Defending National Champion UConn Basketball will look to begin their quest for a repeat against Northern Arizona, but what should we watch out for?
The defending National Champion No. 6 UConn Huskies have an early season tune-up game against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks of the Big Sky Conference. Fans of the Huskies will get the chance to watch this team play at Gampel Pavilion for the first time since this team went on that championship run so this will be a special night for those in attendance up in Storrs.
As for Northern Arizona, they finished last season with a 12-23 record, but they were able to make a bit of a run in their conference tournament, finishing as the runner-ups before falling to Montana State in the Big Sky Championship. This team will be looking to build upon that late-season run, and give one of the best teams in the nation the best run for their money they can muster.
The Lumberjacks lost three of its top scorers from last season and now has four freshman and nine returners coming in to put this squad together. This team will be a fairly new-look NAU team, so it will be interesting to see how they hold it together in quite a tough matchup to start the year.
UConn themselves also had some tough losses to bear as they head into a new season following their great run, losing wings Jordan Hawkins, Andre Jackson Jr., and superstar big Adama Sanogo to this year’s NBA Draft. They retooled and rearmed, however, adding in transfer Cam Spencer, who should have a major role, as well as bringing in one of the best recruits in the nation in Stephon Castle.
What is truly up in the air for this UConn team is the status of star center Donovan Clingan, who suffered a previous foot injury, his status will be revealed before game time. Clingan has returned to practice though, but they may sit him out for what should be a victory they can take handily without his help.
A player like Samson Johnson, who plays behind Clingan, can have a chance to emerge and put up a solid performance in UConn’s first nonconference matchup of the season. What makes this team great is having those pieces in their depth that can immediately plug in and create great production such as Johnson.
This game is a great opportunity for UConn to work in their new pieces, as well as test out some different lineups that Coach Dan Hurley will look to bring together. With or without Clingan, the Huskies will be expected to win this game by a good margin, but there is always a chance on any given day a team like the Lumberjacks can make something special happen.
UConn will look to begin their quest for a repeat at home as they celebrate their National Championship, while this squad from Northern Arizona will do their best to play spoiler, and continue to put this program on the map.