The UConn Huskies will open Dan Hurley’s second season with an exhibition game at the XL Center against Division II St. Michael’s College at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night.
It has been an eventful offseason for UConn, who has a talented crew of freshmen joining most of last year’s major contributors on a roster that has the potential to bring the Huskies back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016.
We would never want to jump to any conclusions after an exhibition against a lower division team, but there are still some interesting things to keep an eye on tonight. The game will be streamed online and fans can also follow on the radio through the IMG Network.
Fun Fact: This is the first meeting between these two teams since a 39-28 UConn win on February 12th, 1930
1) Akok Akok’s Debut
Our first live look at Akok Akok, an athletic big man who can run and shoot, the kind of player that really good basketball teams have and UConn could never seem to grab these past few years. If his talent is as advertised, Akok and Josh Carlton could team up to give the Huskies their most fearsome frontcourt in years.
Against St. Michael’s, whose tallest player is 6-foot-8, Akok should have a good outing. His skillset makes him a fun player to watch and one who can be a gamechanger for UConn this season.
2) Making Changes
The exhibition game won’t tell us who became a better shooter or who improved their rebounding ability, but we will be able to see who looks stronger and faster. College ballers can make big leaps year over year, they’re often the ones who put the time in over the offseason to become better athletes.
Tyler Polley and Sid Wilson, in particular, are two players who need to bulk up to be able to stretch up to the 4 at a high level. Like Akok, they should be able to be more assertive than they would against larger, more physical competition. Last year, Josh Carlton looked stronger from Day 1 and it showed across the season as he won the AAC’s most improved player of the year award.
3) Starting Lineup
Your guess is as good as mine. I’ll go with:
4) Hurley Antics
It may be an exhibition, but I don’t think Dan Hurley has an off switch when it comes to his energy and emotion on the bench. Tonight, we’ll see who frustrates him in a game where there shouldn’t be very much frustration.
We also heard a bit this offseason about Vital and Hurley improving their relationship. Hopefully we see some signs of these positive vibes against St. Michael’s.
5) Freshman Class
While Akok joined the team in the second semester last year and redshirted, there are three more freshmen who would make their Husky debuts tonight in James Bouknight, Jalen Gaffney, and Richie Springs. Bouknight, the highest-rated recruit of the 2019 class, may not play due to an ongoing legal matter. Dan Hurley has yet to announce how the team is handling his situation.
Gaffney will be in the mix at guard off the bench but has a lot of bodies ahead of him, including Vital, Gilbert, possibly Bouknight, and sophomore Brendan Adams. Springs, on the other hand, could see significant time if he turns out to be the only other true big on the roster. UPDATE (6:05 p.m.): Richie Springs will be an academic redshirt this season, per an announcement from UConn.