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UConn men’s basketball 2022-23 preseason prediction roundtable

Basketball is back!

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Basketball season returns on Monday night as the UConn men’s basketball team takes on Stonehill to open up the 2022-23 season.

Here at The UConn Blog, we’ve been previewing the season from just about every angle, from opponent previews, roster breakdowns, and notes and quotes from practices. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay up to date on the Huskies all season long!

In this roundtable, our staff writers make some predictions about the results for the year and the leading contributors for this season. Feel free to share your own thoughts and predictions in the comments!

Biggest preseason question mark

Shawn McGrath: How the roster will fit together. Adama Sanogo and Andre Jackson are sure things, but what happens with the rest? Will Jordan Hawkins live up to the hype? Who’s the point guard? Who plays the four? How will the freshmen play? They have a lot of talent but also a lot to figure out.

Patrick Martin: It’s a little disconcerting for an AP top-25 team to have lots of questions going into the season. The biggest one for me is Andre Jackson. When Hurley raves about Jordan Hawkins as a first-rounder, you see the NBA skillset. But for Jackson’s leap, it’s more than just a looser leash, he has to improve in a lot of areas, like cutting down on turnovers if he’ll be handling the rock as much as implied. He needs to at least become somewhat threatening with an outside shot. He needs some kind of finishing move when he gets into the paint.

You read Hurley’s comments about his captain, and he seems awfully confident he can do that. But this team’s ceiling becomes something entirely different if Andre Jackson plays his way into first-round consideration.

Ryan Goodman: Andre Jackson’s continued development. We’ve all seen flashes of brilliance from Jackson, but he hasn’t quite been able to put it all together yet. Most reports are pointing to yes, but we need to see it first. He’s a sure thing defensively, and his assist numbers should increase as he handles the ball more, but I’m most interested to see if he’ll be more aggressive in hunting his own shot, and how much UConn will be relying on him to be a scorer.

Dan Madigan: How do the transfers meld together? This year’s team relies more on transfers than any team yet under Hurley and probably any UConn team ever. While it has a solid core of returnees in Jackson, Hawkins, and Sanogo, this team will likely only go as far as transfers like Tristen Newton, Hassan Diarra, and Nahiem Alleyne can take them.

Scoring/Rebounds/Assists/Blocks leaders

McGrath: Hawkins will lead in scoring, as he looked great in the open scrimmage. Sanogo will again lead in rebounds and take the lead in blocks, while I think Jackson will lead in assists, as I think he will spend a lot of time with the ball in his hands this year as a point forward.

Martin: Hawkins might even lead the conference in scoring. Jackson has the best pure passing instincts, so I’ll co-sign that too. Sanogo is about to be a vacuum on the glass. As far as blocks, Samson Johnson at the four means a lot of weakside block opportunities, which I think he’ll feast on.

Goodman: While Hawkins should take a major leap this season, the offense should still run through the Big East Preseason Player of the Year so I’m going to go with Sanogo to lead the team in points. And Rebounds. and Blocks. Heck, give him assists too! Kidding, kidding, Andre Jackson should definitely lead in that category.

Madigan: Sanogo for points and rebounds. Jackson for assists, and high-flyer Samson Johnson for blocks.

Most impactful transfer

McGrath: This is an off-beat answer, but Joey Calcaterra. As a spot-up shooter off the bench is his likely role, I can totally see him coming in midway through the second half of close games, playing like six minutes to spell Hawkins or Jackson for a while and hitting a bunch of some big three big 3-pointers to keep the team in it or stretch a lead out.

Martin: Hassan Diarra. All of the offseason reports and social media suggest he’s going to lead the team in #vibes, and provide a similar edge as Isaiah “The Wrench” Whaley. Call him Three-Quarters Wrench. Trust the coaching staff’s development with his raw offensive game, and let his defense set the tone.

Goodman: Nahiem Alleyne. He’s shot over 37% from three in three consecutive years. Other than Hawkins, UConn doesn’t have a consistent guy to threaten teams from the outside. While Calcaterra has a nice stroke, Alleyne has been more consistent against much tougher competition. My bet is on the former Hokie.

