Alright so this is something I want to do more of now that college football is over and eyes go to college hoops. We'll go a little more in depth about teams and players that matter. By matter I mean either top NBA prospects, All-Americans, teams that can legit make a Sweet 16 and disrupt the whole thing. I was thinking about this after watching UConn/DePaul last night. The middle of the Big East is just loaded. Good luck figuring out who is better between Seton Hall, Xavier, UConn, Providence and Marquette. They are all pretty much the same and with the round robin setup we'll see a bunch of splits. We'll go with UConn today. Why? Because they are ranked for the first time since October 2016
It's a bit insane that it's been that long. I mean we're talking UConn here. Sure, they don't have Jim Calhoun, who is a top-4 coach of all time in the sport, but it's still UConn. We know what happened with Kevin Ollie and that's why we're going to talk about what Danny Hurley has done. Most importantly he's rebuilt a team that is a JV-type version of what Calhoun used to do. Build around a star, get a ton of bigs that can protect the rim, a lead guard and defend your ass off. Every great Calhoun team had that make up. This UConn team?
Star - James Bouknight
Lead guard - RJ Cole
Bigs - Josh Carlton, Akok Akok (potentially), Tyler Polley, Isaiah Whaley
Defense - Currently ranked 16th in the country and 25th in block percentage
I'm not saying this is a Calhoun top-10 team or anything like that. But this is a for sure top-40 team. They'll be in and out of the top-25, but they are close to locking in a Tournament bid. More importantly, they are doing what they had to this year. There was a chance that UConn fell apart in Big East play. You had a bunch of pieces that were still coming together after not being successful in the AAC, joining a loaded conference. That's not exactly the perfect recipe for growth. Instead they are 7-1 with a win over USC and an overtime loss to Creighton. It is worth noting they've played an easier Big East schedule right now. That will change because the Big East is awesome and does round robin. But their wins are over DePaul twice, Marquette and Butler. That's 3 games against bottom 3 teams in the conference.
That brings me to Hurley. Everyone thought he was a good hire at UConn and a logical one with his background in Jersey and ability to recruit. But there were questions. URI is an extremely tough place to win, everyone knows that, and while he was successful there he still just made two NCAA Tournaments and won 1 conference title. But what he's doing at UConn? It starts with roster building. He built the perfect roster to do what he wants to do defensively - run you off the 3pt line, challenge at the rim and press.
College basketball is better when UConn is relevant. It's been years since that's been the case. I still think they need to go back to these uniforms though to really be back, but they are making the right first step. Welcome back to college hoops, UConn