Adama Sanogo, UConn Huskies

The UConn Huskies will look to the Preseason Big East Player of the Year to carry them into March Madness for the third straight season.

 

CBB Review is once again ranking the top 100 teams heading into the 2022-23 season. Each day we will reveal the next team until we reach the team slotted at number one. Coming in ranked number 23 are the UConn Huskies.

This UConn Huskies team features two of the most prominent big men in the Big East – junior Adama Sanogo and intriguing freshman Donovan Clingan. But it’s also a Huskies squad blessed with multiple gifted swingmen that should compete for time with each other.

While Dan Hurley isn’t necessarily on the hot seat, the Huskies will look to make it out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament after two consecutive opening-round losses. They certainly have the roster to get that job done.

To those who have not, click here to learn more about our preseason top 100 teams in the 2022-23 college basketball season.

Head Coach: Dan Hurley (13th season overall, 5th season at UConn)

2021-22 Record: 23-10 (13-6)

2022 Postseason Finish: Lost in the first round of NCAA Tournament

Notable Departures: Akok Akok (Transfer/Georgetown), Isaiah Whaley (Pro), Jalen Gaffney (Transfer/FAU), R.J. Cole (Pro), Tyler Polley (Pro), Tyrese Martin (NBA/Atlanta)

Projected Rotation

PG: Tristen Newton (6-5, 190, Sr.)

2021-22 stats: 17.7 points, 5.0 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 87.9 FT% (East Carolina)

SG: Jordan Hawkins (6-5, 195, So.)

2021-22 stats: 5.8 points, 2.0 rebounds, 35.3 FG%

SF: Andre Jackson Jr. (6-6, 210, Jr.)

2021-22 stats: 6.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.2 steals, 36.1 3P%

PF: Adama Sanogo (6-9, 245, Jr.)

2021-22 stats: 14.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.9 blocks

C: Donovan Clingan (7-2, 265, Fr.)

247Sports Composite #52 overall ranked recruit

6: Nahiem Alleyne (6-4, 195, Sr.)

2021-22 stats: 9.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 37.3 3P%, 38.0 FG%, 85.2 FT% (Virginia Tech)

7: Hassan Diarra (6-2, 190, Jr.)

2021-22 stats: 6.2 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists (Texas A&M)

8: Samson Johnson (6-10, 215, So.)

2021-22 stats: 1.7 points, 1.1 rebounds, 5.2 minutes, 13 games played

9: Alex Karaban (6-8, 210, Rs.-Fr.)

247Sports Composite #95 overall ranked recruit (2021)

10: Joey Calcaterra (6-3, 180, Gr.-Sr.)

2021-22 stats: 8.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 34.7 3P%, 87.2 FT% (San Diego)

Team MVP: Adama Sanogo

One of the easiest Team MVPs of any team in our CBB Rank countdown, Adama Sanogo is quite literally the beast of the Big East.

At 6-9, 245 pounds, Sanogo fits the mold of a physical paint presence that brings toughness and grit to the conference that prides itself on those exact attributes. And Sanogo does it better than anyone in the conference. It’s one reason why he was named the Big East Preseason Player of the Year by the coaches and myself

It was clear that Sanogo had the potential to be great, after averaging over seven points and almost five rebounds a game as a freshman playing just 17 minutes per contest. However, not every player is able to take as giant a leap as he did, practically doubling his averages in both of those areas, and as a shot blocker. Mind you, he didn’t double his minutes – so there could be even more in store.

This season, Sanogo is expected to be one of the top bigs in the country and will anchor the UConn Huskies offensively and defensively.

Make-or-Break Player: Tristen Newton

If you know anything about the history of UConn Huskies basketball, playing the point guard position is a very big deal. So many great playmakers have made their way through Storrs, Connecticut, including Kemba Walker, Shabazz Napier, Taliek Brown, Tate George, and Khalid El-Amin just to name a few.

While UConn Huskies fans won’t be placing any amount of pressure to come near to their careers, he does come into a power conference after putting up some eye-popping numbers at East Carolina.

If Newton can transition from the AAC into the Big East without too many growing pains – which honestly shouldn’t be too tall of a task – then it turns this Huskies squad into a very complete team.

Analytic to Know: 2nd in blocks per game in 2021-22

If you plan on going up for a layup or dunk against the Huskies, you better wear your hard hat!

UConn blocked the second most shots per game last season (6.4) and returns their top shot blocker in Sanogo. Adding the 7-2 Clingan to the mix only means more trouble for opposing teams in the paint. 6-10 Johnson should see an increase in minutes and will also factor into a tough defense down low. Andre Jackson is another athlete who will contest and block shots. 

Simply put, the UConn Huskies won’t let you get any easy buckets inside.

Team Outlook

Despite losing a fair amount of pieces from last year’s 5-seed tournament squad, the UConn Huskies still return some important players and arguably brought in the best overall transfer class in the Big East. While teams like Creighton and Providence showcase some incredible transfer talent, the overall group of Newton, Alleyne, Diarra, and Calcaterra could prove to be the better overall bunch.

Pair that with key returners Sanogo, Jackson, and Hawkins, and you have an experienced group of players in a largely inexperienced Big East. 

It’ll be interesting to see how coach Hurley decides to use Clingan. Of course, Sanogo is a natural big man, so pairing him and Clingan down low at the same time would mean less spacing on the court. However, it would also lead to a virtually unguardable force down low, and with the talent at guard and on the wing, it might just work. Plus, Samson Johnson didn’t prove enough in year one that he can hold down the starting four spot. It might not be from day one, but the Sanogo-Clingan pairing seems inevitable at some point this season.

Lastly, there is a case to be made that Nahiem Alleyne should start over Jordan Hawkins. However, Hurley has been adamant that the Big East All-Freshman member Jordan Hawkins could be a first-round NBA Draft pick.

Of course, the Huskies will test themselves in the non-conference, playing Oregon in the first round of the Phil Knight Invitational. They would play either Alabama or Michigan State in the next round, with a final matchup against one of Iowa State/North Carolin/Portland/Villanova. Other key non-conference games include Florida, Oklahoma State, and Buffalo.

Based on the tough non-conference and an always grueling Big East slate, the UConn Huskies will have no shortage of opportunities to pick up Quadrant 1 and 2 wins. They should be right in the mix of things in the Big East and put themselves in play for another good seed in the NCAA Tournament. 

Projected Conference Finish: 3rd in the Big East

Projected Postseason Finish: NCAA Tournament Round of 32 Exit

Ceiling: NCAA Tournament Elite 8 Exit

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