with Boston College. I know I've been waiting to beat up the boys from BC for a while now, and renewing that rivalry is going to be sweet. I expect a nice blowout win for the Huskies there and, personally, I might enjoy that as much or more than any other win this year.
Aman: Florida early in the season, that's when everyone starts taking us seriously
Mac: At SMU on Jan. 4, this squad could be sneaky good and I could definitely see them taking out the Huskies on their home court.
Andrew Callahan: I, again, agree with Mac
John Rook: This is tough because, honestly, I just don't know these new AAC teams all that well. So, I'm going with Harvard. They have always given the Huskies trouble, they always seem to be a good team, I'm sure they have some good veteran leadership, and they always seem like a club the Huskies SHOULD beat, whether that's fair or not.
Aman: at Washington
Mac: Amida Brimah, he has the physical tools to be a dominant center and if he can adjust to the college game quickly, he could become a key player for the Huskies right away.
Aman: Omar Calhoun, I think he will be an absolute monster and we may be talking about whether or not he declares at the end of this season
Key to the Season?
Mac: Frontcourt play. UConn is obviously going to have plenty to work with in the backcourt with Napier, Boatright, Calhoun, Kromah and Samuel, but if the big guys can't grab rebounds and defend the paint, the Huskies could be exposed by teams with talent big men. This will be especially important on the nights where Napier or Boatright don't have their shooting touch, and keeping the other team off the board becomes more important.
Callahan: The rebounding will never be above average this season, but the Huskies can get by as a team that is only mediocre on the glass.. They cannot, however, rely on their backcourt and turn the ball over at the same time. If they limit opponents' extra possessions solely to the occasional offensive rebounds by taking care of the ball, they'll score and be just fine.
Aman: DeAndre Daniels. If he can be the star that UConn fans think he can be, then we're a much better team than advertised. On a related note if Daniels and the new guys can help fix the rebounding discrepancy, that would be huge.
Mac: Phil Nolan will have a breakout year and become a key part of the Huskies' frontcourt rotation.
Callahan: Calhoun leads the AAC in three pointers made
John Rook: 6 AAC teams in the NCAA Tournament
Aman: See below
How far does UConn go in the NCAAs?
Mac: UConn should be a Sweet Sixteen team at worst, I think anything less than that would be a big disappointment. The team certainly has the potential to reach the Final Four and win the championship, but I think it would be a stretch to call this a "championship or bust" season, so maybe it would be fair to split the difference and say this team reaches the Elite Eight, and we'll see how it goes from there.
Andrew Callahan: Elite Eight
John Rook: I just really love experienced guard play when it comes to winning in March. Shabazz and Boatright make up one of the best, most dynamic 1-2 guard combos in the nation. They can score in a variety of ways. They are pesky on defense. Napier has become one of the better ball distributors around. I say they make the Elite Eight
Aman: Homer Alert- National Champions. I think of this team as having Butler's teamwork with high-major talent. Teams like Butler and VCU have made deep tournament runs thanks to experience and teamwork, we have that with the advantage of upper echelon talent.
Guard play and Defense wins in March/April and we do those things very well. Last year's team drastically exceeded expectations, and we have the next great college basketball coach on our sidelines, so I feel comfortable predicting the University of Connecticut cutting down the nets for the fourth time in 15 years.