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October 25, 2009

Top 347 countdown
No. 12 Connecticut
Coach: Jim Calhoun (24th season).
Last season's record: 31-5 overall, 15-3 in Big East (tied for second in league).
Postseason: Lost in Final Four of NCAA tournament to Michigan State.
Final regular-season RPI: 8th.
Last time didn't make NCAA field: 2007.
Returning starters: 1.

OVERVIEW

After spending the previous two weeks hinting at retirement, Jim Calhoun announced at the Final Four that his career at Connecticut was far from finished. "I'm not going anywhere," he said. Calhoun later admitted his decision may have been different had the Huskies defeated Michigan State in the semifinals and gone on to win the title. Instead, he's looking forward to reshaping a team that lost four starters, including Jeff Adrien, A.J. Price and No. 2 overall draft pick Hasheem Thabeet. Most programs would need a year or two to recover from so many departures, but that won't be the case at Connecticut, which once again should be one of the top teams in the Big East.

Stanley Robinson averaged 17 points and 9.3 rebounds over his final six games.

PROJECTED STARTERS
C Alex Oriakhi, 6-9/240, Fr.
F Gavin Edwards, 6-10/230, Sr.
F Stanley Robinson, 6-9/220, Sr.
G Jerome Dyson, 6-4/190, Sr.
G Kemba Walker, 6-1/172, Soph.
KEY RESERVES
C Charles Okwandu, 7-0/255, Jr.
F Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, 6-7/210, Fr.
F Ater Majok, 6-11/233, Fr.
G Darius Smith, 6-1/168, Fr.
G Jamaal Trice, 6-5/220, Fr.

FRONTCOURT

No Huskies player performed better down the stretch last season than Stanley Robinson, who averaged 17 points and 9.3 rebounds over his final six games. Robinson could be a first-round NBA draft pick if he performs that way as a senior. He'll need some help from his teammates, though, in order to avoid the double-teams that could limit his production. Connecticut is high on incoming freshman Alex Oriakhi, who is expected to start in the paint along with Robinson and either Gavin Edwards or Ater Majok. Edwards is a senior who never has averaged more than 3.8 points. Majok -- who won't be eligible until the second semester -- is a freshman who sat out last season before entering the NBA draft; he later withdrew and opted to stay in school. Also in the mix is Charles Okwandu, who was academically ineligible for the second semester last season.

BACKCOURT

Connecticut lost one of the top crunch-time players in college basketball in Price, who led the team in scoring (14.7) and assists (4.7) last season. Still, the cupboard is far from bare. Kemba Walker displayed flashes of brilliance as a freshman -- including a 23-point effort in an Elite Eight win over Missouri -- and should blossom in a starting role. Also back is Jerome Dyson, an All-Big East candidate who missed the final 12 games last season with a knee injury. Dyson was averaging 13.2 points before he was hurt. Along with the loss of Price's leadership, the problem with Connecticut's backcourt is that it lacks depth --- or at least experienced depth. Point guard Darius Smith is a tough-minded freshman from Chicago who should see plenty of minutes.

OUTLOOK

Despite the mass exodus of last season's stars, Calhoun, 67, seems genuinely excited about the 2009-10 Huskies. It's easy to see that UConn has the talent to put together an impressive run. The biggest question marks are the intangibles -- the leadership and chemistry -- that made last season's team such a success.

More Rivals.com 2009-10 Preseason 347 Countdown

Preseason rankings were compiled by basketball writers David Fox, Mike Huguenin, Jason King and Steve Megargee.



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