Over Thanksgiving break, the UConn men’s basketball team traveled to the Bahamas to participate in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. After taking down a quality Michigan team in the opening round, the Huskies dropped their semifinal matchup to arch rival Syracuse, and fell to then No. 10 ranked Gonzaga in the consolation game. The Huskies look to bounce back from consecutive losses against Sacred Heart on Wednesday, with big games against Maryland and Ohio State looming. With these big games just a few days away, the Daily Campus Sports staff weighs in on the good and bad from the Huskies’ time in the Bahamas.
Matt Barresi, Campus Correspondent
As a fan I was disappointed with the final results from Battle 4 Atlantis. It was sad to see them drop out of the top 25 even though they lost to what are now two top 15 teams by three in each game. UConn is definitely a top 25-caliber team. I think one of the main positives you have to take away is their resiliency, they battled back against Gonzaga from a deep hole and when Michigan started coming back they finished them off. It is clear they need to get better defensively as a unit; they couldn’t get a stop for their life against Syracuse. Lastly, there has been much about Jalen Adams’ terrific play. He was tremendous against Gonzaga, but was a total non factor against Michigan and Syracuse, so everyone who is all aboard the “he should get more time” or even “he should be a starter sooner than later” train needs to relax. He is an amazing talent but UConn has great balance in their current starting five. The team had some tough losses, but UConn will build off of them and will be alright.
Chris Hanna, Campus Correspondent
The Battle 4 Atlantis reminded me of what it means to be a UConn fan. Starting with a good win against Michigan, UConn was set up to play archrival Syracuse. The memories of past match ups flooded my thoughts and got me very excited for the Thanksgiving day game. As usual, it was quite the emotional roller coaster, and although the Huskies ended up with a heartbreaking loss, the way the team fought back from 10 points down late in the game was uplifting. The next day, an even tougher matchup against Gonzaga awaited and, after a few minutes into the second half, it looked like UConn might not be able to compete with top teams this season. The Huskies were down 21 points but fought back to lose by three and could’ve won the game with great second half performances from Jalen Adams and Daniel Hamilton. Despite two three-point losses in two days, the team got my heart racing and I am excited about the season. So long as we can replicate certain stretches of play from the Battle 4 Atlantis, I believe the men’s team can go far this season.
Tyler Keating, Staff Writer
Although the Huskies’ trip to the Bahamas was certainly a disappointment, it could have been much worse. UConn picked up a fairly comfortable victory over a solid Michigan team that will certainly ride Caris LeVert to a couple of big wins, and fought back valiantly when it looked like they were dead in the water against Gonzaga. The Syracuse loss hurt because of the whole Syracuse thing, but the Orange are shaping up to be a quality team as well.
However, the Huskies have little room for error in out-of-conference games going forward. They need to beat Ohio State and Texas, and should probably pick up a win against either Georgetown or Maryland. When American Athletic Conference play comes around, only SMU and Cincinnati provide real opportunities for the Huskies to build their tournament resume, with Tulsa and Memphis serving as the only other challenges. The continued emergence of Jalen Adams, who was crucial in the failed Gonzaga comeback, will be an important factor for UConn going forward as they try to jump back into the Top 25 rankings.
Peter Harasyko, Staff Writer
I want to start out by saying that I’m not particularly concerned about the losses going forward. Syracuse and Gonzaga are two very good teams this year, and way the Huskies fought back in the second half of each game, especially against Gonzaga, says more about this team than 1-2 record in the Bahamas. That said, there were several things that stood out that will really have an impact on the rest of the season.
First, Daniel Hamilton is a special player. He nearly had two triple-doubles in three days, and put up a respectable stat line in the third game. He put up great all-around numbers as a freshman, and he looks improved in all areas so far as a sophomore.
Second, there’s still a lot this team has to improve on. For example, rebounding killed UConn down the stretch against Syracuse. It seemed that every time the Orange missed a shot, they’d pull down an offensive rebound and get a second, or even third, crack at scoring. The Huskies need to dominate the glass if they want a shot at another national championship. There’s still plenty of basketball left to play this season, and there’s no doubt that this team will be in the mix in March.