It’s been a while since we’ve seen the UConn Huskies’ Men’s Basketball Team produce a great season, but this could be the year they turn it around. Since their magical 2014 run through March Madness, the Huskies have made the NCAA Tourney only once (2016). I was too young during their 2010 title run, but I remember 2014 vividly. Their stud duo of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright was so fun to watch. Even though they haven’t become big time NBA stars, they’ll always have a place in my heart.
*Header image credits: CTPost, Nunes Magician, New Haven Register, Wikipedia
However, UConn basketball has not seen the same success from them since then. Former coach Kevin Ollie was fired in 2018 for violating NCAA rules. In came Danny Hurley, who led the Huskies to a 16-17 record in 2018-19 and a 19-12 record this past season. Now, he welcomes one of UConn’s best recruiting classes in years, along with a much tougher Big East conference schedule. As of July 1, UConn will be a Big East team once again. They made their 2010 championship run while in the Big East, but ended up in the AAC a few years later. Now, they are back in a stacked conference that includes Villanova, Butler, and Seton Hall. We’ll find out real soon if the 2020 Huskies can contend or not based on how they play within the Big East. This new endeavor will be challenging for UConn, but it should also bring a ton of hype and excitement their way, as the Big East is considered far superior to the AAC.
So, who can propel UConn to glory? James Bouknight is the future of this program. He’s a 6’4”, 175 lb shooting guard who was the 66th ranked recruit in the class of 2019 (according to 247 Sports). He’s incredibly athletic and a great scorer. He had a breakout freshman season with 13.0 points per game on a 46.2% field goal percentage. In his sophomore season, he’ll have to be the Huskies’ leading scorer.
UConn’s second stud will be Andre Jackson, UConn’s best recruit since 2016. He’s ranked 33rd in the class of 2020. He’s a 6’6”, 180 lb athletic freak. His highlight tapes are insane. I highly recommend searching him on YouTube. He’s gonna be fun to watch this year. Bouknight and Jackson on the wings will be a lethal combination.
However, there are some big questions surrounding this squad. First, how will Akok Akok recover from the achilles injury he suffered late in the 2019-20 season? He was a key defensive contributor for the Huskies, but achilles injuries are hard to bounce back from. Second, who will fill the shoes of Christian Vital? Vital was a proficient point guard for UConn who led the team in scoring this past season. However, that was his senior season, so the Huskies are in line for a new point guard. That could be rising sophomore Jalen Gaffney or rising senior Alterique Gilbert. Gaffney has the youth, but Gilbert was the 2016 recruit that I mentioned before that was graded higher than Andre Jackson. Either way, they should have a solid point guard, so the real issue is Akok.
So, this is bound to be an exciting year in Storrs. Jackson and Bouknight will highlight an exciting squad. Combine that with a Big East return and you have a season full of intrigue. Can the Huskies bring a title back to Connecticut under Danny Hurley? Let’s just hope next season happens (We’re looking at you, Corona).