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Point/Counterpoint: Will the men's basketball team win the Big East regular season?

By Tim Fontenault and Kyle Constable
On November 15, 2012

Kyle: While the season has hardly begun, big things are in store for this UConn team. After a surprising upset over then-No. 14 Michigan State, the team showed that they are fully dedicated to seeing this season through with "10 toes in". Last Tuesday against Vermont, the team, again, showed the kind of stifling defense and offense it would take to win a Big East regular season title. Junior guard Shabazz Napier has also really stepped up so far as a scorer. These are exactly what it will take for UConn to compete with Louisville, Syracuse, Cincinnati and Notre Dame.
Tim: Even with the postseason ban hovering over the team this season, there is reason to be excited about the UConn men's basketball team. It's a strong team, a young team and a team that will give Big East foes nightmares this year. However, that doesn't mean they will be regular season champions when all is said and done. UConn can easily finish top five, but with the depth in the Big East this year, it seems like saying they can win the conference regular season title is a little crazy.
Kyle: The Big East certainly has depth this season, no doubt, but UConn has the kind of schedule that could yield a very successful season. Let's look at the biggest names the team is facing: first, Louisville is certainly a major threat. For the sake of argument, let's give it the win against UConn. Then, UConn will face Cincinnati twice. Let's say UConn splits the two games. That only leaves Syracuse and Notre Dame. If UConn beats Notre Dame and falls to Syracuse, then that gives the team a 15-3 record overall. Looking at Louisville and Syracuse's schedules, UConn's in line to go 14-4, especially since the two face each other twice in the regular season.
Tim: First off, going 15-3 takes something special. The last time the Huskies did that, they rolled over teams en route to the Final Four. This is a young team, which rotates in a lot of freshmen and sophomores, playing for a first-year coach. It is a good team, no doubt about it, but looking at teams like Louisville and Syracuse, where experience is at a premium, makes it hard to imagine anyone stopping one of them from claiming the title.
Kyle: This team is something special. They were remarkably underestimated heading into the season and they are still underestimated. That being said, they have yet to have a significant chance to prove how special they are. UConn's performance in the Jimmy V Classic against No. 6 NC State in December will undoubtedly be a major proving ground for the team, even though it isn't against a Big East opponent. This team may be young, but youth doesn't necessarily predicate inexperience. See: Omar Calhoun, Ryan Boatright. They have the talent for the title.
Tim: It is difficult to use non-conference games as a gauge for what conference play will bring. In 2010-11, the Huskies non-conference schedule included wins over Michigan State, Kentucky, Texas and Tennessee. UConn proceeded to finish 9-9 in Big East play. Before the argument that UConn won the Big East and NCAA Tournaments comes out, UConn also had the best clutch game player in recent history in Kemba Walker.
Kyle: I would argue that this season's circumstances are far different than they were in the 2010-11 season because of where the team was perceived to be before the season began. The 2011 championship team was vastly underestimated heading into the season, but the postseason ban on this season's team added another dimension to the underestimation. However, this team is under new management. This is what they have to play for. If they fail to win the regular season title, they walk away from this season with nothing. The drive and determination within these players is convincing enough, especially when paired with their stats. The 2012-13 Huskies will not walk away empty-handed; they will walk away with the Big East regular season title.
Tim: A team's success cannot be gauged by a trophy. Teams go through rebuilding stages. Honestly, the ban is one of the greatest things that could have ever happened to UConn. The program is about to enter a completely new era. The new coach is bound to become one of the greatest recruiters in college basketball. A new team, with excellent chemistry, is on the rise. The 2013-14 team is going to be absolutely loaded. It will be the first time the team has more than one senior since 2010. Unfortunately, like with every rebuilding project, there is a drop-off for a year or so. As was mentioned previously, this is a young team. It is a very good team, but a young team nonetheless. It is not the end of the world if they do not finish the season at No. 1 in the Big East standings; sixth place is probably a realistic expectation of where the Huskies could finish. In any other year, that'd be a first round bye in the conference tournament. 


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