Not long after UConn’s opening-round NCAA Tournament loss to Maryland, coach Dan Hurley had already settled on an offseason theme: 45:07. In other words, the last 5:07 of a Big East tournament semifinals loss to Creighton, when the Huskies surrendered a five-point lead, and the entirety of a nine-point loss to the Terps.
Using that motivation and a relatively intact roster, UConn will be hoping to reach the next phase of its development under Hurley. Along with James Bouknight (off to the NBA), big man Josh Carlton and guard Brendan Adams will not return. Carlton transferred to Houston, while Adams moved on to George Washington. The coaching staff also underwent some changes, with assistant Kevin Freeman stepping down and Luke Murray taking his position. Strength coach Mike Rehfeldt also departed to return to Cincinnati.
Assuming no one else leaves, there are three open scholarships, but it’s unlikely all, if any, will be filled. So let’s take a look at who’s coming back, who’s coming in and get an idea of what to expect from everyone.
2020-21: Redshirt junior— 12.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 4.3 apg
After Bouknight’s departure, this can be Cole’s team to lead. He was a reliable commander this season, averaging more minutes and points than anyone besides Bouknight. Cole exited the Big East semis with a concussion but returned for the NCAA Tournament game. He wasn’t very good, putting up a combined 14 points despite playing 30 minutes in each game. Yet Cole’s absence was felt once he exited the loss to Creighton. The Huskies looked unsettled without him.
Cole initially struggled with playing complete games, and after the first 12 games, Hurley moved him to the bench. That lasted only two games and Cole was back in the starting five. Besides carrying over the leadership qualities Cole has worked on, he’ll need to keep playing the way that pushed Hurley to reinsert him into the starting lineup. He’ll be a key component of UConn’s quest to move past the first round of the tournament.