Before we ultimately put a lid on the 2012-13 season, Play For The Garden is evaluating the year of each member of the Big East.
Team: Connecticut Huskies
Record: 20-10 overall / 10-8 in Big East
How did their season end: banned from postseason due to APR repercussions
Leading scorer: Shabazz Napier with 17.1 PPG
Leading rebounder: DeAndre Daniels with 5.5 RPG
The NCAA had imposed a one year postseason ban on the UConn men’s basketball program as a result of the program’s low Academic Progress Rate scores. And to add insult to injury, their hall of fame head coach, Jim Calhoun, decided to retire in late summer.
So without their fearless leader, without some key pieces from a year ago, and no postseason to play for, what would be their motivation and mindset for the season?
That question was quickly answered when they packed their bags and traveled to Germany to play Michigan St. in their first game of the season. Kevin Ollie, the interim coach at the time and the man Calhoun wanted to replace him, had his guys focused and playing with passion. The Huskies won that game 66-62 on the back of a 25 point performance form Shabazz Napier.
That game set the tone for the rest of the season and showed they were preparing, practicing and playing each and every day for the love of basketball and for the sake of competition.
They had a handful of good wins throughout the season after their Michigan St. victory such as at Notre Dame and home for Syracuse, while avoiding bad losses all year until the second to last game of the season at South Florida.
The Huskies also played a whopping seven overtime games, winning five of them.
Ollie’s handling of the squad and how the players responded to him earned him a 5-year contract extension worth more than $7 million half way through the season. Not only was it well deserved, but it took an element of uncertainty out of the picture as Ollie’s job security would help with player relationships and recruiting.
Napier and Ryan Boatright were spectacular all season, and it didn’t take long for freshman Omar Calhoun to get acclimated to the college game. This electric guard trio along with DeAndre Daniels as a stretch forward will be back next year to get UConn back to the NCAA Tournament.
Final Grade: A-
I had my doubts about this team entering the season as I believed all the turmoil surrounding the program would have a serious negative impact. But to my surprise and delight – I was wrong. The Huskies were an incredibly fun team to watch all season, mainly due to their great guard play, and they competed every single night. I think it’s pretty safe to say they would have been a NCAA Tournament team if not for the ban, but that was the hand the team was dealt unfortunately. Going forward they have themselves a very good head coach that will continue to guide them to success in their new league and beyond.