Starting lineup prediction, bench rotation, depth outlook for 2023-24

UConn is losing key pieces from its national-title winning team such as Jordan Hawkins, Andre Jackson and Adama Sanogo, but don’t fall into the trap of calling the 2023-24 season a rebuilding year for the Huskies. With several key contributors from last season back and poised to thrive in bigger roles, coach Dan Hurley’s squad is likely to compete on the national stage yet again.

The arrival of the nation’s No. 6 signing class, headlined by five-star guard Stephon Castle, and the inbound transfer of elite 3-point shooter Cam Spencer also provide reason for optimism that there won’t be a significant drop-off for the Huskies.

Returning to anchor the 2023-24 squad are fifth-year senior point guard Tristen Newton, redshirt sophomore power forward Alex Karaban and sophomore center Donovan Clingan. Of the trio, Clingan is poised for the most-significant breakout after outperforming his No. 73 overall prospect ranking as a true freshman while backing up Sanogo.

One particularly interesting wild card on the Huskies’ roster is Samson Johnson, a third-year member of the program who was on track for a key role last season prior to an early-season injury. Hurley has been high on Johnson since before his arrival, and he could provide a spark for UConn in the front court in the season ahead.

As college basketball’s offseason player movement cycle slows to a trickle, it’s time to start breaking down the rosters of the sport’s top programs. For this installment, we’re taking a look at UConn and trying to decipher what the Huskies’ lineup could look like when the season begins.

The reigning national champion UConn Huskies are bringing back one of the best big men in the country and a few more pieces. So, where does this team fall in the overall hierarchy for title contenders for 2024, and is UConn even the favorite in the Big East? Matt Norlander and Gary Parrish elaborate on the challenging climb ahead for the Huskies, including a history lesson on how the program has done the year after winning it all. Subscribe to Eye on College Basketball, which is available available for free on the Audacy app as well as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and wherever else you listen to podcasts.

Projected starting lineup

  1. Tristen Newton
    6-5 | 190 | Sr.

Newton caught some flack early last season for not being a “true point guard” after arriving as a transfer from East Carolina, where he served as the Pirates’ primary scoring option. But he got better as the season went along and capped it off with a 19-point, 10-rebound performance in the national title game. He finished last season averaging 4.7 assists and should again be a key piece of the Huskies’ rotation.

  1. Cam Spencer
    6-4 | 207 | Sr.

Spencer entered the portal in May after leading Rutgers in scoring with 13.2 points per game on 43.4% shooting from 3-point range in his lone season with the Scarlet Knights. Including three seasons at Loyola-Maryland, he’s a career 40.5% 3-point shooter. Replacing the perimeter marksmanship of Hawkins won’t be easy, but Spencer’s late addition to the roster gives the Huskies a great outside shooting option.

  1. Stephon Castle
    6-6 | 205 | Fr.

Castle landed at No. 7 in Kyle Boone’s early 2024 NBA mock draft after ranking as the No. 7 prospect in the Class of 2023, according to 247Sports. Those are some lofty expectations, but the McDonald’s All-American is a big combo guard with all the physical tools necessary to deliver on the hype. From a skill standpoint, his shot is a work in progress, which means that fans should cool their expectations for what Castle might contribute offensively.

  1. Alex Karaban
    6-8 | 210 | R-So.

Karaban exceeded expectations as a redshirt freshman, stepping into the starting lineup for the season’s second game and never relinquishing the role. He hit 40.2% of his 3-point attempts on 4.2 tries per game and also proved to be a trustworthy defender, even when switched onto smaller guards. His versatility on both ends of the floor makes him the perfect stretch power forward in the modern game and explains how he landed as a projected first-round pick in Boone’s 2024 NBA mock draft.

  1. Donovan Clingan
    7-2 | 265 | So.

The only reason Clingan didn’t play a starring role for the Huskies as a true freshman was because Sanogo, the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, played the same position. With Sanogo now in the NBA, the path is clear for Clingan to become one of the most dominant centers in college basketball. He averaged a whopping 1.8 blocks in just 13.1 minutes per game and averaged 6.9 points on 65.5% shooting. If he can stay out of foul trouble and maintain his conditioning, Clingan could be a walking double-double and elite rim protector worthy of All-American consideration.

Donovan Clingan getting some 3s off

— Joe Arruda (@joearruda9) July 29, 2023
Samson Johnson
6-10 | 215 | Jr.
Johnson started the season opener last year before a foot injury derailed his sophomore campaign. The former four-star prospect can play either position in the front court and should finally get a chance to show what he can contribute in his third season with the program.

Hassan Diarra
6-2 | 190 | Sr.
Diarra is an excellent perimeter defender, but that wasn’t enough to keep him prominently featured in the rotation during the NCAA Tournament last season. Still, the former Texas A&M guard appeared in 36 games for the Huskies and should factor into the bench equation once again, especially if he can improve upon last season’s lackluster offensive metrics.

Solomon Ball
6-3 | 185 | Fr.
Ball finished the 2023 recruiting cycle ranked No. 41 nationally by 247Sports, making him the lesser-heralded of the program’s two freshmen guards. But while Castle could be a one-and-done rental, Ball has the makings of a long-term contributor. With elite athleticism, a reported 6-10 wingspan and a reputation for prolific scoring, he’ll also have the chance to earn an early role.

Jaylin Stewart
6-7 | 210 | Fr.
Stewart ranked as the No. 53 freshman in the class, and Hurley is optimistic about his offensive repertoire. “He has an awesome blend of size, strength and skill for a perimeter player,” Hurley said. “He is a natural basketball player with an elevated feel for the game and we feel he has the potential to be a star.”

Jayden Ross
6-7 | 180 | Fr.
Ross ranked as the No. 108 prospect in the class. Hurley described him as “an explosive athlete, a big wing who can really use his shooting as a weapon on the offensive end.”

Apostolos Roumoglou | 6-7 | 200 | So.
Youssouf Singare | 7-0 | 225 | Fr.

A late addition to UConn’s 2022-23 roster from Greece, Roumoglou remains somewhat of a mystery after only logging garbage minutes last season. But it’s conceivable that he could find his way into the mix after a season of acclimating to college basketball. Singare ranked as the No. 134 prospect in the class and holds promise as a rim protector. But minutes could be hard to find behind Clingan and Johnson this season.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *