As the UConn men’s and women’s basketball season kicks off, we asked our basketball beat writers to look into the crystal ball and write their season predictions. Stephanie Sheehan and Andrew Morrison will give you everything you should expect for the men’s basketball team, while Michael Logan and Mariana Dominguez will give their takes on the women’s basketball team.
Who leads the team in scoring?
Michael Logan: It will be Katie Lou Samuelson. She led the team in scoring last season with 17.4 points per game and she will be relied upon even more this season. Her 3-point stroke is nearly unstoppable and she is not afraid to shoot. Thus, with an expanded role, I would be surprised if she does not average over 22 points per game. Her biggest threat to leading the team in scoring is fellow senior Napheesa Collier. However, she is going to be relied upon in the post, since she is one of the only bigs on the team.
Mariana Dominguez: This one’s close to call. I feel like it will be Napheesa Collier because of her effectiveness in the paint. She has a great awareness of where the basket is in relation to her body and is capable of notching massive points for the team. In the past, Samuelson’s 3-point shot was a big scoring machine for the team, however it was always supplemented by multiple other players netting shots as well. More of UConn’s offense will be run through Collier this season, so I expect her to rack up more points overall. Don’t be fooled though, the team still needs Samuelson’s scoring capabilities.
Andrew Morrison: Jalen Adams. The senior led the team in scoring last year with 18.1 per game, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t repeat. Christian Vital should put up solid numbers and a healthy Alterique Gilbert will limit Adams’ minutes, but after spending 38 minutes per game on the floor last year, Adams should be fresher down the stretch of games. No one will have the ball in their hands more than Adams, and he’s the most gifted scorer on the team. If Hurley can improve the flow of the offense, Adams should be able to put up career numbers.
Stephanie Sheehan: For the sake of being different, I think Alterique Gilbert can easily lead in scoring if he stays healthy. Every player I’ve talked to has praised Gilbert’s quickness and explosiveness with the ball, and Dan Hurley has constantly praised him as one of the more impressive players he’s seen in practice. As Andrew touched on, there’s no way that Jalen Adams averages 38 minutes per game again with the guard depth the team has, and the duo of Adams and Gilbert can be dangerous on the floor, as we saw glimpses of it over the last few seasons pre-injury. Gilbert will benefit from having multiple talented guards around him to help spread the floor and take full advantage of his speed and quickness.
Biggest impact addition?
Logan: I know she is not an addition, but I think that sophomore Megan Walker is going to have a major turnaround this season. Head coach Geno Auriemma has raved about her progression and confidence since her freshman year. She will be a starter this season with the departures of Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams. I would be surprised if she is not averaging at least 25 minutes and scoring 15 points per game. The former top recruit will make some serious noise this season.
Dominguez: Christyn Williams. The No. 1 recruit from the class of 2018 is a big boost for the Huskies. Williams will be getting a lot more minutes than the average freshman because of UConn’s lack of depth. Getting a good player lots of minutes early in her career is sure to help her gain experience for playing in high pressure games. Williams may not be a standout right off the bat, but give her some time to get comfortable and she’s sure to impress.
Morrison: Before Wednesday, there was no doubt about this one: Sid Wilson. After redshirting last year because of NCAA transfer rules, Wilson was poised to make a big splash this season. He is a talented wing who can shoot and spread the floor, and Dan Hurley said Wilson’s a large reason why he came to UConn. On Tuesday, however, he was suspended indefinitely for an incident last year, and there’s no telling when he’ll return. Newcomer Brendan Adams, a Rhode Island commit, who followed Hurley to Storrs, could provide some impact minutes as a freshman as well—but Wilson will be sorely missed.
Sheehan: I talked about him before and he’s not quite a new addition, but Alterique Gilbert is going to change the game for UConn. Hurley’s constant praise of someone who hasn’t played a full season since he got here speaks volumes about his ability as a player and a potential leader on a team that desperately needs leadership. I still don’t think it’s a coincidence that last year’s team began to fall apart almost immediately after Gilbert went down with an injury against Michigan State in the PK80– a game, if you recall, the Huskies were hanging in until the second half when Gilbert was no longer on the floor. The duo of Jalen Adams and Gilbert has the potential to be lethal if Jalen can improve his 3-point game and if Gilbert has room to consistently drive to the rim. The guard depth is already infinitely better than last year with Brendan Adams and Tarin Smith in the mix; Gilbert is the icing on the cake.
Prediction for the season?
Logan: This season is going to be different. Do not be surprised if this team loses a game or two during the regular season. However, this is still UConn women’s basketball and they will be just fine. Even though we might not see consistent blowouts, this team is still going to be a contender. The Huskies will have to figure out how to improve their defense and who will be able to step up alongside Samuelson and Collier. Once they figure that out, and they may have already, it will be smooth sailing. I see this team reaching the Final Four and then they control their own destiny.
Dominguez: I agree with Mike. The biggest obstacles facing this team are lack of experience and lack of time playing together. There is not much depth to the team so some players are going to be playing massive minutes for a while. Once the starters are completely comfortable and trust each other, the team will be solid. The determining factor is when that will happen. As Mike said, it may have happened already or it may take some time. The sheer talent on the team will get them to the Final Four, but it will take hard work and trust in each other to hoist a championship trophy.
Morrison: This season is an experiment in how quickly one man can turn around a program with essentially the same pieces as a year ago. The Huskies will definitely improve on their 14-18 record, though that can mean a lot of things. Will Gilbert stay healthy, and if so, will he be the same player? Is lightweight Eric Cobb for real? Was Ollie the problem all along? I think the team certainly has the potential to finish in the top-three of the conference and squeeze into the NCAA Tournament, but it’s also a real possibility that it’ll take a couple seasons to turn things around. Either way, Hurley already has us believing in the future of UConn men’s basketball once again.
Sheehan: I’m feeling an NIT bid. I can’t see this team making the NCAA Tournament; but then again, this is such a strange year for The American in terms of team talent that, as Andrew said, UConn could very easily finish top three in the conference. The Huskies could also finish exactly where they did last year and lose in the first round of the conference tournament again. It all depends on how much magic Hurley has up his sleeve for a team that’s severely lacking in discipline and, as he puts it, “winning habits.” Hurley has high expectations and I have no doubt he’ll do everything in his power to get the team where he wants them– it’s up to the players to get there, though.