Are the Huskies anticipating a championship hangover?
If so, no blame from me. Heck, I still can't believe that team won it all last March.
Without Kemba Walker -- and, hey, look at that: it's August and Jim Calhoun still hasn't publicly announced he's returning -- I can't fault the program for going lighter in the non-conference slate. There are a lot of variables in play with this year's team. Chief among them: a fairly young collective assemblance of talent.
Jeremy Lamb (right) is not going to be the on-my-shoulders kind of player Walker was. He'll be good, a possible NBA lottery pick, but not an alpha on the court or on the locker room; expect that role from Alex Oriakhi, who will be solid, but not a Big East First Team kind of guy. Shabazz Napier, hopefully, will improve, and then there's the athletic freak that is Ryan Boatright, and incoming elite freshman recruit who has a lot of ability but just as many question marks.
Remember last season, at the start, when UConn wasn't considered all that solid? We can expect that kind of thinking again, right or wrong. What we do know: Kemba's gone, and so who is going to make this team go?
Taking all these things into consideration, would you fault the program for going lighter than normal in its out-of-conference schedule? Again, I wouldn't. These things seems practical, pragmatic, even, in the hot days of summer, when coaches sweat out filling out schedules. Come late February, though, when a team's amassed a 19-11 record, it doesn't seem like the way to go. It's always easier to take the paycheck and schedule a Patriot League school in the middle of July.
So what exactly are we looking at for UConn's OOC? The school released it today. Here it is:
- Nov. 2 (exh.) AIC
- Nov. 6 (exh.) CW Post
- Nov. 11 Columbia
- Nov. 14 Wagner
- Nov. 17 Maine
- Nov. 20 Coppin State
- Nov. 24-26 Battle 4 Atlantis (Bahamas) UConn, Harvard, Florida State, Utah, Massachusetts, Central Florida, College of Charleston, UNC-Asheville
- Dec. 3 Arkansas (BIG EAST/SEC Challenge)
- Dec. 7 Harvard
- Dec. 18 Holy Cross
- Dec. 22 Fairfield
- Jan. 21 at Tennessee
New lessons will need to be learned for this team, and many coaches would much prefer easier opponents to deal with while teaching those lessons. With the Big East sending 11 to the Dance last season, the Huskies are going to have enough challenge within the conference (they finished ninth in 2010-11, remember), so keep that in mind as well.
What seems rational: a ninth-place Big East finish in 2012, with this non-con menu, probably isn't going to cut it.