November 24, 2015

Talented yet untested, Connecticut now gets to see where its bolstered roster stands at the moment.

The No. 18 Huskies are part of a stacked field at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, where they open play Wednesday night against Michigan in a matchup of prominent programs coming off down seasons.

After following up its 2014 national championship by missing the NCAA Tournament last season, Connecticut (3-0) appears poised for a return to upper-tier status after adding graduate transfers Sterling Gibbs and Shonn Miller and heralded freshman Jalen Adams to a group of four returning starters headlined by 2014-15 American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year Daniel Hamilton.

The re-tooled Huskies head to the Bahamas off three lopsided wins over lesser competition compared to the three opponents they'll draw in this marquee event, which contains 10th-ranked Gonzaga and No. 25 Texas A&M as well as traditionally strong ones such as Syracuse, Texas and Washington. They'll either renew their former Big East rivalry against the Orange or play Charlotte on Thursday.

Michigan (2-1), coming off a disappointing 16-16 campaign beset by several key injuries following a run to the regional finals in 2014, does have the advantage of having faced a quality foe - losing 86-70 to No. 23 Xavier on Friday in Ann Arbor.

"The Xavier game will be so beneficial for us," Wolverines coach John Beilein said. "(The players) understand more now than they understood before the game. Our growth mindset didn't end last year. Our growth mindset continues every day."

The Wolverines received 29 points from a now-healthy Caris LeVert but were beaten badly by the Musketeers on the interior. Xavier finished with a 47-29 rebounding advantage, outscored Michigan 34-14 in the paint and had a 16-5 edge in second-chance points.

UConn presents another potential matchup problem with its frontcourt of 7-foot center Amida Brimah and Miller, who scored 1,065 points in three seasons at Cornell and tallied 18 on 7 of 9 shooting in Saturday's 83-58 rout of Furman.

Gibbs, a second team All-Big East honoree at Seton Hall last season, began his Huskies' career with 41 points over wins against Maine and New Hampshire. His addition and the return of sharp-shooter Rodney Purvis (14.3 ppg) has helped offset the loss of 2014-15 leading scorer Ryan Boatright in the backcourt.

Adams, who had 14 points and six assists in 22 minutes against Furman, is part of an upgraded bench that's allowed coach Kevin Ollie to freely rotate 10 players.

''They are giving me a big-time lift,'' Ollie said of his reserves. ''Jalen played a wonderful floor game, his best game in a Husky jersey.''

Michigan's hopes for a bounce-back rest mainly on LeVert, an expected NBA lottery pick limited to 18 games last season by a fractured foot. The versatile senior guard looks to have regained his previous form by averaging 19.3 points and 5.0 assists while going 7 for 14 on 3-pointers through the first three games.

The Wolverines' strength lies in their perimeter shooting, having made 43.9 percent of their 3-point tries. Division III transfer Duncan Robinson is 7 for 10 and point guard Derrick Walton Jr. is 6 for 12 in his return from a foot injury that ended his 2014-15 season after 19 games.

Michigan has won two of three meetings with UConn and posted a 68-63 home victory in the most recent one on Jan. 17, 2010.

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