How will the Huskies be this season?
Column by Sam Tapper — Sports Writer
With all the hype and commotion of their annual ‘First Night’ festivities now in the past, it is finally time to start looking ahead to college basketball season up at the University of Connecticut.
Last year was the Huskies’ first year with head coach Dan Hurley at the helm, and though they finished at 16-17 in their third straight losing season, there is reason to believe that this year the Huskies can make a run at the NCAA Tournament.
Hurley does not lack talent on his current roster, as he looks to redshirtjunior guard Alterique Gilbert and senior guard Christian Vital, two preseason All-American Athletic Conference second team selections, as two of the leaders on the team. Hurley described that duo and junior center Josh Carlton as his teams’ “big three.”
It can be assumed that Gilbert, Vital and Charlton will all be in the starting lineup. However, the two starting forward spots remain to be filled. Tyler Polley is the most likely candidate to earn one starting spot, as he played in all 33 games last year, starting 32 and averaging 8.4 points per game. Polley is a 6 feet 9 inches tall, sharpshooting forward, who has worked tirelessly in the offseason to get better on the glass as well.
That leaves the door open for one more player, and that player may very well be 6 feet 7 inches tall redshirt-sophomore Sidney Wilson.
Wilson is an athletic wing who Dan Hurley has praised in the past, even describing him as one of the reasons he took the UConn coaching job. Wilson saw time on the court as a freshman but looked very raw and would need more time to develop. A lot has been said about a couple of different players this offseason, but not much about Wilson. If he can make the jump and take that next step, UConn will have a real gem this year.
A lineup of Gilbert, Vital, Wilson, Polley and Carlton would feature a group of experienced players with multiple strengths on both ends of the court. Their strong recruiting class, which features players like guards Jalen Gaffney and James Bouknight, as well as big man Akok Akok, who was once a top 40 recruit, gives this season some real excitement.
With the strong schedule they have this year, like matchups with Florida and Indiana early, the Huskies will have their chances to get back into the national spotlight. It will all just depend on what games they can ultimately win.