To help kick off the 2013-14 season the #TeamPSB Analysts take on some important topics of this young season. The second topic we had each contributor give your odds of Connecticut repeating as national champions in 2014 as well as make a case for the one team that could get in the way.
If Connecticut stays healthy I would make the Huskies heavy favorites to repeat. If I was setting the money line in Vegas I’d set it at +320 to start the season. As important as Kelly Faris was to making that team function, the emergence of Stewart and a backcourt that is another year smarter I think makes this team incredibly dangerous. Injuries could, of course, make a difference but this team has so many established impact players I expect the team to be able to plug any holes created. And we learned last season that losing to a team during the regular season does not mean it will happen again during the Dance.
On paper, Duke should be the biggest obstacle. The Blue Devil roster is deep and with a healthy Chelsea Gray to pair up with the electric Alexis Jones, they should have more than a punchers chance. Joanne P. McCallie has won three of the last four ACC Coach of the Year awards but for some reason Connecticut has been her kryptonite. The Huskies have beaten Duke in their regular January match up four straight times by an average score of 77-48. It is because of that dominance despite equal talent that I would put the odds in favor of UConn winning another title in 2014.
I would give Coach Geno Auriemma’s squad a 65 percent chance of repeating this year. The amount of firepower that it returns at each position is remarkable. I believe Breanna Stewart will have a chance to be an All-American this year, as a sophomore. Her versatile skill set makes it hard for teams to game plan against her. UConn simply has too many players who can make plays when you consider Stewart, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Bria Hartley are all players who can create their own shot.
If there is a team that I would put my money on beating the Huskies this year it would be the women from Stanford, despite the opening game loss. Chiney Ogwumike could be the most dominant inside presence in the country. If the Huskies have an Achilles heel, it could be on the glass. They may not have the athleticism to control the strength of Ogwumike on the offensive glass nor the post depth to give up fouls to her. Add in the style of play that Tara VanDerveer likes to implement on the offensive end, and the Cardinal are not likely to beat itself.
I give the Huskies a 75 percent chance of repeating.
Duke has a roster with enough pieces to compete with the Huskies. The Blue Devils have 13 players who were ELITE 60 caliber prospects in high school including nine postseason All-Americans. That amount of talent across the board should allow coach Joanne P. McCallie the chance guide Duke deep into the NCAA Tournament, if not win it all this season. She’s been to the final night of the season with Michigan State and is looking for another trip to bring home a title to Durham. Adding four ELITE 25 caliber freshman to the mix this year allows Duke to have a quality matchup for powerhouse teams like UConn at every position on the roster with the depth to withstand an injury or two along the way.
Based on percentages I’d give UConn an 80 percent chance of repeating.
To me Maryland and Duke are two of the biggest hurdles in their way. I really like Maryland’s team from Alyssa Thomas all the way through the roster. Last year they were decimated by injuries and with a full roster this season there is a chance they could have all of the pieces to make a national championship run. Duke is another team that is talented and deep. Their senior class has made it to three elite eights and with the help of sophomore guard Alexis Jones they should be a key factor come March. Both Maryland and Duke will match up against UConn during the regular season but unlike Maryland and Duke, UConn will hit a lull in competition during the league play that could create a false sense of security. A lot of blow outs could create bad habits and come tournament time a close game against a worthy opponent could prove lethal. This year it seems like it’s UConn’s title to win but a perfect storm could potentially have someone else dancing in Nashville.
Brandon Clay is the owner of the JumpOffPlus.com International Report, Peach State Basketball, Inc., and ProspectsNation.com. The JumpOffPlus.com is picked up by more than 200 colleges and universities nationwide. He serves as the Executive Camp Director for the Elite Basketball Academy Camps. Clay has been involved in the community since 2001. You can reach him at BrandonClay@PeachStateBasketball.com
Chris Hansen is the managing editor for ProspectsNation.com. In addition to serving as a contributor to the JumpOffPlus.com National Scouting Report, Hansen also covered girls’ basketball and women’s college basketball prospects nationally for ESPN.com. A graduate of the University of Washington with a communications degree, he has been involved in the women’s basketball community since 1998 as a high school and club coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. He is a member of the McDonald’s All-American team selection committee. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Jonathan Hemingway is the Assistant Director of Scouting for the JumpOffPlus.com. The service is used by more than 150 colleges and universities nationwide. He also serves on the selection committee for the EBA All-American, Fab Five and Super 64 Camps. He has been involved in the community since 2002 as a coach, camp director and evaluator. You can reach him via email at JonathanHemingway@PeachStateBasketball.com and follow him on twitter @JLHemingwayPSB
Keil Moore is the Director of Scouting for the JumpOffPlus.com International Scouting Report – a division of Peach State Basketball, Inc. Moore has been involved in the community since 2007 as a recruiting analyst and trainer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.