Looking Ahead: UConn a Top 5 Team for 2011-12

Eleven months ago, after the NCAA deadline to withdraw from the NBA Draft had come and gone, FoxSports.com released its 2010-2011 preseason rankings. UConn was nowhere to be found in the Top 25.

When the season actually started in November, the Huskies were still on the outside looking in. They went on win their first 10 games -- including the Maui Invitational -- and were ranked as high as No. 4 before youth, inexperience and inconsistencies derailed parts of the regular season. Everything came together during the Big East and NCAA Tournaments and when it was all said and done, the Huskies were the best team in the country (well, to everyone but Northern Arizona coach Mike Adras).

Even though we're only three days into the off season, it's never too early to look to 2011-2012. And with Kemba Walker's time in Storrs likely over, the Huskies know what their roster will look like for next season.

The recruiting class isn't among the best in the country, but it doesn't have to be; the Huskies have a roster full of young players, many of whom grew up during the past season.

That maturity has a lot to do with where ESPN.com writer Andy Katz ranks UConn in his 2011-2012 preseason poll. Unlike a year ago, when the Huskies could only merit a mention in the "other teams to watch" section, Katz has them ranked fifth heading into next season.

"The Huskies are likely to lose soon-to-be graduate Kemba Walker, but Jeremy Lamb isn't ready for the NBA so the Huskies better hope he doesn't get tempted," Katz writes. "Alex Oriakhi returns to anchor the inside and Shabazz Napier is only going to get better. I'm convinced Jim Calhoun returns to coach his defending national champs. And then there is the outside shot that the Class of 2012's top player, Andre Drummond, graduates early and chooses UConn."

Katz has Kentucky No. 1, and UNC, Ohio St. and Texas round out the rest of the top 5. As for the other Big East teams, Syracuse is seventh, Louisville is eighth, Marquette 14th, Pittsburgh 19th, and Cincinnati 22nd.

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