Countdown to College Basketball: #41 UConn Huskies

Previews

With James Bouknight at the helm as the primary scorer, Uconn made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016. While Bouknight departs, Dan Hurley returns the rest of the team for this upcoming season, so a major drop-off likely won’t be happening. That said, Uconn had games where they were without Bouknight a season ago and it didn’t go great, so the real question will be reliant on other players stepping up on a consistent basis. 

R.J. Cole and Tyrese Martin present a solid backcourt of former transfers, that bought into their roles a season ago but will need to step up a little bit offensively. Cole will run the point for this team, Cole is a good shooter, defender, and passer, who excelled running the point a season ago. Cole has shown in the past that he can be a high-level scorer, so he could get back to trying to be a scorer, but that remains to be seen. Tyrese Martin will start and be a solid option in an off-ball setting. Martin is an average shooter, good defender, rebounder and provides an occasional scoring pop. Martin will need to be a consistent scorer for the Huskies, which will unlock more potential for this team. 

That duo will be solid at the guard spots, although the key to this piece will be in the frontcourt, where there are plenty of breakout candidates. Isaiah Whaley will start, mostly due to his defensive capabilities, Whaley is an elite shot-blocker, good rebounder, and great defender, he will also be a solid interior scorer, although he’s not an elite scorer by any means. Sophomore Adama Sanogo seems to be the player most set for a breakout season, Sanogo started 20 games last season and got better throughout the season, he represents someone that can score efficiently in the post, which is going to be key. Tyler Polley is the reigning sixth-man of the year, Polley is a 5th-year senior who can at a high level but is oftentimes inconsistent. Akok Akok is someone that was a great recruit coming out of high school but due to injury, he has yet to show his full potential. 

The Huskies have a collection of guards that could be productive scorers for this team at the guard spot, however, we don’t really know which players that could be. Rahsool Diggins provides a potential long-term option at the point guard spot, he’s a guard that is good at scoring the basketball by breaking down defenses, but the shot leaves much to be desired. Freshman Jordan Hawkins seems poised to play a big role, he’s a shooting guard that has shown the ability to knock down shots, while he’s an explosive athlete. Jalen Gaffney provides the ability to knock down shots, while he will provide the most experience of these potential guard options. 

This Uconn team still has a low floor heading into this season, the defense is going to be there. Isaiah Whaley will continue to be an elite defender, who won’t allow any sort of easy scoring on the interior. The guards of RJ Cole and Tyrese Martin maybe aren’t elite scorers by any means but are both great defensively, Cole is great at forcing turnovers, while Martin has the size to match up with bigger guards. The key to this team comes down to putting the ball in the basket. RJ Cole could step into a role as a bigger scorer, which seems like the most likely player to be their scoring leader, however, it may not be for the best terms. Jordan Hawkins and Rahsool Diggins could provide the scoring pop needed to help this offense if the offense struggles. 

For Uconn, if they can get RJ Cole to be a solid 15 point a night scorer, Adama Sanogo to be a consistent double-digit scorer, while their freshman can step into their roles as occasional scorers, the Huskies not only could be a Top-25 team but they could challenge Villanova atop the Big East standings. Personally, I think they will struggle offensively for much of the season, causing them to be near the middle of the Big East standings, while they should still sneak into the NCAA Tournament. 

Projected Rotation

PG: RJ Cole

SG: Jordan Hawkins 

SF: Tyrese Martin

PF: Adama Sanogo

C: Isaiah Whaley

B1: Jalen Gaffney

B2: Tyler Polley

B3: Akok Akok 

B4: Rahsool Diggins

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