Our motley crew takes some guesses at how UConn will perform this season.
Over/Under: 8 Non-Conference Wins
Dan Madigan: Over. While this non-conference slate has some heavyweights, there’s plenty of wins to be had here, and a barring a terrible start like last season, there’s no reason this team can’t open up the season 3-0 heading into the PK80 tournament. If the Huskies win one game in that PK80 tournament, eight to nine non-conference wins is a lock. If they stumble out of the gate and then go winless in the tournament, it’s a sign that it could be another long year.
Connolly: Over. They get six gimme wins against teams like Colgate, Coppin State, BU, etc. That means they only have to win three more non-conference games to reach eight and hit the over. I’d be pretty shocked if they didn’t come away with a single win at PK80 and Auburn really seems to be buckling under the FBI investigation. Even in my most cynical view, getting over eight wins should be fairly easy.
tcf15: Over. Like Madigan and Connolly said, UConn should be able to get at least six wins in the non-conference (not as confident as I wish I could be given last year’s losses to Wagner and Northeastern). After that, there are 7 non-conference games remaining: Oregon, 2 additional PK80 games, Syracuse, Arizona, Auburn, and Villanova. I think UConn goes 2-1 in the PK80 with a first-round loss to Oregon, beats Syracuse and Auburn (especially if Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy are still out), and loses to Arizona and Villanova. That should bring them to 10 non-conference wins.
McGrath: Boston University, Colgate, Columbia, Coppin State, Monmouth and Stony Brook are six givens. If they lose to Oregon in the PK80, they likely get DePaul, which should be a win. Under this scenario, they probably get Portland or Arkansas in the final game. Auburn is seemingly splitting at the seams and it’s not inconceivable that they could also beat Syracuse. I’m with TCF in that 10 wins is most likely, but 11 isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility.
Aman: Over but I’m a lot less optimistic than the folks above.
Over/Under: 10.5 Conference Wins
The Huskies have done it twice in the past four years, but the conference is more competitive than it has been in the past and nobody knows what to expect from this year’s team.
Madigan: Under. This UConn team will be better than last year, but it’s unlikely they beat Wichita State. To have a chance to get to 11, they’ll have to sweep ECU and Tulsa and at least split with Cincinnati, Memphis, UCF, and Temple. It’s certainly doable, but I don’t think it’s likely. They’d also have to be better than they were away from Gampel and XL Center season, where they dropped road games to Tulsa and East Carolina. In order to get to 11 conference wins and have a shot at the NCAA tournament, that can’t happen.
Connolly: Over. Last season, UConn still finished with nine conference wins. That included more than a few head-scratching losses and not really any “upsets”. Even with the addition of Wichita State, this team should compete with the top of the conference and games against Cincinnati are far from sure-things regardless of how either team is playing.
Outside of Cincy, Wichita State, and SMU, there are two games that concern me the most. First is at UCF on New Year’s Eve, both because of the Huskies struggles on that day as well as the Knights’ improvement over the past few seasons. The other is at Houston to end the regular season because, again, UConn has struggled there.
tcf15: Under. In the five years that Kevin Ollie has been the head coach, UConn has a 53-37 conference record. When you break that record down to home and away games, UConn is 33-12 at home and 20-25 on the road. UConn may pull off an upset or two at home but will ultimately struggle on the road. Given five years of data, I think that is the norm for a Kevin Ollie-coached team. They’ll go 10-8 this year (7-2 at home and 3-6 on the road).
McGrath: I like over, which requires an 11-7 record. Wichita State is likely two losses and Cincinnati will forever be a crap shoot, but even if they lose both, they still have three more losses to play with. Say they lose on the road to UCF and Houston, two solid teams, they still have one more between East Carolina, Memphis, SMU, UCF, USF, Temple and Tulsa at home as well as East Carolina, Memphis, Tulane, Tulsa and Temple on the road. Schedule in a head-scratcher, maybe Tulsa on the road, and we have 11-7 exactly.
Aman: I think they sneak right over but it’ll be close. Nothing is given in the American this year, besides hopefully Memphis, Tulane, and USF.
Over/Under: 16 Points Per Game for Jalen Adams
He scored 14 per game last year, but with Alterique Gilbert sharing playmaking duties, Adams should be freed up to be more of a scoring threat, right? Maybe not, given that Terry Larrier and Gilbert could take some of the scoring load as well.
Madigan: Over. What Jalen Adams did last season was impressive. For most of the season, he shouldered the bulk of the scoring load while running the point and playing through various injuries just to keep the Huskies competitive. This season, with Gilbert back, Adams will not have to carry the team for long stretches and can focus on getting buckets. He seems to be even better at getting by defenders and getting to the rim this season, and this ability to attack should lead to easy baskets for him and open looks for his teammates if he decides to pass. I think Adams can take another big leap this season cement himself as one of the best guards in the country.
