Mailbag 3/17: How Will New League Affiliation Impact UConn Recruiting

by Categorized: Big East, Kevin Ollie, Mailbag, UConn men's basketball


Q: Dom, I may be asking too much, but can you address the issue on how difficult it  will be for recruiting because of the conference alignment. I hope I I’m wrong but my instinct tells me we may not be able to compete (with) the major conferences for the elite players.



A: Well, Frankie, it’s not too much to ask, but there are only so many ways to say it. … Yes, recruiting is going to be more difficult if UConn remains in this yet-to-be-named league with this new slate of opponents. No way around it.

For many years, UConn has played in a league that was one of the best, and often the best, in the country. Important Big East games, and its league tournament, got the lion’s share of national exposure and recruits all over the country saw that. Jim Calhoun, as he told Michael Kay on YES Network’s Center Stage a while back, got recruits to come and play in the middle of nowhere because the league was a destination.

Now, the league is the middle of nowhere – so the school has to be the destination.

On Friday, UConn had Tyus Battle from New Jersey, who could become one of the top recruits in the Class of 2016, on campus for an unofficial visit, so UConn’s staff is still competing, at least, for the best of the best.

The question is, can UConn overcome the disadvantages. Kevin Ollie and his staff will have to overcome them will energy, “elbow grease” and recruiting skills; the new facilities will help; and for a time the image of UConn successes of the last 12 years will still be in recruits’ minds. That will fade, though. In a few short years, UConn will be recruiting kids with no memory of their championships.

But we’re in an era where even mid-majors compete for championships, because they get players who stay four years. We’re in an era where there are a lot of good players out there, so if you get the right ones – regardless of where someone has ranked them – you can coach them up and succeed.

So UConn’s recruiting future is going to be what Kevin Ollie makes of it. There’s no denying it is going to be much more challenging, given UConn’s present circumstances. But as Ollie has said on this, “there is always going to be something.”

Back in December, before Ollie got his extension, I spoke with Paul Biancardi, recruiting guru at ESPN, for a story we did as a staff on Dec. 15th. Here was Paul’s take:

“”Two basic questions every kid has are, ‘What league am I going to play in?’ and ‘Who is going to coach me?’ … Then comes style of play and how he would be utilized …

“When UConn was in the Yankee Conference, they were in ‘no-man’s land’ then. They didn’t have championships, they didn’t have swag. They joined the Big East, and they hired a young coach from Northeastern and it took Jim Calhoun how many years to build that brand? … They had a brand, with the Big East, and now it’s blown up.”

 “Tradition is part of the equation.Right now, the one thing UConn has to sell is its tradition, and who better to sell that tradition than someone [in Kevin Ollie] who has been part of it?”

Here is that full story from 12/15/12.

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26 thoughts on “Mailbag 3/17: How Will New League Affiliation Impact UConn Recruiting

  1. John

    While i agree with the overall statement, maybe it’s just me but aren’t Memphis, and Temple decent hoop programs. Memphis (although most of their success is based probably on Coach Cal)made it to the Tourney this Year and Temple had a pretty good run with John Chaney a couple of years back and i think is poised to make it in. SMU has Larry Brown as the Head Coach.

    1. UConnJack

      John, you hit it right on the head with the word “decent”. Do Memphis and Temple compare with the likes of Syracuse, Pitt, Notre Dame, Georgetown, etc. as a steady diet? And how about a venue for the conference tournament? Does the XL Center compare favorably to MSG? These are the questions that have to be answered in order to fully appreciate how difficult it will be for UConn to survive and compete until another major conference, hopefully, comes calling. Each year of existence in the no-name league assists in helping the athletic programs to regress in both appeal and, thus, competitiveness. One only has to look to Temple to appreciate this fact. Having been kicked out of the Big East several years ago, Temple languished in the A-10 only to jump at the chance to get back into the Big East even though it was already unraveling at the seams.

  2. Hip Hop Hood

    This conference we’re in (whatever it will be called) has dropped beneath the A10. They have a better venue for their tourney, better overall conference, and higher profile teams. UCONN has been left behind.

    1. UCONNFB

      Behind the A 10? How does that make sense?
      The league UCONN will play in next season has Louisville (one more year), Memphis, Temple, Cinn, (all NCAA tournament teams presently) as well as a rejuvenated UCONN. Five solid tournament teams at minimum. How many A 10 teams will have a chance to make the tournament next year? VCU and St. Louis?
      Nice that they played their Conf Tournament in a new arena this year. Lots of fans showed up dressed like empty seats though.
      Conference alignment for UCONN not good at present, but with all the shifting of schools there will be many “weak conferences” next year. That Catholic Seven league tournament with DePaul, Seton Hall, St Johns and Xavier will be a real snoozer.

