FanHouse NCAA Hoops BlogPoll: No. 3, UConn Huskies

This week, FanHouse is taking a look at the top teams heading into 2008 with a BlogPoll decided on by our college hoops bloggers. To help with the team capsules, we've brought in some of the top fan bloggers around the internets to give us insights on their teams.

For the UConn Huskies, Andrew Porter of TheUConnBlog has provided us with the vital insights into the Huskies. A relatively new blog, TheUConnBlog promises to be one of the best sources of Huskies basketball this year.

No word defines this Husky team better than "if." If the Huskies can get consistent production from their starters, they can beat anyone in the country. If everyone stays healthy and out of trouble, they have a ridiculously deep lineup. And if everything comes together, UConn could win it all this spring. Make no mistake, UConn has the talent to be a Final Four team, but after failing to win a single postseason game in the last two years, Husky fans have learned all the talent in the world won't matter if the team can't put it all together when it counts.
At 7-foot-3, center Hasheem Thabeet can be a dominant, game-changing force simply by stepping on the court. Senior Jeff Adrien is undersized for a power forward, but was the team's leader in scoring and rebounding in 2007-08, on his way to making the All-Big East first team last season. Shooting guard Jerome Dyson has the ability to score in bunches. Last, but not least, point guard A.J. Price became the team's most important player down the stretch last year and started playing like one of the best guards in the country.

However, with the exception of Adrien, each of those players has a big question mark hanging over them.

Thabeet may be a blocking machine, but his offense still has to catch up to his defense. He also has some nagging consistency problems. Case in point: The first time he played Notre Dame's Luke Harangody last season, he had 10 blocks and held the Big East Player of the Year to 5-23 shooting. However, a month later, Harangody torched Thabeet for 32 points. The Tanzanian big man has shown he can be the most dominant player on the floor, now he just has to do it every night.

By the end of last season, Price was clearly the team's leader, averaging 14.5 points per game along with 5.8 assists, but he tore his ACL in UConn's first-round loss to San Diego in the NCAA Tournament. Even though freshman point guard Kemba Walker looks good so far, (this almost certainly is underselling Walker, a highly touted recruit who average 10.5 points and 4.5 assists in two exhibition games.) the Huskies need Price back at full strength if they have any hope of making noise in March.

Dyson can score, and was the team's scoring leader two years ago, he can turns the ball over too much. He was suspended for nine games last year after testing positive for marijuana, but in the 24 games he did play, he averaged almost three turnovers a game. If he can stop his reckless tendencies and just focus on scoring, he can be a key component in the backcourt. If not, expect to see a platoon of Price, Walker and senior guard Craig Austrie taking over.

The final question might be the most important one: Who will actually be on this team? UConn is expecting to add two more players after the first semester, however, even if one assumes they will both arrive, their ability to quickly gel with the team is going to be a huge factor. Junior Stanley Robinson left the team this semester to deal with academic and personal issues and freshman power forward Ater Majok, should add even more depth to a loaded frontcourt. Majok, who is from the Sudan by way of Australia, was held up by some transcript issues.

Freshman Nate Miles was expelled in October, leaving a gap at the small forward position. That spot should be filled after the first semester when the extremely talented and extremely inconsistent Robinson returns. Robinson showed flashes of brilliance last year and UConn was 14-4 when he scored more than 10 points. But there were also 15 games when Robinson didn't score in double digits. Robinson is a freakish athlete with the physical potential to be the team's best player, but during the last two years, he hasn't been able to put it all together. If he comes back as a consistent force, he could push the Huskies over the top.

Why they should be ranked here: If everything comes together - and that is a big if - this team has the talent to reach the Final Four. Last year, Price emerged as a true leader and Thabeet can change a game just by stepping into the paint. When you give a Hall of Fame coach like Calhoun this much to work with, you wind up with one of the best teams in the country.

Why they should be ranked higher: They shouldn't be, at least not yet. However, if Robinson and Majok join the team and play as advertised, watch out. The team is good now, but those two can give the Huskies a chance to beat anyone in the country.

Why they should be ranked lower: There are still too many questions the team needs to answer. How will Price's knee injury affect his game? Will Thabeet continue to develop into a serious offensive threat? Can everyone stay out of trouble? Most importantly, can this group of players put it all together and win important games in March?

Fantastic work Andrew. You can continue to follow Andrew and his cohorts at TheUConnBlog where they document student life in Storrs and Huskies basketball.

FanHouse NCAA Hoops BlogPoll: No. 3, UConn Huskies originally appeared on NCAA Basketball FanHouse on Thu, 20 Nov 2008 12:06:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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