Madigan: I’m going with Diarra. He seems to be one of the big winners of the offseason for UConn and might very well be the starting point guard for the Huskies on opening night. He might be a little limited offensively, but I was very impressed with his length and defensive tenacity in open practice. He just has all the makings of classic Big East guard. Diarra and Jackson could very well be the best perimeter defense unit in the conference.

Team MVP

Madigan: I will go out on a limb and take the Preseason Big East Player of the Year, Adama Sanogo. It’s definitely the year of the big man in college basketball this season, and if Sanogo ends up being one of the two or three best bigs in the country, UConn should be able to see the second weekend of the NCAA tournament for the first time under Hurley.

McGrath: Sanogo is the best player, but Jackson is the most important. The ability to guard four positions, pass the ball and make at least one mind-blowingly athletic play each game is very valuable and if he can continue to take steps forward offensively, that just makes him even more vital to success.

Goodman: Agree with Shawn here. I really think ultimately this team goes where Jackson takes them. Sanogo will get his, Hawkins should be a 15-ish points per game guy, but he’s not Kemba or Ray Allen. Jackson is the one guy that impacts all facets of the game more than anyone on the roster, and if he is finally able to take his other-worldly athleticism and fully translate it to production on the basketball court, watch out. He’s got a long way to go, but lottery teams could be calling next year.

Best Win

McGrath: January 7. Creighton comes to Gampel Pavilion and will likely be highly ranked and potentially undefeated when the Bluejays arrive on what is a big day for the athletic department, as men’s hockey will face off against Northeastern at Fenway Park, as well. UConn knocks off Creighton on FOX at 12 p.m. and then men’s hockey follows with another victory.

Martin: I mean, they have to beat Creighton at some point, right? I’m going to double down with Shawn. Sanogo going up against the 7-foot-2 Clingan in practice will have him ready for Kalkbrenner. Diarra locks up Andrew Nembhard, and Hawkins drops a 30 piece. At Big East media day, both Jackson and Sanogo brought up Creighton specifically as their boogie man. It’s rubbing those leaders the wrong way. They will fix that.

Goodman: Gampel will be ROCKING for that Creighton game. The Bluejays have two tough non-conference games against No. 25 Texas Tech and at No. 12 Texas, but if they can come into Gampel undefeated, the place should be electric. UConn wins in overtime.

Madigan: Dec. 7 at Florida. UConn and the Gators have played some great games over the years, and the Huskies should be at full strength with Jackson back in the fold by this time. A road win over a tough Florida team would do wonders for UConn’s tournament resume and give the Huskies serious momentum heading into Big East play.

Big East finish/Pick BE Champ

McGrath: I think UConn is below Creighton and Villanova, which will finish first and second, respectively, with a crowded next tier. The Huskies will finish between third and fifth and make another run to at least the semifinals in the Big East Tournament.

Martin: Creighton is scary this year. I’m buying all their stock as Final Four contenders. Villanova has injury woes already and the jury’s out on Kyle Neptune. Collin Gillespie is not walking through that door, thank god. Xavier is flashing all sorts of fraudulent traits not worthy of its lofty preseason tab. That means despite all my skepticism of this Huskies team, I think they’ll hit a stride in the doldrums of winter and lock up second.

Madigan: Like Patrick, I too am woke on the Xavier hype. This is Creighton’s league to lose, but I could see UConn finishing as high as second place. Anything outside of the top three means the season went off the rails.

Postseason fate

McGrath: I think UConn wins an NCAA Tournament game and will be around a 6-seed, but is unable to make it to the second weekend.

Martin: I think after splitting the regular series with Creighton, the two teams have an instant classic in the Big East championship, where the Blue Jays come out on top. The Huskies gather themselves this time around though, and don’t fall to a 12-seed in the NCAA tournament. They make it to the Sweet 16, setting up the New Fab Five to come in and take next year’s team back to the Final Four.

Goodman: Hurley finally takes a step forward in the post-season and makes it to the second weekend. UConn has the ability, they just need to put it all together and I think they take the momentum of winning the Big East tournament and ride it to a Sweet-16 appearance.

Madigan: The Huskies will make the tournament for a third straight year and be a six or seven seed. UConn should be able to win one game at least and have a fighting chance to make it to round two. If not, there will be words about a certain coach and his ability to win important games.