Bob Diaco should be fired immediately and Warde Manuel should turn in his resignation
Just kidding! Football had a bye week. And I like both of these people! Just wanted to get everyone prepped for the hot takes that will occupy the rest of this week's article.
The women's basketball team isn't losing a game all year
Honestly, it was weird that they even lost a single game last year. This season, the UConn women started off by beating the 7th ranked team in the country by 44 points on their home court. This already has the makings of one of the most dominant seasons in college basketball history, and even with their intentionally tough nonconference schedule, I'd be shocked if the women's team loses even once this season.
Heat of take: Surprisingly hot, but not overwhelmingly so
The men's team isn't really that deep...
I have a feeling this is where I'll be losing some of you, but at least hear me out on this one. I think the starting unit is pretty strong as a whole-- I already like the two transfers, Shonn Miller and Sterling Gibbs, a lot, and I really like the play of Daniel Hamilton, Rodney Purvis, and Amida Brimah. They're all very good, and I'm not questioning their production at all.
But at the same time, I'm not particularly confident in this team's bench. Jalen Adams and Steve Enoch looked fine through one game, but Maine is one of the worst teams in a bad conference, and there's not a lot we could learn from that. Kentan Facey is solid, but probably not a true difference-maker. Omar Calhoun is still a fairly limited player. Phillip Nolan was hit by regression hard last year, and nobody knows what type of impact Sam Cassell, Jr. could potentially have this season.
That's just too many question marks for me to be optimistic at the moment. The only proven, consistent asset on the bench is Facey, and he's best off in a supplemental role. That's not to say that two, maybe three of these guys become legitimate threats off the bench, on either end of the floor-- that is definitely possible, especially with two high-ranked recruits as freshmen. But right now, the second unit might struggle against quality teams, and the struggle might last all year if nobody makes significant improvements this season.
Heat of take: Scalding
...But that probably won't matter come March
Yeah, after all that, I'm going to be more optimistic. It's actually pretty rare that the bench makes a big difference in the NCAA Tournament. Sure, it definitely helps if you can bring a couple quality backups off the bench to spell the starters for a few minutes, and I'm sure we all remember how much the depth of the 2013-14 team helped them on their way to UConn's fourth championship (notably, Brimah came off the bench. Lasan Kromah was also terrific, but UConn had a player as good as Amida Brimah and they pulled him off the bench), and we probably all remember how the 2010-11 championship team legitimately ran ten deep just about every game.
But, at the same time, in the tournament, you really only need about three bench players in the NCAA Tournament these days. Maybe UConn will lose a couple games in the regular season to deeper teams on the difference between benches, but, in the postseason, after Kevin Ollie figures out his lineups and rotations? That's probably a different story.
Let's take a look at recent championship games. As you might imagine, all of these games are played between two great teams, both of whom really want to win the game.
Last season, Duke beat Wisconsin in the final. Duke used three bench players (of which Grayson Allen was the only difference-maker), Wisconsin used two.
In 2014, both UConn and Kentucky only used three bench players, and one difference-maker per side: Alex Poythress for the Wildcats, Brimah for the Huskies (though I'll allow a half-point for Kromah, if you so choose).
In 2012, the Kentucky team that nearly went undefeated used three bench players in the championship game, but only one of them, Darius Miller, played more than three minutes. Kansas, likewise, only used three players, although that was a very shallow bench team.
There's plenty of more examples; those are just the most recent. Sure, there are also quite a few exceptions (see: the last two UConn championship teams). But the point stands: you do not need a deep bench in order to make a run to the Final Four. This year, UConn only needs one, maybe two players to establish themselves as assets off the bench.
That's all, of course, assuming the starters are as good as I think they could be.
Heat of take: Spicy