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No. 3: Connecticut Huskies


Mike Miller

It’s Midnight Madness day. So we’re kicking off our college basketball coverage with our men’s preseason Top 25. Look for five teams posted a day, all this week.

2010-11 record: 32-9 (9-9), 6th in Big East (tied)
Won national title

Coach: Jim Calhoun, 607-230, 26th year (855-367 overall)

Last NCAA miss: 2010

2011-12 roster [click here]
2011-12 schedule [click here]
2010-11 team stats [click here]

The good: The Huskies have more talent than last year’s squad. Not an opinion. It’s a fact. Don’t rule out a repeat.

After a breakout performance in the NCAA tournament and a summer spent scoring for Team USA, Jeremy Lamb will be a star and perhaps the Big East player of the year. Alex Oriakhi remains a rebounding force and beast down low and Roscoe Smith is a long, athletic forward who was part of that defense making life miserable for Butler. Shabazz Napier’s ready to run the show.

Andre Drummond – an impact big man if there ever was one – was the cap to a standout recruiting class featuring a sharpshooting wing (DeAndre Daniels) and a playmaking guard (Ryan Boatright).

Then there’s Jim Calhoun. He’s almost 70, but last season answered any questions about his desire to coach. (There wasn’t any doubt about his skill.)

The bad: OK, I know what you’re saying. If there’s more talent than last season, why are they third?

Well, Kemba Walker’s not around. It’s easy to forget Walker struggled at times last season, but he came up big when UConn needed him most. Losing your go-to guy is reason enough to open the season No. 2.

The other reason? UConn had its issues last year, too. The Huskies peaked when it mattered (and did so in an historic way), overcoming what could be an on-dimensional offense and average defense. UConn doesn’t turn in a season replicating its Big East tournament and NCAA tournament performances, but it’ll need to be close when March rolls around.

The unknown: If Kemba was the guy who took the big shots and shouldered the load when it mattered, who’s that guy in March?

Is this Lamb’s team? Oriakhi? Or does Napier assume the reins when he runs the offense? That’s no given with Boatright coming in.

And how does Calhoun appease the incoming stars with the incumbent players? Egos don’t work when you’re chasing a title. Calhoun’s hardly a shrinking violent, but sometimes his most talented teams end up as big disappointments.

Counting down the preseason Top 25

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.