    2. Mike McManus

      Do you ever…ever have anything to say that’s positive or do you comment only to irritate?

  3. Mark

    Kids will come to UConn to play for KO regardless of the league they play in.

  4. revkev

    I think this is the wrong discussion – we don’t have a clue what league UConn is recruiting towards. We have three guys who seem to fit coming in. Assuming guys stay and they would be crazy not to we will have enough of a schedule and a league and a team to succeed next season – succeed next season and UConn remains on the map hoops wise – By then who knows what league we will be going to – if its this new one without Louisville – then we have a problem.

    Let’s wait until then thogh.

  5. Aaron

    He/She/It intends to irritate. That is why the best course of action is to act like you never saw the post. Reactions fuel someone like that.

  6. JD

    UCONN will be fine in Basketball. This Program is going to continue to prosper especially with the new facilities.
    People are over playing the conference thing. Beef up the Non-Conference schedule and win the games.
    As for Football I think we all should be a little worried, b/c with out a top tier conference our Program will be left behind. But then again, If you win games you don’t have to worry about these things.

  7. John

    Stop crying. The optimal word is they are NOT dancing this year. Lived in Ct for a time the world does not end in UCONN. Sanctions do not get put on good programs. The best UCONN program belongs to Gino! By the way I see the Cats are #9 Go Cats bye Huskies clean up your program.

    1. Midtown Pete

      I take it you are a ‘Nova fan? Have you forgotten that your “clean” program was on probation for recruting violations about ten years ago.

      1. John

        No there was also a phone scandal more recently. Remember it well. But we took it in stride. Do something wrong you get punished.We did not cry and what if about it. That’s how the big boys play.So just get over it and take your program to your new conference. I also remember MOO U. Kinda still looks and acts that way to me.

        1. Paul

          Yeah the phone call scandal which now would not even be a penalty. The NCAA changed the rules because it didnt make sense.

    2. UCONNFB

      Remind me, how many National Championships has Jay Wright won? Not 1998, 2004 or 2011!
      The obvious answer is ZERO!

  8. chris

    Villanova = big boys. Not since Kerry Kittles John. You may kiss Jimmy’s rings now.

  9. george syms

    I can tell you this much. UMASS will be in the top 25 next year. Wish they would get lured into the same conference as UCONN. A-10 is a good league and getting better.

  10. Marcus

    Did I just read a reference to Villanova as “how the big boys play?” Villanova. Big boys? Bailed out by the “Catholic 7″ and that vaults these one-timers to “big boy” status? Not in this world, little boy.

  11. Chucky

    I wonder if this new league could get back into MSG when the Catholic 7 have 16000 empty seats and unsold tickets at MSG. MSG was largely a success because of the seats filled by UCONN and Syracuse. The Catholic 7 sold a large percentage of their tickets to UCONN and Syracuse fans via $200 fan club memberships to these outsiders (A friend of mine has done that for years) and gotten good seats at MSG for the tourney (he is a UCONN fan).Those schools are going to lose those ticket sales so a school like Marquette and DePaul will get 1200 ticket allotment to the tourney and only sell 100 tickets will be taking it on the chin now. We will see what happens going forward.

  12. Paul

    I think everyone needs to settle down. At the end of the day Uconn will end up in a major conference. the only reason the ACC took Louisville of Uconn this time around is Louisville wasnt going to be around the next time the ACC was looking to add teams. Uconn has too big of a TV market and draw not to end up in a major conference. My guess is they will end up in the ACC.

  13. Lock City Husky

    The Hartford-New Haven TV market (rank 30) is the largest in the country without a professional sports team. Believe it or not, but it’s larger than pro markets like Kansas City, Columbus OH, Salt Lake City, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Memphis, Jacksonville, Buffalo and New Orleans. This rank does not include CT’s largest county, Fairfield, which is part of the NYC TV market.

    1. teo

      Valid points.

      The problem with all of this is that UConn is sort of like Temple. For decades Temple wanted to join the Big East. But Nova and some of the other schools wondered what they would bring.

      Now Temple is joining because everyone is leaving. Temple will be a nice addition — just like UConn will be a nice addition to the ACC when North Carolina or Clemson departs.

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