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2016-2017 UCONN Men’s Basketball Preview

Jalen Adams (Brad Horrigan / The Hartford Courant)

Jalen Adams (Brad Horrigan / The Hartford Courant)


After a tough loss to Kansas in the second round of last year’s NCAA tournament, the defending AAC champion UCONN Huskies are ready to go even further this year.

For most teams, winning a conference championship and winning an NCAA tournament game would constitute a strong season. However, it was a let down for perennial contender UCONN, and expectations are even higher this year for a talent laden, albeit young, squad.

It starts with sophomore point guard Jalen Adams, who has already been named to the Bob Cousy Award watch list, the award is given to the best D-I point guard every year. He is expected to be a much smoother floor general than last year’s graduate transfer Sterling Gibbs who focused more on shooting. Adams focuses more on facilitating the offense, and helping to make other players on the floor better while he plays.

Adams will hope to join a legendary crop of guards that have poured out from UCONN ranks, including Ray Allen, Ben Gordon, Shabazz Napier, and Kemba Walker. He will be joined by freshman guard Alterique Gilbert, who slots in well at either guard position.

He gives Kevin Ollie even more flexibility with his lineup, as well as the enticing option to run the offense through a two-pronged attack featuring Adams and Gilbert. Freshman guard Christian Vital can also be an exiting option off the bench for Ollie.

Returning in the frontcourt will be top scorer, senior Rodney Purvis, who will more than likely fit into the small forward position where he suits best. Fellow senior Amida Brimah will return as well, as one of the best rim protectors and shot blockers in the nation. Kentan Facey and Stephen Enoch are options to fill out the starting lineup.

Freshman Juwan Durham could also be an interesting option off the bench if he doesn’t redshirt. Durham is coming off of two ACL tears that kept him out of part of his junior year and all of his senior year of high school, making him a high risk, high reward player. As of now, he is expected to play this year, and could be the key X factor UCONN is looking for to push them over the edge.

However, the team is losing a few key members of last year’s team. Gibbs, Daniel Hamilton, and Shonn Miller all left, and all three were starters in the loss to Kansas last season. Hamilton and Miller were the team’s leading rebounders last season, meaning someone else will have to step up in their place.

Despite having his perfect NCAA tournament record tarnished by the loss to Kansas, Ollie is still considered to be one of the best young coaches in the game. His expertise will allow the younger Huskies to develop quickly and adapt to their new roles to be able to handle the big moments. They have big games early in the season against Oklahoma State, Syracuse and Ohio State, so Ollie will need to get them into top shape immediately.

In the end, this team has roughly the same amount of raw talent as their 2015-2016 counterparts. The key difference is having top tier players working in roles that will fit them perfectly, which should help this squad easily make the Top 20 and ideally steamroll through the AAC en route to another highly anticipated matchup with budding rival Cincinnati.

In March Madness, while it’s highly unlikely that this team makes the Final Four, and Elite Eight appearance can be expected, which will only be a tease for a strong young team on the rise.

The season starts for them on Sunday, October 30 at home against New Haven.

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Dan is a Staff Writer here at with a focus on Team USA and the Rio Olympics
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