UConn Huskies Deliver, But Can They Contend in 2015?
by Bovada Sportsbook Staff | March 24, 2014
These dogs have definitely had their day. The No. 7 UConn Huskies completed their surprise run at the 2014 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament, beating the No. 8 Kentucky Wildcats 60-54 on Monday at the National Championship Game in Arlington. The Huskies also beat the NCAA Basketball odds as 2.5-point underdogs. That was their fourth upset victory in six tournament games, as UConn ran the table at 6-0 against the spread.
It was a brilliant tournament for head coach Kevin Ollie and his program. But can UConn keep delivering in 2015? Maybe not. This team will lose senior guards Shabazz Napier (25.5 PER) and Niels Giffey (17.8 PER), two holdovers from the Jim Calhoun Era who were also on the 2011 National Championship squad. It’s likely that junior forward DeAndre Daniels (20.0 PER) will also leave UConn and enter the NBA Draft.
That leaves junior guard Ryan Boatright (17.0 PER) as the most important returning player for the Huskies, except there’s no guarantee that Boatright will return, either. The onus will be on these two incoming players to bolster the lineup while Ollie continues his recruiting drive: Rodney Purvis, a 6-foot-4 guard transferring from North Carolina State who hit 38.5% from downtown as a freshman, and Daniel Hamilton, a 6-foot-6 guard with a scorer’s touch and strong playmaking skills.
Ollie’s 2015 title quest will be made easier this year by the 2013 champion Louisville Cardinals, who are leaving the American Athletic Conference for the toughest gig of them all, the Atlantic Coast Conference. But unless Boatright returns and freshman center Amida Brimah (17.1 PER) and sophomore forward Philip Nolan (10.7 PER) keep developing, it’s difficult to see the Huskies defending their title next spring.
So which teams should we be looking at on the futures market when the 2015 NCAA Tournament odds are released? Kentucky figures to be in the mix after starting five freshmen this year, although three of them (Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison) are about to become first-round picks at the NBA Draft. John Calipari’s latest recruiting class, which ranks No. 2 in the nation, includes a pair of five-star prospects in forward Trey Lyles and center Karl Towns. The ‘Cats will come back.
This year’s No. 1 recruiting class, however, belongs to the Duke Blue Devils. And this might actually be the best crop of freshman that Mike Krzyzewski has ever unearthed. Duke has the top-ranked prospects at both point guard (Tyus Jones) and center (Jahlil Okafor), plus another pair of five-star recruits in small forward Justise Winslow and shooting guard Grayson Allen.
If that weren’t enough, center Myles Turner, considered the nation’s second-best recruit behind Okafor, is also considering signing up with Duke. It seems more likely, though, that Turner will end up choosing the Kansas Jayhawks, where he’d replace Joel Embiid, provided Embiid doesn’t forgo the NBA Draft and return to Lawrence. Speaking of returns, there’s even talk that Jabari Parker could stay at Duke for one more year. Now that would be a tough team to beat – and one more reason to look forward to an excellent 2014-15 college hoops season.