Columbia-UConn Preview

Despite talk of possible retirement and some controversy which

led to a suspension, Jim Calhoun is set to help Connecticut try to

defend its national championship.

The Basketball Hall of Famer will see another banner raised to

the rafters Friday night before the fourth-ranked Huskies open

their season against Columbia at Gampel Pavilion.

Calhoun may have cemented his legacy as one of college

basketball’s greatest coaches when Connecticut beat Butler 53-41 in

the title game to earn his third championship.

There are also questions being raised about Calhoun’s legacy. He

was suspended for the first three games of Big East play due to

NCAA recruiting violations because the coach had failed to maintain

“an atmosphere of compliance.” Those infractions cost the Huskies a

scholarship this year, and the program lost another two because of

a poor APR, something that could make them ineligible for the 2013

NCAA tournament.

There were rumors that Calhoun may retire in part due to recent

health issues. He broke several ribs and had to be hospitalized

after falling during a charity cycling event in 2009, and is a

three-time cancer survivor, overcoming prostate cancer in 2003 and

skin cancer twice.

“I think there are still a couple things undone here that I

still want to do, which really aren’t 100 percent national

championship related,” Calhoun said. “I’m fortunate to do something

that when I’m in that classroom, the basketball arena, that I feel

really good about doing.”

The sanctions didn’t hurt Connecticut in getting the nation’s

No. 1 recruit, preseason Big East freshman of the year Andre

Drummond. The 6-foot-10 Drummond broke his nose in practice last

month, and will wear a mask in the early part of the season.

“It’s a lot more fast-paced,” said Drummond about playing for

UConn. “There are a lot more structured offenses. I’m used to just

running and gunning.”

Drummond is a big reason why Calhoun claims that this season’s

team is better than the one that just won the national

championship, even with star guard Kemba Walker moving on to the

NBA.

“We’ve got a few more answers,” Calhoun said. “We don’t have

one, a big one – a small one of that’s what you want to call it –

Kemba.”

Sophomore Shabazz Napier, who averaged 7.8 points as a freshman

in 2010-11, will start at point guard. He’s relishing the

expectations after the Huskies finished tied for ninth in the Big

East and 32-9 overall last season.

“It’s a weird feeling, because last year no one cared to watch

us besides our fans, but this year we have a lot of bandwagoners on

our tail now,” Napier said. “And it’s fine with me.”

Napier’s projected backup, freshman Ryan Boatright, is being

held out while the NCAA investigates his eligibility.

Sophomore swingman Jeremy Lamb was named to The Associated

Press’ preseason All-America team. Lamb averaged 15.3 points on

54.9 percent shooting during the Huskies’ 11-game run through the

Big East and NCAA tournaments.

Columbia is beginning its second season under coach Kyle Smith,

who guided the Lions to their first winning season in three with a

15-13 mark in 2010-11. Its 70.8 scoring average was Columbia’s

highest in 18 seasons.

The Lions return their starting backcourt of Noruwa Agho, who

led the Ivy League with 16.8 points per game last season, and Brian

Barbour.

“We feel like we have one of the best backcourts in the league

with Barbour and Agho,” Smith told Columbia’s official website.

UConn leads the series, 6-2. These teams have not met since

1983.