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UConn Hoops: Projecting this season's starting lineup

Every year, there’s always some preseason controversy among teams. One of the biggest is who will start. Even with this UConn team, different analysts are saying varying things. Jon Rothstein projects Samson Johnson to start, while ESPN’s Jeff Borzelo doesn’t, instead replacing him with Virginia Tech Transfer Nahiem Alleyne. Today, I’ll take a look at the starting five that I think will be out there on day one with my reasoning and what they’ll bring to the table.

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PG: Tristen Newton, transfer from East Carolina 

Newton’s a pretty easy pick here, mainly because of his experience and success in the college basketball world. He’s played three seasons and has already eclipsed the 1,000 point mark. Although he wasn’t able to lead his East Carolina Pirates to much glory in the American, he’s going to have a chance now to be at the helm of a high-powered offense, using the skills he’s developed over the past few years to actually make a push at an NCAA tournament run.

Newton excels in all areas, posting 17, five and five last year, so it will be interesting to see where he decides to specialize. The team could certainly use another competent facilitator with the loss of R.J. Cole, but it’s also unknown how much passing burden Andre Jackson will take. As unclear as Newton’s role may be, he will definitely have a large one, projecting to be a full-season starter.

G: Nahiem Alleyne, transfer from VA Tech

Alleyne is the player most on the cusp here, as the sixth man or last starter depending on where you look. He had a solid career at Virginia Tech, but never proved to be a top option. He started 84 of his 90 career games as a Hokie, but never averaged more than 12 points. He doesn’t need to take on a considerably larger role with the Huskies, seeing as they’ve already got a pretty significant scoring punch, but keeping his three-point efficiency is a must. Without his shooting, it’s going to be hard to keep him in the starting lineup, given how much talent is on the bench.

A good role for Alleyne would be similar to Tyler Polley, mainly getting into a rhythm and hitting threes. With his track record so far, he seems like a perfect candidate for this role, as he’s kept his three point percentage over 37 his entire career.

G: Jordan Hawkins, sophomore

Hawkins is the person on the team who will have to take the biggest leap from last season to this one. In his freshman campaign, he managed just six points and two boards, a figure that will need to go up if he wants to fulfill his dreams of getting drafted to the NBA. He’s proven to be capable with a couple explosive games and hyper-athletic dunks, but he’ll need to be much more consistent this year. He has one of the prettiest shooting strokes in college basketball, but will need to hit better than 33% to reach his personal ceiling.

Although Hawkins isn’t in any danger of losing his spot among the starters, the biggest thing for him will be putting himself in position to hear his name called in June.

G/F: Andre Jackson, junior

The jump that Jackson needs to take isn’t crazy, rather he just needs to refine his game a bit in order to make a similar jump to Hawkins. As the most athletic player on the team and maybe in all of college basketball, the sky's the roof for Jackson. Despite all his talent though, Jackson only collected seven points and seven rebounds per game, much lower than what he’ll need to do this year. His improvement from his freshman to sophomore seasons was massive, tripling his three point percentage and his point totals, but he needs to do more.

Jackson has apparently been working on a new three point form that should be able to take him to the next level, but the truth to that is to be seen. He also needs to really keep being aggressive. We saw a more driven Jackson last year, but if he wants to go to the league, he’ll need to take it to another level. As is true with Hawkins, he can do anything he puts his mind to, but the question is: will he?

C: Adama Sanogo, junior

Sanogo needs to be the best player on the team for the entire season. Last year, we saw a Sanogo who was phenomenal for a large chunk of the year. He was putting up big time numbers, but saw his production gradually fall as time went on. Those 20 point, 10 rebound games became less and less as he lost his energy and couldn’t keep up energy-wise.

This year, if his conditioning is in a better spot, he’ll have a massive chance to be the best center in the nation. He was already top five last year, but as a returning player, this is a big opportunity for him. A big area he’ll need to grow on if he wants to become more attractive to NBA teams is in his shooting, which will take him to a whole new level. His starting spot is far from being in danger, but his draft stock is.

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