College Basketball 2016-2017 Season Preview

By Jack Shapiro ’19

College basketball has officially tipped off with many teams looking for a strong and winning season. Many new players will add lots of talent to the veteran teams that look to compete in this year’s tournament.

Last year, Villanova ended the season as the NCAA National Champions with North Carolina as the runner up while Syracuse and Oklahoma made it to the final four.

The Duke Blue Devils are favorites in the ACC conference. Duke has many young athletes that are stepping onto the court this season including Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum, who are in the top three of ESPN’s 100 rating. The Blue Devils also have junior guard Grayson Allen who is the projected conference and player of the year according to Sports Illustrated. Coach Mike Krzyzewski is leading the team with five NCAA Championships and 13 ACC Championships. The Blue Devils appear to be the team to beat in the ACC.

Along with Duke, the Kansas Jayhawks are also expected to have big success this year. As the projected Big 12 Champions, the Jayhawks have a strong backcourt with newcomer Josh Jackson, who is the number two ranked, recruit looking to have a breakout season. Senior guards Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham along with sophomore forward Carlton Bragg will be accounting for most of the Jayhawks scoring this year. Head coach Bill Self is looking to lead the Jayhawks to his thirteenth straight Big 12 regular season championships, as well as another number one seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

The Kentucky Wildcats and Coach Calipari are looking forward to an impressive season. According to ESPN’s 100 rating, the Wildcats signed  five of the nation’s top 25 high school players. Along with Kentucky’s commits, they will have four freshman and two sophomores on their roster. On Kentucky’s roster, the Wildcats have four freshman and two sophomore on this year’s roster. As stated by, Sports Illustrated, Kentucky’s guard Malik Monk is projected to be both the SEC’s player of the year and Newcomer of the Year. Last season, Kentucky defeated Texas A&M in the SEC Championship but lost to Indiana in the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament.

In the Pac-12, the Oregon Ducks and Arizona Wildcats look to be top of their conference this year. The Ducks are coming off an amazing and surprising season as the former Pac-12 Champions and runner ups of the west division in last year’s NCAA Tournament. Last year Arizona fell in the Pac-12 Championship semifinals to Utah. Arizona lost to Wichita State in the first round of last year’s March Madness.

This year the Ducks look to stay on top. With a veteran group of players and a new freshman point guard, Oregon looks as if they have a bright future. Dillon Brooks, the Ducks top players is coming off a summer of rest due to a foot injury.

Arizona is looking to bounce back after an off-season. Although the Wildcats lost three of their starters, coach Sean Miller made up for that by signing two top 25 high school players Kobi Simmons a guard and Rawle Alkins at forward. Arizona’s future looks bright but they face tough competition with in-conference games against the UCLA Bruins and the aforementioned Ducks.

The Big Ten will have a battle for first place as the Wisconsin Badgers are highly ranked this year with the trio of Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ who are all veterans from last year’s team. Although the Badgers were upset early in the Big Ten Tournament, they still advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in last year’s March Madness. This season Wisconsin will have lots of competition between Purdue and Indiana.

The Purdue Boilermakers may give Wisconsin a run for their money. Although coach Matt Painter was unable to sign a top 50 recruit, the team has a large veteran class including juniors P.J. Thompson, Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards who will be recording most of Purdue’s minutes. Last season the Boilermakers were upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament against Little Rock.

Indiana is also making a strong case to win this year’s Big Ten conference. After losing star point guard Yogi Ferrell, the Hoosiers will have to find a new point guard. Coach Tom Crean will be in good hands with a strong offensive squad including James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson at the guard position and Thomas Bryant and OG Anunoby in the post. Indiana finished last year’s NCAA Tournament strong after upsetting Kentucky and going on to the Sweet Sixteen.

This year there are many strong teams that will competing against one another. Both Kentucky and Duke look as the leading teams in basketball with many others trailing behind them. Teams including Indiana and UCLA are sure to cause some emotion down the road.

Why It’s Time to Believe, Not Give Up, on the UConn Huskies

By Jackson Daignault ’18

University of Connecticut men’s basketball fans expect nothing but greatness.

