Columbia-UConn Preview

BY foxsports • November 11, 2011

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.

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