Long after the confetti is swept away, the court and baskets at Lucas Oil Stadium are broken down and whisked away, and the memories of another college basketball season are filed and stored, the pieces of a new season begin to fall into place.
As the first order of business, the Way-Too-Early Top 25 rankings are a good starting point of processing the who's who of the 2015-16 season. The rankings are released by various media outlets and are loosely based on educated guesses of which players will return, where uncommitted recruits and transfers are likely to land, and the annual coaching carousel. In short, it serves its purpose as a very broad peek into next year.
The usual suspects can be found littered at the top of the 2016 rankings, with little surprise thereafter. There are still a few uncommitted four and five-star recruits, transfers, and players that have yet to announce NBA Draft intentions. Once those are determined, it will likely trigger some additional shifting in the final pre-season rankings. Overall though, the rankings should be pretty close to what we see at the start of the season in November.
It would be foolish to assume a high preseason ranking is a prerequisite of a national title contending program, or even an indication that a deep NCAA-tournament run is forthcoming. What it is, however, is a clear reflection of expectations garnered from the parts put together, and the potential that can be plucked from that foundation. Nationally, expectations are tempered for the Huskies, who would be hard pressed to find themselves on any of these early rankings.
There certainly is a correlation between recruiting, returning starters, and a high preseason ranking. What is not included in the formula is team chemistry. UConn will return everyone besides Ryan Boatright from last year's team. Guys like Rodney Purvis, Amida Brimah and Daniel Hamilton will be expected to step up and lead the way. Coupled with the recent addition of Cornell graduate transfer Shonn Miller, the makings of an NCAA tournament team are definitely in place.
As the AAC crown goes, the Huskies were picked to win the conference last season. That may be a tall order with SMU returning most of their starters and almost assured to be among the preseason top-15. The addition of Shonn Miller surely adds an interesting wrinkle to the discussion, though. He could balance the raw talent on the team and help propel the Huskies to the top of the conference.
For the scrupulous fan, the rankings are fun to look at and scrutinize. Given the inexperience of some of the key players for the Huskies next season, continued development and chemistry should be the blueprint. We all know that if you can play your best ball in March, it's worth taking a few lumps in the regular season.
The point isn't that January games don't matter - but rather how quickly you develop and gel through conference play down the stretch. Yes, quality coaching helps. But for the Huskies to win the AAC, and ultimately find their way back to the NCAA tournament, the onus lies squarely on an equal mix of experienced leadership, and youthful talent.
Even though expectations are low heading into the season, UConn has done well in upgrading the roster and amassing talented new pieces. With some continued development and time together as a unit, the Huskies are primed to exceed those expectations.