There was some fear that DeAndre Daniels could leave UConn for the NBA after his sophomore season. Luckily, Daniels, one of the most athletic, versatile big men in the country, returned to Storrs, for at least one more year. It means the Huskies have the core of a team that won 20 games in 2012-13, and this time there are no NCAA restrictions to keep them out of the postseason tournaments.
It's great news for second-year coach Kevin Ollie, and bad news for everyone who has to try to match up against Daniels. Take Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin, for example, who had only laudatory things to say about the 6-10 junior power forward who might be more dangerous from behind the arc than in the paint.
"Their perimeter play is as good as anybody," Cronin said Monday, via the Hartford Courant. "The X Factor for them is DeAndre Daniels. He went from a heralded freshman that the league was a little too physical for him, to his [solid] sophomore year. I give the kid credit. He made the adjustment. A lot of kids don't, a lot of kids hang their head and transfer. He made the adjustment and he turned himself into a serious player.
"To me, he's one of the best pro prospects in our league."
Cronin and the Bearcats are also in a similar position to the Huskies in that they went from the Big East to scrambling for a new home to finally settling on the American Athletic Conference. With no suitors beating down their doors that meant Cincy -- much like the Huskies -- have to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation.
"We don't have the quantity of the 14-, 16-team leagues," Cronin said of the new conference, "but we've definitely got quality. You're looking at a 10-team league where, I don't see a bad basketball team in our league. …
Some of the new faces include Memphis, formerly a dominant presence in Conference USA. And for their coach, Josh Pastner, playing in the AAC is all about perspective.
"We left Conference USA, which I thought was a pretty good basketball league, with a 27-game winning streak," Pastner told the Courant. "We went undefeated in the league, and us and Gonzaga were the only teams in the NCAA Tournament with 30-plus wins. I was pounding my fists the entire time for respect. Now, going into the American, you're not going to have that problem. …
"Top to bottom, there are a lot of good teams," Pastner said of the AAC. "I think UConn is going to be really good. It wouldn't surprise me if they go into the season as the sleeper pick to win the league. I know Louisville is the obvious pick, but UConn is darned good."
And that's the thing: At the end of the day, conference affiliation doesn't matter if you're winning. It makes things tougher, sure, but it doesn't have to define a program.