Today, colleague Mark Schlabach takes a look at the pressures of being the "hot" team. You know, the ones the wise guys say will be the breakout club, the sleeper that everyone seems to be awake on. Who qualifies for that title in the Big East for 2010?
Pittsburgh is the preseason favorite, but the Panthers won 10 games a year ago and were the preseason pick last year as well. They're not a "hot" team so much as a known commodity. Can't be Cincinnati, which is the two-time defending champ, or West Virginia, which has had too much success to be considered a flavor of the month.
So that brings us to: the Connecticut Huskies. Buzz has been steadily building all offseason about UConn. I've been pumping the Huskies as a Top 25 team and a potential Big East title contender. They even got their first-ever first-place vote in the league's preseason media poll, finishing in their highest spot in those rankings (fourth).
Here are some reasons why UConn should be considered the "hot" team, and some reasons why not:
Why: Connecticut won its final four games last season, culminating with a double-digit victory against South Carolina in the Papajohns.com Bowl. The Huskies lost their five games last season by a total of 15 points. They bring back 16 starters, are deep at every spot and get Cincinnati, West Virginia and Pittsburgh in East Hartford this season. The offensive line is fantastic, Jordan Todman is a proven 1,000-yard rusher and Zach Frazer has improved at quarterback.
Why not: UConn's finishing kick last season began with a win against a mediocre Notre Dame and then included wins against Syracuse and South Florida at home, the latter of which came in the snow. South Carolina might be in the SEC, but would never be confused with a world-beater. The Huskies had the worst passing defense in the league last season and still had problems with the secondary this spring. They've never beaten West Virginia. They lost a 1,000-yard rusher (Andre Dixon) and their best receiver (Marcus Easley) and Frazer has been erratic in his career.
I've made it known that I believe in UConn. Do you believe the Huskies deserve to be the "hot" team, or is that talk just a lot of hot air?