The Connecticut Huskies are national champions once again. Whether or not they’re a blueblood now is a discussion for another date. They were the best team in college basketball for all but a few weeks in February last season. They ended up as a fourth seed but were obviously way better than that. The Huskies ran through the NCAA Tournament with relative ease, beating some really good teams and winning every game by 13 or more points with an average margin of victory of 20 points. UConn lost a lot from that team, but this year’s squad still looks good. The Huskies will try to be the first school to repeat as champions since Florida did it in 2006 and 2007.
You can see the previous teams in my rankings here.
Preseason College Basketball Rankings: #3 Connecticut Huskies
While it’s true that UConn lost a lot of talent, they also retained a ton. That starts with Donovan Clingan. He earned Big East All-Freshman honors last season and had a solid case for the conference’s Sixth Man of the Year award. Now that he isn’t playing behind Adama Sanogo, he is poised to break out. Last year, Clingan averaged just under seven points and six rebounds per game and blocked 70 shots (second-most in the Big East) despite playing just 13 minutes per game. Another returnee with All-Freshman honors last season is Alex Karaban. He averaged 9.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game and was excellent in a complementary role. Samson Johnson played very little in his first two seasons despite being a top 60 recruit in 2021. He should be in store for a bigger role to provide depth down low.
The Huskies also bring back their point guard. Tristen Newton played well in his first season in Storrs after transferring from ECU. He had the second-most assists of any player in the Big East and was twelfth in steals. If he can return to how he was shooting at ECU, look out. Hassan Diarra returns after not playing a huge role after transferring in from Texas A&M, but he is still a solid player.
Rutgers transfer Cam Spencer was a great addition to the team. He is a great shooter, having shot 43.4% from three last year for the Scarlet Knights. After transferring there from Loyola (MD), he showed no trouble adjusting to a bigger stage. This team needed some shooting, which it got in Spencer. He is also excellent on defense, having averaged two steals per game last season.
Head coach Dan Hurley also brings in the nation’s fifth-best recruiting class. Top-10 recruit Stephon Castle headlines this five-man class. He has exceptional size and strength for his position and is extremely versatile on defense. Also, he is an excellent downhill playmaker on offense. Castle can play both guard spots, and there have been questions about whether he can be a full-time point guard, but he has looked like a natural at shooting guard. He will be a one-and-done player as he is a likely lottery pick in next summer’s NBA Draft.
Castle isn’t the only outstanding player in this recruiting class. Shooting guard Solomon Ball and small forward Jaylin Stewart are four-star top-60 recruits. Both are good players that will be key off the bench this season for the Huskies.
C – Donovan Clingan (6.9 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.4 SPG, 1.8 BPG)
PF – Alex Karaban (9.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.7 BPG)
SG – Cam Spencer (13.2 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.1 APG, 2.0 SPG, 0.1 BPG at Rutgers)
SG – Stephon Castle (#9 overall recruit via 247 Sports)
PG – Tristen Newton (10.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.3 BPG)