Hunter to help bolster Huskies inside

10/24/2005 - Connecticut Huskies

Connecticut has made 12 consecutive Sweet 16 appearances, and this season should mark the Huskies' 13th straight trip.

After a down season in which the team lost to Stanford in the regional semifinals -- unacceptable by coach Geno Auriemma's standards -- it appears the Huskies have found what they needed. UConn lacked a true point guard last season and, in truth, has lacked a great one since Sue Bird graduated in 2002.

Finding a consistent point guard remains the biggest issue for the Huskies, who have eight freshmen and sophomores on the roster. Freshman Renee Montgomery will have every opportunity to win the starting point guard spot, but she likely will open the season behind sophomore Ketia Swanier. Montgomery was a McDonald's High School All-American and the Gatorade West Virginia High School Player of the Year.

Another freshman, Kalana Greene, likely will be the first guard off the bench. She is a lightning-quick scorer who could start if the Huskies play small.

Connecticut's best player is Ann Strother, who led the team in scoring last season. She is a deadly outside shooter, something that should only be helped by Montgomery's development.

The Huskies also have a potentially dominant front line. Barbara Turner, now free from her nagging injuries, complements Strother very well. She also provides important senior leadership.

Charde Houston, who was UConn's best player at times last season, is the leading returning rebounder on the team. She was named to the Big East All-Freshman team and led the Huskies in steals and blocks last season. Her continued development is critical to the team's success.

But Brittany Hunter is the biggest key to helping Auriemma's crew jump from good team to great team this season. A transfer from Duke, Hunter was the 2003 Parade National High School Player of the Year. She was having a magnificent freshman campaign at Duke before getting derailed by a knee injury. Hunter did not feel she was receiving proper medical attention from the Duke staff and transferred to Connecticut. If she is healthy, she can single-handedly take over a game.

One of Connecticut's many strengths this season is balanced scoring. With Strother, Turner, Houston and Hunter, there are four potential double-digit scorers. Another strength is defense. The Huskies ranked third in the country, allowing the opposition only 51.4 points per game. Jessica Moore -- the team's leading rebounder last season at 6.3 per game -- graduated, as did Ashley Battle, but the newcomers could make up for those losses. If Auriemma finds a point guard to run the team, UConn will have all the pieces in place.

Peter Newmann is the college basketball researcher for ESPN. He can be reached at peter.d.newmann@espn.com.