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2023-24 Big East Men’s Basketball Summer Check-In: Connecticut Huskies

Where do the reigning national champions go from here?

San Diego State v Connecticut
Noted Large Human Donovan Clingan prepares to do Donovan Clingan things.
Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Team: Connecticut Huskies

2022-23 Record: 31-8, 13-7 Big East

2022-23 Big East Finish: Tied for fourth with Providence, but earned the #4 seed in the conference tournament by way of having a better NET ranking than the Friars.

Final 2022-23 Ranking: #1, up from their preseason ranking of #27

Final 2022-23 T-Rank Ranking: #1, up from their preseason ranking of #60

Postseason? After losing to Marquette in the semifinals of the Big East tournament, the Huskies didn’t lose again. In fact, they won all six of their NCAA tournament games on their way to the program’s fifth national championship by at least 13 points.

Key Departures: Three of the men who started in the national championship game have moved on, all for pro careers, all before their eligibility was up in Storrs. Jordan Hawkins was the #14 pick in the draft after averaging 16.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.3 assists while shooting 38% from behind the arc. Andre Jackson was a jack of all trades for the Huskies this past year, putting up 6.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.1 steals per game, and that combined with his absurd athleticism pushed him up to the #36 pick in the draft and Milwaukee has already signed him to some sort of contract. Adama Sanogo was UConn’s leading scorer and rebounder at 17.2 points and 7.7 rebounds, and the big man even showed a shooting touch as he converted 37% of his 1.3 long range attempts per game. He went undrafted, but did play for Chicago in NBA Summer League and that earned him a two-way contract with the Bulls.

The Huskies will also be without two men who played more than 10 minutes in the title game and averaged more than 14 minutes per game each during the season. Joey Calcaterra’s departure isn’t a surprise since he was on his fifth year of eligibility, but his ability to pop off the bench and hit a three at a moment’s notice — 45% on the year — will be missed. Nahiem Alleyne’s departure is a little weirder as he leaves Connecticut after just one year following three seasons at Virginia Tech, but that’s not the weird part. The weird part is that he took his 5.2 points and 1.2 rebounds in 18 minutes per game to St. John’s. I don’t know the details of UConn’s roster building, but yeah, that’s an entire decision, isn’t it?

Key Returners: While the Huskies are losing the top two scorers from a national championship team, the cupboard is far from empty. Guys #3 through #5 on that scoring sheet are returning for next season. Tristen Newton tops the list at 10.1 points per game to go with 4.5 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. Alex Karaban had a stellar redshirt freshman year, starting in all but one of his 39 appearances and adding 9.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.7 assists. His 41% long range shooting will continue to come in handy. The third guy? Marquette fans can’t forget Donovan Clingan, not after we saw him put up 20 points and 10 rebounds in just 21 minutes at Fiserv Forum. The 7’2” big man averaged just 6.9 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, but because he was a one-for-one swap on the court with Adama Sanogo, Clingan was limited to just 13.1 minutes a night.

Hassan Diarra wraps up our conversation of returning guys, but it will be interesting to see how he gets used this season. The Texas A&M transfer started out as a big part of the rotation, averaging 16 minutes a night in UConn’s first 15 games, but things started trending downwards for him after the first of the year, and he never quite got it back after missing three games with an abdominal strain in late February and early March. All told, he averaged 12.6 minutes a game but didn’t contribute much else on the stat sheet. That’s a good rotation player with a big chance to take a big step.

Key Additions: Can I interest you in 247 Sports’ #6 overall recruiting class? The Huskies are bringing in three top 70 prospects, another guy in the top 100, and a top 150 big man who could make a dent in the rotation if things work out for him.

The name you have to know is Stephon Castle (6’6”, 205 lbs, Guard, Covington, Georgia), who comes in at #10 in 247’s Composite rankings. He is the early favorite for Big East Preseason Freshman of the Year as the top ranked recruit in the league this season, and it’s not a super close race, either. Anyone with one-and-done potential coming in has a chance to a lot of important things this year, and that’s saying a lot for the reigning champs.

Solomon Ball (6’3”, 185 lb., Guard, Leesburg, Virginia) is no slouch at #46 in the country per the Composite, and Jaylin Stewart (6’7”, 210 lb., Forward, Seattle, Washington) comes in at #67. Jayden Ross (6’7”, 180 lb., Forward, Bristow, Virginia) isn’t that far behind Stewart at #81, but “three top 70 recruits” sounds so much more impressive than “four top 90 recruits,” especially with a guy in the top 10. The general thinking is that if you’re a top 100 prospect, you should be able to contribute something right away, so we’ll have to wait and see how the UConn staff fits it all together. Anyway, let’s not forget about Youssouf Singare (7’0”, 225 lb., Center, Bamako, Mali) in our roundup here. He’s not as highly touted as Clingan was coming in last season, so there is some question as to whether or not the #140 prospect in 247’s Composite rankings can contribute right away. Sometimes big men are projects, even if they do have a pretty shiny ranking next to their name. Someone’s going to have to play when Clingan’s on the bench, and Singare definitely has a chance to be that guy.

