One of the most intriguing story lines of the first weekend is the UConn Huskies.
Here we have the nation’s defending national champions. There are two lottery picks on the roster and a handful of players with the potential to play their way into the NBA Draft down the road. On paper, there may not be a team better suited towards knocking off Kentucky, the prohibitive favorite in this tournament, than the Huskies.
The problem is that the tournament isn’t played on paper, the same way that UConn’s season wasn’t played on paper.
UConn was one of, if not the most disappointing team during the regular season. They finished below .500 in the Big East and needed a pair of wins in the Big East Tournament just to ensure themselves an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. Not exactly what you would expect from a team that was considered by many to be a legitimate National Title contender back in October.
The question that everyone is asking — and that Big Blue Nation seems to be a bit concerned about — is whether or not the Huskies have a real chance to get out of Louisville that first weekend without a loss.
And as a self-proclaimed expert on the subject, the answer is undoubtedly … maybe?
The million dollar question right now is whether or not the UConn team that went 3-1 since Jim Calhoun’s return to the sideline — with the one loss being a nail-biter to Syracuse in the Big East Tournament — has actually changed this team. On the surface it looks like it. They shook off a stretch where they lost nine of 12 to win three in a row when Calhoun returned. But those wins came against a Pitt team that is nowhere near what we expect out of that program, Big East cellar-dweller DePaul and a slumping West Virginia. UConn was also competitive with Syracuse in two games already this year.
What’s more is that this could be the last time that UConn looks like UConn for a while. Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond are expected to declare for the draft. Alex Oriakhi, and a couple of other notable players, have rumors surrounding their future in a UConn uniform. Jim Calhoun’s health is deteriorating to the point that he may be forced to retire after the year. And all this is occurring with a potential postseason ban on the horizon for 2013.
This may be UConn’s last chance at a run for tournament glory.
But that will require the Huskies beating a good Iowa State team that is a matchup nightmare and then knocking off Kentucky in Louisville.
My advice: enjoy it while it lasts, Husky fans. It may not be for much longer.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.