STORRS, Conn. — Connecticut needed just one game to convince voters in The Associated Press poll that the Huskies are still a pretty good basketball team, despite losing a Hall of Fame coach and five underclassmen after last season.
UConn (1-0) moved into the Top 25 yesterday at No. 23, on the strength of its 66-62 win over Michigan State in Friday’s Armed Services Classic played at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
The team hadn’t been ranked since Jan. 23 and didn’t receive a single vote in the preseason poll. Guard Shabazz Napier said it’s a bit of validation for the Huskies, but not something they are excited about.
“We’re just trying to be the best team we can be, whether someone else likes us or not,” he said. “We know how good we can be, and we’re just going to strive for that.”
UConn was picked to finish ninth in the Big East after Jim Calhoun retired in September and was replaced by Kevin Ollie, a former Husky point guard who had no head coaching experience. The Huskies lost their two best players, Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb, to the NBA draft, and three other players transferred after the NCAA declared the Huskies academically ineligible for the 2013 postseason.
An NCAA ban does not disqualify a team from the AP poll.
“We’ve still got something to prove,” said guard Ryan Boatright. “Twenty-three ain’t nothing but a number next to your name, so we’re going to be the same UConn team that won that first Michigan State game.”
There wasn’t a lot of movement in the poll after the opening weekend of the 2012-13 college basketball season.
Led by Indiana and Louisville, the first seven teams in the initial regular-season poll were the same as the preseason Top 25. The Hoosiers (1-0) were again a solid No. 1, receiving 46 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel. Louisville (1-0) was No. 1 on 18 ballots.