The fifth season of the Dan Hurley era at UConn gets underway Monday night as the UConn men’s basketball team welcomes the Stonehill Skyhawks to the XL Center to kick off the 2022-23 season. The game will be the Skyhawks’ first contest as a Division I team, making the jump to the Northeast Conference this season after years as a solid Division II program.
With the start of the season finally here, we’ve spent countless hours breaking down the Huskies’ opponents, the team’s roster, and made our staff predictions for the season. All of our 2022-23 preview content can be found in the story stream below.
When: Monday, Nov. 7 — 7:30 p.m.
Where: XL Center — Hartford, Connecticut
TV: FS1 for whiparound coverage of Big East opening night, Fox Sports App for full game coverage
Radio: UConn Sports Network
Odds: UConn -28.5, over/under 139.5
KenPom Predicted Score: UConn 84, Stonehill 54
When UConn has the ball
Expect the Huskies to take advantage of their size early and often. No one on the Skyhawks roster stands taller than 6-foot-8, meaning the likes of Adama Sanogo, Samson Johnson, Alex Karaban and Donovan Clingan — assuming he is able to play after being banged up this week — should have their way in the low post and on the boards. Karaban and Johnson in particular are battling for a starting frontcourt spot, and a strong rebounding game from either could give them a leg up for more minutes next game and beyond.
Speaking of competition, Hassan Diarra and Tristen Newton are still duking it out for the starting point guard spot. Diarra may have a slight edge to start against the Skyhawks, but it’s very possible Hurley will ride the hot hand going forward, giving whoever is playing best more minutes until Andre Jackson is healthy and back in the fold, but each transfer brings their own unique talents. Diarra is a stingy defender with good length that should be a nightmare for opposing guards, while Newton brings size and scoring ability at 6-foot-5 and excels at finishing around the rim. In a game where offense likely wont be an issue for the Huskies, Diarra and Newton will have to demonstrate they can run the offense well in the half court set and push the pace when needed for easy buckets.
There’s a good chance this game gets out of hand early, meaning Hurley will likely turn to the bench to finish out the game. San Diego transfer Joey Calcaterra brings experience and 3-point shooting to the Huskies’ bench, which should also be supplemented with the likes of Clingan and whoever loses out on starting spots between Diarra, Newton, Johnson and Karaban.
Assuming he’s able to play, Clingan’s minutes will be worth monitoring. While Stonehill may be one of the weaker opponents in Division I, they’re still a major step up from the local Connecticut high schoolers Clingan was taking on just over six months prior. His ability to handle better, more experienced players could be a barometer for how much he will be able to play the rest of the season. If he is taking advantage of smaller defenders and passing well, especially out of the high post, he may be able to play with Sanogo in a jumbo set that would be a nightmare for smaller teams.
Lastly, much has been made about Sanogo’s ability to stretch the floor this season, and the junior big man did hit a three in open practice last week. Will he able to continue to do this against real opponents? While Sanogo is undeniably one of the best bigs in the country, he needs to demonstrate the ability to shoot from deep if he wants to play at the next level.
When Stonehill has the ball
Stonehill may be a team that is fresh out of Division II, but the Skyhawks still have enough talent to serve as a unique challenge to the Huskies.
Andrew Sims, a 6-foot-6 big man out of Mount Laurel, New Jersey, serves as a legit inside-outside threat for the Skyhawks and a major facilitator within head coach Chris Krause’s offense. While he shot just 28.6 percent from deep, he will likely be tasked with drawing bigs like Sanogo away from the basket to give his teammates an easier chance of getting to the rim.
Sims will likely combine with 6-foot-8 Max Zegarowski to round out the Stonehill frontcourt. Zegarowski, brother of former Creighton star Marcus, comes to Stonehill after transferring from Franklin Pierce and was one of the top shooters in Division II last season. He shot 42.7 percent from three last season on 165 attempts, and should help pair with Sims to space out the floor offensively. Both Sims and Zegarowski will test the likes of the UConn bigs — Sanogo and Clingan especially — and provide a real test to see how their defense has improved over the offseason.
Aside from the frontcourt, Isaiah Burnett, a 6-foot-5 Navy transfer, brings Division I experience and size and should factor heavily into the offense this season, along with 6-foot-6 William & Mary transfer Thatcher Stone