As UConn looks to return to the NCAA tournament in Dan Hurley’s second season, it will have to do so with a schedule that features some marquee games and some very bad games, with almost nothing in between. This leaves a lot of winnable games on the schedule, but not a lot of room for error. However, if the Huskies can win the games they’re supposed to win, a 20-or-more win season is well within the realm possibility.
Let’s dive in to the Huskies schedule this year.
Sacred Heart (Nov. 8), St. Joseph’s (Nov. 13), Maine (Dec. 1), St. Peter’s (Dec. 18), New Hampshire (Dec. 22), Tulane (Jan. 8 and March 8 (away)), at East Carolina (Feb. 29)
To keep it short and sweet, these are eight games that should be wins, and easy ones at that. St. Peter’s, New Hampshire and Maine are especially bad teams, ranking No. 316, No. 323 and No. 336 in the KenPom rankings out of 353 schools. If UConn loses one or more of these games, it would be astronomically bad.
The Big Games
Florida (Nov. 17)
The Gators are the top ranked opponent (by preseason ranking) that the Huskies will face all season, and return to Gampel for the first time since Shabazz Napier’s buzzer beater during the 2013-14 season. They’ll be a huge problem for the Huskies, as grad transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. is a talented big man and Andrew Nembhard is one of the most talented guards in a competitive SEC.
Indiana (Dec. 10)
Any game at Madison Square Garden is a big deal, and this one is no different as it is part of the Jimmy V Classic. Indiana is likely the better team here, but the Huskies should be able to feed off of the MSG crowd. If they can rise to the occasion and give the Hoosiers a good game, they’ll be able to compete in this early-season bout.
At Villanova (Jan. 18)
This is by far the toughest game on UConn’s schedule, and the Huskies will have to be almost perfect to pick up a win on the road. Villanova has no seniors and inexperienced underclassmen, but Jay Wright still has enough talent for this team to make a deep run in March thanks to Saddiq Bey, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Cole Swider.
Cincinnati (Jan. 1 (away), Feb. 9 (home))
While Mick Cronin is gone, Jarron Cumberland remains and is one of these guards in the country. He’ll haunt UConn for one more season before he leaves for the NBA and the Huskies leave for the Big East. UConn hasn’t beaten Cincinnati in a while, so it’d be great to change that before leaving.
Houston (Jan. 23 (away), March 5 (home))
With the addition of Kansas transfer Quentin Grimes, Houston has become a legitimate threat to win the conference. If the Huskies can at least split the season series, UConn will be in great shape.
Memphis (Feb. 1 (away), Feb. 16 (home))
Memphis may just be the most hyped team in the country thanks to top-ranked recruiting class centered around No. 1 recruit James Wiseman. Penny Hardaway’s Tigers also feature freshman Precious Achiuwa, who picked Memphis over UConn this past year. The Tigers’ overall talent will be hard to top, and many experts have Memphis as the favorite to win the American and make a deep tournament run.
The Road Loss to Tulsa
At Tulsa (Feb. 6)
In what has become a sad tradition at UConn, the road loss to Tulsa has been an inevitable part of the basketball schedule. The Huskies are 0-5 all time at the Reynolds Center. A win here would certainly be a fitting way to end the Huskies’ time in the American.
Buffalo (Nov. 21), Iona (Dec. 4), NJIT (Dec. 29), USF (Jan. 4, Feb. 23 (away)), Wichita State (Jan. 12), Tulsa (Jan. 26), Temple (Jan. 29, Feb. 20 (away)), at SMU (Feb. 12), UCF (Feb. 26)
These games aren’t necessarily the best on the schedule, but will likely make or break UConn’s NCAA tournament chances. Buffalo, Iona, and NJIT should end up as home wins that help the Huskies build up confidence as they head into conference play. USF is a sleeper in the American this year that will give the Huskies a hard time. The two matchups between the schools will likely have conference tournament seeding implications. The same can be said for Wichita State and Temple, who always play UConn tough.
Outside of that, the Huskies should be able to take advantage of down years from Tulsa, SMU and UCF to post a stronger conference record than they have in the past.