- John Gasaway, ESPN Insider
The track record of defending national champions isn't very good lately, is it? Last year Duke sailed into the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed, only to lose in the Sweet 16 to Arizona. In 2010, North Carolina missed the tournament. In 2009, Kansas lost in the Sweet 16 to Michigan State. And in 2008, Florida went to the NIT. You have to go to 2007, the year Billy Donovan and the Gators won their second consecutive national title, to find a defending national champion that got past the Sweet 16.
Such ancient history bears repeating here because Connecticut at the moment certainly looks poised to continue this tradition. If anything, reaching the Sweet 16 might be a stretch. Ranked a lofty No. 4 nationally in the preseason, Jim Calhoun's team fell out of the Top 25 this week after losing three straight games. UConn is 4-4 in the Big East, 14-6 overall, and its chances of simply making the NCAA tournament are now a matter of speculation.
It wasn't supposed to be like this. Last August, when 6-foot-10 all-everything recruit Andre Drummond announced he was forgoing a year of prep school to enroll at Connecticut, the consensus was more or less unanimous: With Drummond in the fold and Jeremy Lamb returning for his sophomore season, the Huskies were a legitimate threat to defend their championship. Instead we've arrived at February to find Calhoun's team looking up at South Florida (South Florida!) in the Big East standings.
What in the world happened?
Connecticut is struggling, but why? John Gasaway peers under the hood and finds that turnovers and a lack of suffocating defense are holding the Huskies back. Without some improvements, it could short circuit any return to the Final Four.