Connolly: Over. Jalen was good last year but this is the season he makes the leap into being one of the all-time UConn guards. While he scored 14 points per game last year, there were times he was literally the only option to score and defenses could just double and triple team him all game long. With so Gilbert and Larrier back along with Christian Vital having a year under his belt, Adams shouldn’t need to carry the entire load this season and that’ll open up the opportunities for him to get to the bucket more.
Aman: Under. I think he has a more efficient scoring and increases his points per game only slightly while Terry Larrier also emerges as a leading scorer.
tcf15: Over. UConn is going to need Jalen Adams to be their go-to scorer in basically every game they play this year, so I expect him to get up to 17 or 18 points per game. Alterique Gilbert and Antwoine Anderson will likely play the majority of minutes at the point guard position, allowing Jalen Adams to focus on scoring the ball rather than having to get others involved. With the increase in points per game, I’m also expecting to see Adams at the line more often this year. Although it was an exhibition game, Adams’ 12 free-throw attempts against Providence were the most in any game he’s played at UConn. More free-throw attempts for Adams will only do good things for UConn, as his career free-throw percentage (84%) is second to only Albert Mouring (84.2%) in UConn history.
McGrath: Over. Adams was sometimes one of two healthy guards and with only Rodney Purvis and Christian Vital around, he was the primary facilitator. Doing so, he was still able to get 14 points per game. With Anderson and Gilbert around to play the point, he will put up some solid numbers.
Over/Under: 13 Points Per Game for Terry Larrier
tcf15: Over, but barely. Although it’s easy to forget given UConn’s awful start to the 2016-17 season, Terry Larrier was averaging 16.7 points per game and looked like he would be the best player on the team. I think Terry hovers around 13 points per game throughout the entire season, doing most of his damage from inside the arc.
McGrath: Over. Larrier and Vital are the outside shooting threats for the Huskies. If Larrier makes two-to-three shots from three-point range from outside, he only has to score four-to-seven points between free throws and inside shots. That’s more that doable on any given night.
Madigan: Under. Much like tcf, I think Larrier will be right around this 13 point per game mark, but I think he’s on the lower side due to his inefficiency, especially from the 3-point line. Larrier shot just over 26 percent from the 3-point line as a freshman at VCU and was 0-8 in this year’s three exhibitions, so long-range shooting may not be his best skill. However, he seems to have a solid midrange game, and if he spends most of this season at the four, he could have success taking bigger and slower defenders to the rim.
Connolly: Under. I thought Larrier looked really good last season in his limited action last season but wasn’t totally sold on him in three exhibition games. He looked like he lost confidence over the preseason because against Providence he shot seemingly every time he touched the ball but wasn’t much of a factor by the Queens game. I hope he gets over this mark because I think he could put this team over the top from being a nice underdog squad to a legitimate contender in the American.
Aman: Over. I think Larrier needs to be just as much of a threat as Adams as a scorer and given the dynamic skillset he has displayed, he can absolutely do it.
Wildcard: Pick the two big men who’ll play the most minutes
Connolly: This is tough because I’m confident every single one will deal with foul trouble all season. I think it’s a required trait of UConn bigs. I think David Onourah will get the most minutes due to his veteran status, but mostly because he’ll stay out of foul trouble most frequently. I’m also very high on Eric Cobb, who I think could be one of the most versatile bigs we’ve seen at UConn. He’s shown that he’s more than comfortable dribbling the ball up the court, has some nice post moves and is a monster on the boards. I think he’s going to be a much bigger piece to this team than people expect.
tcf15: Mamadou Diarra and Eric Cobb. I picked Diarra because I think he will be the best rebounding freshman UConn has had under Kevin Ollie since Daniel Hamilton (7.6 rebounds per game). I picked Eric Cobb because he has the best quote of the season so far: “I'm probably not a shot blocker, but they're going to feel my body. You feel me?”
McGrath: Eric Cobb and David Onuorah. Cobb is a monster down low and if he can stay out of foul trouble, will be a huge part of the team. I think Onuorah will be rotating at center and will be getting a decent amount of minutes as well. I don’t think they will ever both be on the floor, but I think it will be a rare time when neither are on the floor.
Madigan: Mamadou Diarra and Tyler Polley. I have been really impressed with Diarra’s size, energy, and overall skills during the limited playing time he had during the exhibition games, and I think he could eventually be a sneaky-good shot blocker due to his length. For now, his high motor and athletic ability should be a good asset to this team. Polley is lanky and maybe too wiry to handle the physicality of college ball, but the raw skills and talent are there, and I think his ability to handle the ball could come in handy at times this season. He’s another candidate to play the four to create mismatches this season and could potentially spell Larrier for a few minutes every game.
Aman: Mamadou Diarra and Eric Cobb, though I agree with Daniel that this could really be a toss up given how much foul trouble our big men seem to get into. At least there are way more bodies this year!
What do you think? Feel free to share your own predictions or assorted thoughts int he comments.