Men's Basketball: Previewing a bounce-back season for Kevin Ollie

UConn men's basketball coach Kevin Ollie on the sideline during the Huskies' game against Central Florida at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Connecticut on Jan. 22, 2015. (File Photo/The Daily Campus)

Going into his fourth season in charge, Kevin Ollie is looking to revitalize the men’s basketball team. Coming off a disastrous 2014-15 campaign, the Huskies look primed to take a major step towards contention in the coming season.

To say the 2014-15 UConn men’s basketball team underperformed would be selling it short.

Coming off a National Championship, returning several prominent players and adding a star, the Huskies should have rolled into the NCAA Tournament. Instead, they struggled to win games at home, finishing with the most losses at Gampel Pavilion in a season since the building opened in 1989. They finished fifth in the American Athletic Conference and were defeated in the championship game in the conference tournament by SMU. Aside from their suspension, it was the first time UConn has missed the NCAA Tournament since 2010.

Looking forward, the 2015-16 Huskies have the makings of a true conference contender. This will be their third season in the American and it should be their best opportunity to finally win the regular season title.

The key force to that championship drive should be the tremendous depth this team has. UConn is returning five of their top six leading scorers in Rodney Purvis, Amida Brimah, Daniel Hamilton, Kentan Facey and Omar Calhoun. Of the returning players, look for Purvis and Hamilton to take over the brunt of the scoring load. It would not be a surprise to see those two push each other all season for the scoring title on this team. Both are tremendous athletes and feature complete offensive games, easily switching between attacking and facilitating.

As for Brimah, this could be his breakout year. With a full healthy offseason, he should come into the season stronger than ever with an improved touch around the basket. If those strides are taken, he can play himself right into the lottery of next year’s NBA Draft.

In addition to the returning players, coach Ollie has brought in two dynamic transfer students in Sterling Gibbs and Shonn Miller, both of whom averaged over 16 points per game last season. Gibbs, coming from Seton Hall, should take over the starting point guard spot from Ryan Boatright. He is a dynamic player, capable of getting to the basket at will. Gibbs was widely acknowledged as the number one transfer prospect this summer, having been named second team all Big East a year ago.

Miller, a postgrad from Cornell, is a terrific interior player. His 8.5 rebounds per game will shore up one of UConn’s biggest weaknesses from last season. Putting Miller next to Brimah will help this team clean up the glass.

The Huskies are bolstering this veteran team with two incoming four-star recruits, Jalen Adams and Steven Enoch. Expect them to be brought along slowly with this team. However, once they get some experience at the collegiate level, they could see major minutes. Adams, from the same hometown as Shabazz Napier, looks to be cut from the same cloth as many of the former great UConn point guards of the past. 

The schedule this season has some choice showcase games for UConn fans. Along with a trip to the Carribean for the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Huskies will take on Ohio State, Texas, Georgetown and Maryland at Madison Square Garden. Bolstering the non-conference schedule should give the Huskies an added boost come selection time.

There is a lot to be excited about this season. Historically, UConn is never down for long. After a miserable season, Kevin Ollie has reloaded this roster to the point where his biggest concern may just be keeping everyone satisfied with playing time. The expectation this year should be pushing SMU for the regular season conference championship. That could be the tip of the iceberg for UConn.


Elan-Paolo DeCarlo is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at elan-paolo.decarlo@uconn.edu. He tweets @ElanDeCarlo.