BY FRANKIE DEBARI, SPORTS STAFFER
When you’re looking at the top 25 for college basketball, you tend to see the same teams up at the top. You see teams like Houston, Kansas, Texas, Duke, Gonzaga, UNC — the usuals. What if I were to tell you at the beginning of the season that, about a month in, UConn was ranked over Gonzaga, Duke, UNC, Baylor, and Kansas. You would not believe me. I could have read off a lot more schools, because the 9-0 UConn Huskies are currently ranked fifth in the AP poll.
Coming into the season, UConn wasn’t even ranked in the top 25. To their credit, they have made the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back years, but they were eliminated in the first round both times. The last time they made the tournament before the shortened 2020-21 season was during the 2015-16 season. The last time they won it all was in the 2013-14 season, but they have somewhat struggled since. I think it’s time to ask ourselves, are the UConn Huskies back?
UConn has come flying out of the gate, with notable wins over Alabama, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and a disappointing Oregon team, but still a big win, nonetheless. A big reason they’ve gotten off to such a hot start as well as making the NCAA Tournament the two years prior was their switch back to the Big East.
From the 2013 to 2020, the Huskies switched to the AAC, and they only made the tournament twice. Granted they did win it all in their first season after the switch, but they haven’t been the same team since. As it’s looking right now, UConn will make the tournament as a No. 2 seed at worst, barring anything drastic. The only other team competing for the No. 1 seed i the Big East would be 8-1 St. John’s. But if you look through the Huskies schedule, they have a legit shot at going undefeated. At worst, I see this team losing three or four games.
“How did this team jump from being unranked to being the number 5 team in the nation already?” is a question that I see and hear get asked a lot. I already went over how it has to do with them switching back to the Big East, but obviously that isn’t the only reason. Since they’re now in a conference with better teams, the more they win, the more those wins mean when it comes to rankings.
A part in this UConn team having so much success thus far has been because junior forward Adama Sanogo. He’s averaging 18.7 points and 6.9 rebounds. Guys around him like senior guard Tristen Newton (11.4 ppg, 4.2 apg, 1.6 spg), transfer senior guard Joey Calcaterra (9 ppg, 58.6% 3-point), freshman forward Alex Karaban (9.7 ppg) and first-year center Donovan Clingan (8.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg) have help spread the floor around their star big man. Another huge reason they have had such a great start is because they have a very good team on the defensive end of the floor. They held a very good Iowa State team to 50 points and have kept opponents to an average of 58 points per game. They have a very solid team offensively, as well.
If this team can keep up what they’ve been on both sides of the ball, I could definitely see them going on a tear once March rolls around.