Tuesday November 10th, 2015

This article originally appeared in the the Nov. 9, 2015, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here

In 2014–15 the Huskies became the ninth team to miss out on the NCAA tournament the year after winning a title. “We lost five games on the last possession. Five!” says coach Kevin Ollie, who knew UConn didn’t just need to get better this season—it also needed to get more savvy. He accomplished both goals by signing graduate transfers Sterling Gibbs, a 6'2" combo guard from Seton Hall, and Shonn Miller, a 6'7" power forward from Cornell.

These are plum additions for a team that was already retaining 66.7% of its scoring and 78.2% of its rebounding. Miller’s burly frame and midrange touch should complement the skills of 7-foot junior center Amida Brimah, who last season ranked second nationally in blocks (3.5 per game) despite habitual foul trouble. Gibbs, meanwhile, will try to enter the pantheon of under-sized guards who have won titles at UConn (Khalid El‑Amin, Ben Gordon, Kemba Walker, Shabazz Napier). 

Gibbs spent much of his summer picking Ollie’s brain about the finer points of point guard leadership. If Gibbs and Miller can pass along what they’ve learned to their younger teammates, the Huskies will be back to their old-school ways.

X-Factor

Rodney Purvis, 6'4" junior guard

Purvis struggled on offense after transferring from N.C. state, but he did average 16.7 points over his final nine games, scoring a career-high 29 in a loss to SMU in the AAC tournament final.

Coach’s Take

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“We’re so much deeper than we were last year. We have a lot more options offensively so we can move players around. Daniel Hamilton did a lot of things well for us, but we need him to take better shots. Rodney is talking and being more vocal. We want Sterling to be a scorer and a facilitator. That’s what we’ve always asked of our point guards. Amida Brimah has only been playing basketball for five years so he is still learning the nuances of the game, but he has improved his shooting drastically. We had a lot of young guys playing big minutes last year. When guys play a lot of minutes, there’s some growing pains. Now they know what to expect.”​ — Kevin Ollie

Projected depth chart

SI/Hanner Projected 2015-16 stats
Name Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg POSS MINS
Daniel Hamilton SF 12.7 7.1 3.0 103.7 26% 80%
Rodney Purvis SG 12.4 2.8 1.4 105.1 24% 67%
Sterling Gibbs PG 11.6 2.2 3.5 110.2 22% 71%
Amida Brimah C 8.9 5.0 0.4 122.1 16% 65%
Jalen Adams PG 8.5 3.1 3.3 108.4 21% 60%
Shonn Miller PF 8.2 5.2 0.8 106.6 19% 55%
Kentan Facey PF 3.6 3.9 0.4 122.2 13% 40%

Projected conference race

conference rank team projected Conf. record last year's Conf. record
1 SMU 14-4 15-3
2 Connecticut 14-4 10-8
3 Cincinnati 13-5 13-5
4 Tulsa 11-7 14-4
5 Temple 10-8 13-5
6 Memphis 10-8 10-8
7 Houston 8-10 4-14
8 East Carolina 5-13 6-12
9 Tulane 5-13 6-12
10 UCF 5-13 5-13
11 South Florida 4-14 3-15

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