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Can UConn rebound in the NCAA Tournament?

Mar 13, 2012, 11:20 AM EDT

Uconn's Drummond catches pass for dunk against Syracuse during their game at the 2012 Big East men's NCAA college basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York Reuters

One of the most intriguing story lines of the first weekend is the UConn Huskies.

Here we have the nation’s defending national champions. There are two lottery picks on the roster and a handful of players with the potential to play their way into the NBA Draft down the road. On paper, there may not be a team better suited towards knocking off Kentucky, the prohibitive favorite in this tournament, than the Huskies.

The problem is that the tournament isn’t played on paper, the same way that UConn’s season wasn’t played on paper.

UConn was one of, if not the most disappointing team during the regular season. They finished below .500 in the Big East and needed a pair of wins in the Big East Tournament just to ensure themselves an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. Not exactly what you would expect from a team that was considered by many to be a legitimate National Title contender back in October.

The question that everyone is asking — and that Big Blue Nation seems to be a bit concerned about — is whether or not the Huskies have a real chance to get out of Louisville that first weekend without a loss.

And as a self-proclaimed expert on the subject, the answer is undoubtedly … maybe?

The million dollar question right now is whether or not the UConn team that went 3-1 since Jim Calhoun’s return to the sideline — with the one loss being a nail-biter to Syracuse in the Big East Tournament — has actually changed this team. On the surface it looks like it. They shook off a stretch where they lost nine of 12 to win three in a row when Calhoun returned. But those wins came against a Pitt team that is nowhere near what we expect out of that program, Big East cellar-dweller DePaul and a slumping West Virginia. UConn was also competitive with Syracuse in two games already this year.

What’s more is that this could be the last time that UConn looks like UConn for a while. Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond are expected to declare for the draft. Alex Oriakhi, and a couple of other notable players, have rumors surrounding their future in a UConn uniform. Jim Calhoun’s health is deteriorating to the point that he may be forced to retire after the year. And all this is occurring with a potential postseason ban on the horizon for 2013.

This may be UConn’s last chance at a run for tournament glory.

But that will require the Huskies beating a good Iowa State team that is a matchup nightmare and then knocking off Kentucky in Louisville.

My advice: enjoy it while it lasts, Husky fans. It may not be for much longer.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

  1. 02118wc - Mar 13, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    Thanks for your advice, who are you again? These same articles came out after the last NIT appearance in 2010, how Calhoun was done and the program would tank. All they managed to do was win the title the next season. Uconn is a very young team, and even with losing Drummond and Lamb, they have the recruits and current roster talent to continue at their usual high level in the coming years and beyond. Calhoun will soon retire, but the program lives on, with a new 70,000 sq ft bball facility set to open in a few years. Maybe you get excited about programs with made for TV coaches like ‘Nova and Pitt…but I don’t think they will be dancing this week.

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