On top of all of those guys, UConn also brings in one transfer in Cam Spencer. The 6’4” guard from Maryland has gone from three years at Loyola Maryland to one year at Rutgers to possibly getting to start for the reigning national champions. Not bad work on his part. He averaged 13.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 2.0 steals per game last season for the Scarlet Knights, and he knocked in 43% of his long range attempts, too. If you wanted to just pencil him in as “replaces Joey Calcaterra in the rotation” as a worst case scenario, that feels like a pretty good bet.

Coach: Dan Hurley, entering his sixth season with Connecticut and his 14th season as a Division 1 head coach. He has a record of 104-55 with UConn and a record of 255-160 overall.

Outlook: I want to be clear about this right up front. I am not talking about any particular game when I say this, okay? Alright. I’m not a “blame the refs” guy. Refereeing a basketball game is hard, and as Dana White says all the time about UFC and fights going to a decision, if you don’t want the officials deciding your contest, then don’t let them decide your contest.


I think we can all agree that if there is a guy on the face of this planet, at least for now, between now and the beginning of November, who has a case to be made that his team was getting absolutely and colossally screwed by the referees employed by the Big East, it’s Dan Hurley.

UConn went 17-0 last season with referees other than crews assigned by the league office working the games. Not only that, but the Huskies won each and every one of those 17 games, including all six games in the NCAA tournament, by at least 10 points. The only time that they won by only 10 points was a 74-64 win over Oklahoma State on December 1st, and UConn was up 48-31 at the half and 73-61 with 52 seconds to go.

Against Big East teams in games where Stu Jackson and John Cahill were making the calls on who the refs were? Connecticut went 14-8, including a stretch where they went just 2-6, including a very awful home loss to St. John’s at the XL Center.

To be clear, I think we can safely say that Dan Hurley figured out a way around whatever was ailing the Huskies after they opened up Big East play with a record of 5-6, whether that was officiating getting them down or merely being forced to play against teams that have at least a basic knowledge of how Hurley coaches his team. They went 8-1 down the stretch in the league, falling only on the road against a very good Creighton team and even in that case, losing by just three points. They weren’t even a bad basketball team when they were on that 2-6 run, as T-Rank shows them as the #29 team in the country for that month long stretch. They just weren’t the world beater that they were to start and end the season, that’s all.

So that brings us to next season, where you’d think that maaaaaybe the Huskies would take a step back from last season. Rolling over non-conference opponents, adjusting midway through the season to regain your dominant form, but then losing three starters and five rotation guys in total from that team that won a national championship? Feels like UConn should take a step back from “national championship contender” at the very least, if not maybe from “Big East favorite” status, right?


T-Rank has the Huskies as the #3 team in the country heading into next season, trailing only Purdue and Kansas, in that order, and they’re only bare algorithmic equation points ahead of Creighton to ever so slightly have the edge as the favorite in the Big East. In other words, they are projected — and that’s the key word here — to pick up right where they left off.

It’s clear that Dan Hurley’s a good basketball coach. He was only at Wagner for two years, but they were immediately better than Mike Deane’s final season, and then got a lot better in Year 2. At Rhode Island, he took over a team that had a very down year after some good runs under Jim Baron, and had them in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1999. Now he’s working his magic at Connecticut, taking them to three straight NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006, and he capped that third season with their first Sweet 16/Elite Eight/Final Four/national championship since 2014. I think it’s reasonable to trust him to coach a very good and winning basketball team again next year, even with all the very important pieces that the Huskies are losing.

Do I 100% buy that they’re a national title contender right out of the gate? No, but also last season, UConn started the year at #60 in T-Rank’s estimation. If “mmmm, I don’t know if they’re even a tournament team” ended up at “they wrecked everyone not in the Big East and won a natty,” then we have to take this kind of preseason expectation seriously, right?

There might be more bumps in the road this time around. I don’t think they have anyone on the roster as reliable as Adama Sanogo and Andre Jackson were for the Huskies at this time last year. I don’t know if there’s anyone prepared to make a Jordan Hawkins type of jump from last year to next year. Maybe they don’t clobber everyone by 10-plus points in November and December, maybe they take a loss here and there, maybe the Big East does have a finger on the pulse of how Hurley coaches on both ends and they take losses in league play.

They’re still going to be a power to contend with this winter, and it certainly looks like UConn’s status as a Big East power going forward past that is written in stone, too.