UConn men move up to No. 5 in AP Top 25 poll; Stephon Castle 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, which were released Monday.

The 2-0 Huskies were No. 6 in the preseason AP poll and won their first two games of the season over Northern Arizona and Stonehill by a combined margin of 83 points, extending their nonconference winning streak to 19 games (all by double-digits).

After preseason No. 2 Duke fell to Arizona and preseason No. 4 Michigan State lost to James Madison, the new top five has Kansas remaining 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 the Golden Eagles, the Big East has Creighton ranked at No. 8 and Villanova at No. 21, with St. John’s also receiving votes.

UConn could play No. 19 Texas as its first ranked opponent should they both win (or lose) their first game of the Empire Classic on Nov. 19-20, which starts with UConn playing Indiana and Texas playing Louisville. The Huskies then have a road trip to No. 1 Kansas on Dec. 1, and will play No. 20 North Carolina at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 5. Then, rounding out a loaded nonconference 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 started in the first week of January. After losing six of eight, UConn finished its season winning 15 of its last 17, including the national championship game. The Huskies were ranked No. 10 in the final AP poll of the regular season ahead of the NCAA Tournament.

Castle claims first Big East Freshman of the Week nod; Karaban on honor roll

Stephon Castle, tabbed the Big East preseason player of the year, was named the conference’s freshman of the week after averaging 14.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists through UConn’s first two games. While shooting 66.7% from the field and 80% from the free throw line, Castle has also accumulated four steals and a block.

He stuffed the stat sheet in game two against Stonehill on Saturday, finishing with 17 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals while making 5 of 7 from the floor and 7 of 7 from the free throw line.

“Just getting that first game out the way, getting the first game jitters out the way and just playing basketball, playing our own game, I feel like that’s what’s going to push us going into the rest of the season,” Castle said Saturday. “It’s been good just practicing against these guys every day, it’s just building my confidence so when I go out there I know we’re playing against not as great of a team as ours.”

UConn was very familiar with the Big East weekly honor as Alex Karaban and Donovan Clingan combined to receive it eight times last season. Karaban’s performance through UConn’s first two games this year helped him earn a spot on the conference’s weekly honor roll.

The former unanimous Big East All-Freshman selection planning on making a jump in production this season, Karaban averaged 18.5 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 61.1% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. He posted a career-high 22 points in the season-opener against Northern Arizona.