Outlook bright for No. 24 UConn, which opens vs. Central Connecticut

NCAA Basketball

Outlook bright for No. 24 UConn, which opens vs. Central Connecticut

Expectations are high for the UConn men’s basketball team as it enters its second season since rejoining the Big East Conference.

The 24th-ranked Huskies will aim to take their first step forward on Tuesday when they host Central Connecticut State in Storrs, Conn.

Dan Hurley enters his fourth season as UConn coach after guiding his club to a 15-8 record last season, including 11-6 in the Big East, good for a third-place finish.

The Huskies return all but one starter — leading scorer James Bouknight (Charlotte Hornets) — from a team that reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016. Presumably with that in mind, UConn was picked second in the Big East preseason coaches poll, behind only powerhouse Villanova.

Hurley is looking for 6-foot-9, 240-pound Adama Sanogo to open the middle and allow the Huskies to attack from the perimeter. R.J. Cole shot a robust 38.6 percent from 3-point range en route to averaging 12.2 points per game last season.

“We’re able to hone in on those things during practice,” Cole said, per the Hartford Courant. “So just being able to get in the gym and knock those shots down, when it’s that time to happen, it’s going to help us. If you ain’t gonna take it, you ain’t gonna make it.”

Tyrese Martin also will be tasked to put up points after averaging 10.3 per contest in 2020-21.

While positives abound, Hurley openly questioned his team’s ability to make the clutch shot from the perimeter.

“Perimeter firepower is really the only concern I have,” he said. “Guys being able to make plays off the dribble, guys being able to step into shots and knock ’em down. Can we get just enough from the perimeter?”

Akok Akok is working his way back from the ruptured left Achilles tendon he suffered during UConn’s win over Memphis in February 2020.

Central Connecticut’s Patrick Sellers was named the head coach of his alma mater in May. He was an assistant with the Blue Devils when they qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 2000 and 2002; however, he now takes over for former UConn star Donyell Marshall after Central Connecticut limped to a 4-27 record in 2019-20 and a 5-16 mark last season.

“When you get the job, you’re so excited because you always think, ‘If I’m a head coach, I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that,'” Sellers said. “So now I’ve got that, but I’m realizing that (assistants) Lamar Chapman and Ben Wood are fantastic, great as far as giving me feedback. You’re ready for the job, hyped, excited — but you do need a lot of help.”

The new-look Blue Devils hope to receive plenty of help from Tre Mitchell, who averaged 9.4 points a game last season.

Central Connecticut was predicted to finish last among 10 teams in the Northeast Conference preseason coaches’ poll.

–Field Level Media

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.