Wednesday, October 19, 2011

UConn Men Start The Season Atop Big East Coaches Poll, Women Second

Only one program has ever won national titles in both men's and women's basketball in the same year and that program is UConn. This year looks like it could turn out in similar fashion as both are ranked in the preseason top five. The biggest challenge for both teams, replacing a superstar who did magical things and who either became one of the best players in women's collegiate basketball history while winning three national championships and taking the team to four final fours or who took your team to an 11-0 record last year in tournament play including an unprecedented run through the Big East tournament followed by a national title. Fortunately for UConn faithful, both teams are probably more talented on the whole than they were a year ago, position by position both of these teams would beat their counterparts from a year ago. This is good news aside from the fact that everyone else seems to have gotten better as well.

For the women, there is a significant drop in expectations from years past partly because Maya Moore is gone and partly because Geno has already said they won't win it all. The pollsters don't seem to take him at his word though as the Huskies are ranked third behind only Texas A&M and Notre Dame, the two teams who played for the championship last year. This UConn team is stacked with talent and though they lost Maya Moore to the draft they return Caroline Doty from injury as well as all four other starters from last year's team that made the final four.

For the men, the top five seems to have established themselves as the elite and UNC appears to have the most talent of anyone in the country but the same could have been said for many of the teams UConn beat last year to get to the championship. The problem for these teams is that their elite talent is young, and while 3 (UConn, Kentucky, and North Carolina) have experience deep in the tournament there doesn't seem to be any separation between them and the likes of Syracuse and Ohio State because of the experience of the coaches.

Last year the UConn men's basketball team started the season picked to finish ninth in the conference. This year the coaches seem to be buying into the hype surrounding this unit. The voting has them as co-favorite along with Syracuse, a team with that was solid all of last year but lacked the elite guard play that could push them to the top. The potential for this UConn team is limitless with the talent they've assembled at every position, the only question is whether or not Calhoun can create a cohesive unit out of those pieces. I love what this team has in the returning starters, unfortunately the bench is where the skill dies out and all that's left is role players and fouls to give. This team has a starting five which is unique in the fact that there is a true power forward and true center which teams will have trouble containing, and in the event one of them gets in foul trouble there are numerous bench players who can play both positions and give quality minutes in the meantime. The non conference schedule is terrible, so what this team is capable of is not really going to be on display until Big East play starts. I trust in what Calhoun has done in replacing the star power he lost with strong components to create a cohesive unit and they will compete with the best teams all year.

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