2013-2014 Season Preview: No. 16 UConn Huskies

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 20-10, 10-8 Big East (t-7th); Ineligible for the postseason

Head Coach: Kevin Ollie (2nd season at UConn: 20-10 overall, 10-8 Big East)

Key Losses: Enosch Wolf, R.J. Evans

Newcomers: Lasan Kromah, Terrance Samuel, Kentan Facey, Amida Brimah

Projected Lineup

G: Shabazz Napier, Sr.
G: Ryan Boatright, Jr.
G: Omar Calhoun, So.
F: Deandre Daniels, Jr.
C: Tyler Olander, Sr.
Bench: Lasan Kromah, Sr.; Niels Giffey, Sr.; Philip Nolan, So.; Kentan Facey, Fr.; Leon Tolksdorf, So.

They’ll be good because …: UConn is coming off of a 20 win season where they went 10-8 in the Big East and would have earned themselves a bid to the NCAA tournament if it wasn’t for an APR-induced postseason ban. Everyone of note from that team is back for UConn’s first season in the AAC, with one exception: instead of having Holy Cross transfer R.J. Evans as their first guard off the bench, Kevin Ollie will now be able to use fifth-year senior Lasan Kromah, a veteran that averaged double-figures over his three year career at George Washington.

If that’s not enough, than you should take note of the back court that Ollie returns, which will be one of the best in the country. Shabazz Napier is one of the nation’s most underrated point guards, and while Ryan Boatright has a tendency to get a bit out of control, he’s still an absurdly talented guard that can go off for 20 on any given night. Add in sophomore Omar Calhoun, and UConn’s perimeter will be small but quite difficult to match up with.

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AP photo

But they might disappoint because …: The Huskies just don’t have much size on the interior to take note of. Senior Tyler Olander is back, but he averaged all of 4.3 points and 3.7 boards as a junior. Deandre Daniels is a really talented 6-foot-8 forward, but he’s much better suited to playing as a three than he is on being relied upon to mix it up in the paint. Phil Nolan is a skinny sophomore. Kentan Facey is a skinny freshman. Leon Tolksdorf wants to shoot threes. There just aren’t that many big bodies up front.

Who matches up with Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell? Who in that lineup can slow down Shaq Goodwin of Memphis? SMU and Houston both have a couple of capable big men. The Huskies have enough talent to make a run at winning the conference, but that’s assuming that someone on this team can find a way to become a presence in the paint.

Outlook: UConn may have one of the best perimeter attacks in the country, but I don’t think that it’s crazy to say that they have the third-best set of guards in the AAC. That’s what happens when you play in the same conference as Louisville and Memphis. What that means is that the Huskies’ major advantage, their ability to spread the floor and create mismatches, will be negated against the league’s other two contenders. With the sizable disadvantage that UConn will have in the paint, it’s tough to see the Huskies being able to make a push for the AAC title.

Having said that, Memphis and Louisville are two of just a handful of teams against whom UConn won’t be able to take advantage of their back court talent. So while I think that it is a long shot the Huskies will win the conference, I still think this is a team that can win 25 games and, potentially, make a run in the tournament if they get the right matchups.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.