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Is Connecticut now the team to beat in 2011-12?


Mike Miller

Jim Calhoun spent the spring reveling in Connecticut’s third national title, ignoring any thoughts of retirement. He’s a smart man.

Especially now that Andre Drummond will be a Husky in 2011-12.

Just weeks ago, one of 2012’s top recruits said he’s attend prep school rather than enroll in college early. But he announced a change of heart Friday night on Twitter, giving the Huskies yet another NBA-caliber talent on a roster that was already worthy of the Top 10.

North Carolina, Kentucky and Ohio State are on the shortlist of teams to beat in 2012. But the defending champs may be better than anyone.

They have size in Drummond and forward Alex Oriakhi, wing scorers in Jeremy Lamb and DeAndre Daniels and capable floor leaders in Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. Those are all the elements of a champ and as talented as any team in the field. There should be some caution given that Drummond, Daniels and Boatright are freshmen, but Lamb is a budding star, Napier’s crafty and Oriakhi is an underrated big man.

Besides, Drummond’s as good as any incoming freshman, including those prospects headed to Lexington. He’ll open things up on the outside, take pressure on Oriakhi and occasionally dominate inside. He’s got the goods.

Sure, UConn has to figure out how to get to 10 scholarships to accommodate Drummond (the Nate Miles mess cost the Huskies a scholarship, as did recent APR woes), but that shouldn’t be an issue. He’ll be in Storrs and ready to go.

Just think: this time last year, UConn was picked to finish in the middle of the Big East and perhaps make the NCAA tournament. Now they’re poised to make a run at history.

Florida was the last team to repeat as NCAA champs. That was five years ago. Duke seemingly had a chance last season until Kyrie Irving got hurt. And now the Huskies have their chance.

Calhoun’s retirement never seemed so far away.

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You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.