With no postseason, the Huskies' goal for 2012-13 is more abstract — to stay relevant. They could easily have fallen off the map, but by playing intense, interesting basketball and pulling off a few surprises, they have achieved that much already. Coast to coast, UConn still matters.
Here's a look at 20 things, good and bad, from the first half of the season:
Best game: Michigan State, Nov. 9, no doubt. It's still the season-opener, at Ramstein Air Base with the nation watching Kevin Ollie's debut. The 66-62 win over the 14th-ranked Spartans set the tone and the Huskies still profit from the confidence gained there.
Worst game: New Hampshire, Nov. 29. You can't fault UConn for losing to Louisville. But the worst they've looked was that sluggish 61-53 win over New Hampshire at the XL Center.
Best performance: Shabazz Napier's 29 points in the two OT win over Quinnipiac in the Virgin Islands on Nov. 18. Almost singlehandedly he brought the Huskies back from 10 points down, scoring 23 over the last 14 minutes.
Most valuable player: Shabazz Napier. He has had ups and downs, long periods without scoring, but his all-around game has been most impressive.
Weakest opponent: Maryland-Eastern Shore. UConn won by 34 on Dec. 17, and it could have been more.
Strongest opponent: Louisville, of course. The No. 1 Cardinals were the only team to dominate UConn over a significant stretch.
Most improved player: DeAndre Daniels. He still needs consistency, but with his 23-point game against Harvard and a 26-point game against DePaul, he has shown how good he can be.
Most disappointing: Omar Calhoun. The freshman is measured against high expectations. He has shown flashes. Perhaps his 20-point game against Louisville represents a breakthrough.
Best performance by an opponent: Russ Smith, Louisville. He scored 23 points on Jan. 14, and UConn just could not do a thing with him.
Best coaching move: Going to Tyler Olander at Notre Dame on Jan. 12. Ollie recognized a favorable matchup and the Huskies began pounding it inside, something they don't usually do, and Olander responded.
Best play: Ryan Boatright's alley-oop. Still fresh in the mind, the Napier-to-Boatright alley-oop and dunk at Notre Dame quieted the crowd and made SportsCenter.
Best defensive shutdown: On Washington's C.J. Wilcox, who had been averaging 19.6 points, but UConn's guards held him to six on Dec. 29.
Best off-the-court news: Kevin Ollie's contract. Finalized on Dec. 29 before the game against Washington, it gave UConn's program much-needed stability and was met with near unanimous approval.
Worst off-the-court news: The ACC decision. The departure of the seven Catholic schools from the Big East wouldn't have mattered if UConn, and not Louisville, was going to replace Maryland in the ACC.
Best recruiting news: Amida Brimah. The 6-11 center who committed this past week was the first who closed during the Ollie era, and it gives UConn two big men going into next year.
Worst recruiting news: Brandon Austin. UConn had high hopes of landing the guard from Philly, but he chose Providence.
Best chance for second-half upside: Freshman Phil Nolan has not played much, but keeps working at it and perhaps could see more opportunities.
Best game coming up: Syracuse. In its last Big East go-round, the Orange come to the XL Center on Feb. 13.
Most memorable quote: Kevin Ollie, Sept. 13. What else can it be? "We're going to take the stairs. Escalators are for cowards."