For the first time since 1969, UConn had already lost eight games by Jan. 1. This coming on the heels of a 25-win season in 2016 and still just three years removed from a national title. Kevin Ollie brought the Huskies into this season as the favorite to win the American Athletic Conference, but at the start of the calendar year they were a bottom tier team in a league that will only give out a couple NCAA Tournament bids. 

Season-ending injuries for Alterique Gilbert and VCU transfer Terry Larrier will keep UConn from ever becoming the team that many experts picked to win the league, but there’s still a chance they could play their way into the tournament. A backs-against-the-wall, win-to-stay-alive UConn team is something to root for, because the “Hungry Huskies” on a hot streak is one of the most entertaining stories in college hoops. 

UConn has won seven of its last eight games, including three straight by three points or less. The last two wins, against Memphis and Temple, included furious comebacks from double-digit deficits. The energy around the program is buzzing, but the real challenge lies ahead. In order to make the NCAA Tournament, the Huskies need quality wins and can afford no more than one or two losses. 

The automatic bid for the American Athletic Conference tournament champion will be the final shot at another magical March for UConn, but the next four games will reveal where they stand among the league’s top tier. 

While the Huskies have played their way into a tie for third place in the league standings, they’ve done so with no games against top-100 teams in the RPI -- UConn, for the record, currently sits at No. 102. The only three AAC teams with top-100 RPI ratings are on the remaining regular season schedule. 




Feb. 22

at Houston


Feb. 25



March 1

at ECU


March 5



Jalen Adams can be UConn’s Kemba Walker or Shabazz Napier 

Each of the last two March runs have featured a game-changing guard leading the way and Adams, just a sophomore but looked as seasoned as ever, seems ready for the task. Adams took over in the final minutes against both Memphis and Temple, scoring 17 second-half points against the Tigers and dropping in the game-winning layup with 2.9 seconds left against the Owls. 


Adams is a top-five assist man in the country (6.6 per game) and is averaging 12.8 points and 7.5 rebounds in conference play. Kevin Ollie calls Adams the team’s “best player” and the offense flows through him in any game’s biggest moments. 

“I think I learned a lot this year and I’m a lot more coachable,” Adams told reporters after the win at Temple. “[Ollie] just gives me the fredom to go out there and lead the guys. And I try to take advantage of that.”  

The key number: 14 losses 

The most losses any at-large team in the tournament ever had is 14. It hasn’t happened since 2011, when five 14-loss teams made the tournament, but in a year where the power conferences will be dominating the field there could be a chance for another 14-loss team to crash this soft bubble. 

But at the moment, UConn’s chances of obtaining an at-large bid don’t look great. The best win on its resume is a neutral court win against Syracuse in early December and that early season schedule also includes bad losses to Wagner, Northeastern and Tulsa. As you can see above, the American is getting no help from the RPI but there is at least the chance to knock off top teams at home in the next two weeks. 

The likelihood of an at-large bid lies not only in beating Cincinnati and SMU before the tournament but knocking off at least one of those teams in the tournament. Those wins will make UConn’s current run look better on paper, representing a team that has turned the corner since losing key players to injury. There’s no margin for error and a lot of work left for the Huskies at 14-12, but at least the biggest games of the year will be in their backyard. 

The X(L)-factor: The XL Center

Step into the college basketball storybook world, where everything is magical and makes for compelling theater: UConn, needing three wins in three days, jumps on the back of its charismatic play-making point guard and rides an improbable run into the NCAA Tournament. 

It doesn’t seem that crazy because we’ve seen it before, and it doesn’t seem that crazy in 2017 because the American Athletic Conference will be hosted in Hartford and held in the XL Center. UConn can move into solo third place with a win at Houston on Wednesday (9 p.m., CBS Sports Network) and needs just a top-five seed to get a bye to the quarterfinals. The hometown fans will pack the building if an NCAA Tournament is in reach, and the high-energy environment could be enough to carry UConn, and Kevin Ollie, out of the depths of a lost season with another memorable run.