After a third consecutive sub-.500 season without an NCAA tournament appearance, it feels a little difficult to be positive about this year’s UConn men’s basketball team. However the program is heading in a better direction under Dan Hurley, and even if it didn't show up in the win/loss record, the numbers are there to support it.
If you want to look specifically at game results, take this: the Huskies had an average margin of victory of 3.7 points per game in the 2018-19 season. While that doesn’t sound like much, it is the best margin since 2016 (the last time UConn made the tournament). It also marks a pretty stark improvement over last year’s margin of -4.7 points per game. Additionally, while UConn couldn’t necessarily finish in the win column this year, they lost only six games by double figures compared to 11 in 2017-18.
The improvement under Hurley is evident on both ends of the floor. Virtually every stat is at its best level since 2016 and well above the average of Ollie’s last four years as a coach (2015-18 seasons).
Of the offensive end, the Huskies scored 1.08 points per true shooting attempt (accounts for field goals and free throw trips) this season, which is the best since 2016. They also rebounded 32 percent of their own misses this season - the best offensive rebound rate UConn has posted since 2012.
On the defensive end, the Huskies held their opponents to turn over the ball on 20 percent of their possessions, marking the first time since 2016 that UConn’s opponents’ have had a higher turnover rate than their own. The Huskies also collected nearly 70 percent of their opponents’ misses on the defensive glass.
Still, while the stagnant offense observed in Ollie’s later seasons seemed to improve this year, UConn’s defense did leave something to be desired. Per KenPom, the Huskies’ adjusted defensive efficiency this season was 102.3 points allowed per 100 possessions in the 2019 season. While this does represent an improvement from 2018, the Huskies were more efficient defensively in the three prior seasons under Ollie.
If in the 2019-20 season Hurley can continue to improve the Huskies’s offense and restore UConn’s defense to the elite status it has held not long ago, a winning record and maybe even a tournament appearance shouldn’t be far off.