From a team coming off an improbable 2014 March Madness run, and then an improbable American Athletic Conference championship, this team and their fans have nothing but high expectations.

Coming into this season, Huskie fans had championship hopes for their team, being ranked 18th in the country, but devastating injuries to VCU transfer Terry Larrier and four star recruits Alterique Gilbert and Mamadou Diarra have dampened these expectations.

Their opening record of 2-4 was the worst 6 game record for the Huskies since 1971, according to ESPN. The Huskies opened up with rough losses to unranked Wagner and Northeastern, as well as a scare against Division II Chaminade.

Since these close games, the Huskies have also escaped a close one against Boston University, putting their record at 3-4.

The Huskies had one of their better recruiting classes ever, with four players being ranked in ESPN’s top 100, and afterwards naming themselves “Top 5.”

Although the team was young, the Huskies still believed they had a shot to win with senior leaders Amida Brimah and Rodney Purvis.

Despite this Huskies poor initial start to the season, it is far too early to give up on them.

Kevin Ollie is only in his fourth year of coaching at UConn, with one national championship under his belt. Ollie has yet to finish out a recruiting class, which is very important to the success of UConn. Although the Huskies have struggled out the gates this year, it is important for UConn fans to realize the brilliance of their current head coach. Ollie has coached UConn legends Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, among others. Ollie has consistently gotten the most out of his players, which is evident in his use of Deandre Daniels during the Huskies 2014 Tournament run, where Daniels averaged only 13.2 points per game during the regular season, but excelled in the NCAA tournament where he averaged 18.7 points and 6.3 rebounds.

If Ollie is able to replicate his success with Daniels with the rest of the 2016 Huskies squad, it will be a strong point of optimism for their season hopes.

On top of Kevin Ollie’s brilliance, this current Huskie team has plenty of other reasons for optimism. One of these is the strong recruiting class, which has been deemed as one of the best in UConn history.

Although the injury of Gilbert hurts the potential success of “Top 5” there are plenty of other strong candidates in this 2016 recruiting class. One of those players is Vance Jackson, who has played great to open his college basketball career.

Jackson has averaged 7.7 points per game in only 19.5 minutes a game. Although these numbers seem unimpressive for the four star recruit, he has thrived in games against Loyola Marymount, where he led the team with 14 points on 50% shooting, and against Chaminade, with 16 points on 55% shooting.

Jackson was not originally expected to contribute this year, but injuries to Gilbert and Larrier opened up time for him to succeed.

This window for Jackson is crucial to the Huskies success. Jackson is only a freshman and has had success in his limited playtime. It is very important for Kevin Ollie and the Huskies coaching staff to continue to develop him into an elite scorer and perimeter defender. If they can continue to coach him to his full potential, the Huskies could seriously turn around their season.

The most important factor in the Huskies season is the potential stardom of Jalen Adams. Many fans may know Adams from his full court shot against Cincinnati in the AAC tournament to send it to a fourth overtime in 2015.

Adams, only a sophomore, has absolutely torn it up this season, averaging 19.8 points per game, including a 34 point performance in a loss to Oklahoma State in the Maui Invitational. Adams was named to the All-Tournament team at the Maui Invitational, leading all players in points and assists.

It is very important for Adams to keep up his dominant play for the Huskies to turn their season around. Captain Rodney Purvis has shot 38% from the field, a disappointment for a UConn team who is relying heavily on its senior leader.

Adams has taken over that leadership role from Purvis, and will continue to do so in order to turn the Huskies season around.

If Adams can continue to shoot 54% from the field and keep his turnovers down, there is no reason the Huskies cannot  be competitive this season, and ultimately turn their otherwise woeful season around.

Although there are definitely causes for concern with this young Huskie team, all hope is not lost. This season was supposed to be a building year for Kevin Ollie’s program, developing his young players and integrating them into his system. Although so far this season has been a disappointment, there is also plenty of reason for optimism, and ultimately the Huskies should be able to turn it around.

No matter the circumstances, never count the Huskies out. If they haven’t taught you so already.