UConn men move to No. 5 in AP Top 25 poll; Stephon Castle was named Big East Freshman of the Week
UConn men’s basketball moved up one spot to No. 5 in the first Associated Press rankings of the regular season, released Monday.
The 2-0 Huskies were ranked sixth in the AP preseason poll and won their first two games of the season over Northern Arizona and Stonehill by a combined margin of 83 points, extending their non-conference winning streak to 19 games (all by double digits). ).
After No. 2 Duke’s preseason fall to Arizona and No. 4 Michigan State’s preseason loss to James Madison, Kansas remains in the new top five at No. 1, followed by No. 2 Purdue and No. 3 Arizona with Big East foes Marquette and UConn at No. 4 and 5.
In addition to the Huskies and Golden Eagles, the Big East’s Creighton ranked eighth and Villanova ranked 21st, and St. John’s also received votes.
UConn could play No. 19 Texas as its top-seeded opponent if they win (or lose) their first matchup in the Empire Classic on Nov. 19-20, which begins with UConn playing Indiana and Texas playing Louisville. The Huskies next take a road trip to No. 1 Kansas on Dec. 1, and they will play No. 20 North Carolina at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 5. Then, completing a packed non-conference schedule, UConn flies across the country to meet No. 11 Gonzaga at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle on Dec. 15.
UConn was ranked in the top five for five weeks last season in early December until the Huskies’ losing skid began in the first week of January. After losing six of eight, UConn finished its season by winning 15 of its last 17 games, including the national championship game. The Huskies were ranked No. 10 in the final AP regular-season poll before the NCAA Tournament.
Castle earned her first Big East Freshman of the Week nod; Karaban is on the honor roll
Stephon Castle, who was named Big East Player of the Week before the season, was named the conference’s Rookie of the Week after averaging 14.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists over UConn’s first two games. While shooting 66.7% from the field and 80% from the free throw line, Castle also compiled four steals and a block.
He stuffed the stat sheet in Game 2 against Stonehill on Saturday, finishing with 17 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals while going 5-of-7 from the floor and 7-of-7 from the free throw line.
“Just finishing that first game, getting the jitters out of the first game, playing basketball, playing our own game, I feel like that’s what’s going to propel us into the rest of the season,” Castle said Saturday. “It’s been good to practice against those guys every day, it’s just building my confidence, so when I go out there I know we’re playing against a team that’s not as great as ours.”
UConn was very familiar with Big East weekly honors as Alex Karaban and Donovan Clingan combined to claim it eight times last season. Karaban’s performance during UConn’s first two games this year helped him earn a spot on the conference’s weekly honor roll.
The former consensus Big East All-Freshman selection was projecting a jump in production this season, as Karaban averaged 18.5 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 61.1% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. He scored a career-high 22 points in the season opener against Northern Arizona.
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