Jim Calhoun's Heart: He was coming off a National Championship season and had a team with the talent to defend their title, but his team stumbled midway through the season. Right during their worst stretch of the season, Calhoun found himself unable to move and eventually needed back surgery. While he was out for an extended period, his team wallowed in mediocrity and looked like the NCAA Tournament was a distant memory. He could’ve taken the season off. No one would’ve blamed him for it, but he didn’t. Days after his surgery, he came back to his team and showed that he truly cared, not about winning but about his team. They responded and played their best basketball in well over a month to solidify a berth in the Big Dance.
Ryan Boatright's Maturity: In pre-season practice and the Midnight Madness festivities, Boatright looked primed to be a major contributor on the team, but information that the NCAA had received about an airline ticket put a hold on his debut. He didn’t get frustrated and didn’t spout off to the media, but instead handled it with maturity. He was then cleared to play ball again and made an immediate impact, before the NCAA again was tipped off by an ex-boyfriend of Boatright’s mother and then leaked personal information that should’ve been kept in-house. Again Ryan displayed composure and let the process take its course. He he was finally cleared, he played a key role down the stretch of the season.
Alex Oriakhi's Leadership: Say what you want about his sub-par play or the twitter rant that he had earlier in the season when he was coming off the bench, but when things were at its worst, it was Oriakhi who called the team together and publicly said he would do whatever he had to do to get the team on track, be it start or come off the bench. As being the eldest on the squad, he needed to show that leadership and he stepped up and provided it.
Andre Drummond's Commitment: No one would hold it against Drummond to head into the NBA, especially with his projected lottery slot, but he would’ve been hovering around the same draft spot even if he didn’t head to Storrs. He wanted to taste the college life and even if the season didn’t go the way that he wanted, he has benefited greatly from the experience. He didn't have to choose UConn, in fact they didn't even have a scholarship for him available but he still choose to come. He started out offensively raw, but as the year went on, he began to find ways to use his athletic frame to get to the rim and even showed some post moves. There is no doubt that this year has helped his development for the next level.
Shabazz Napier's Will: While he tried to force things early on, from passes, shots, and to leadership. Down the stretch, he limited his turnovers, got to the lane, and was more aggressive. Not only that but he has developed a real kinship with Calhoun. It didn’t end the way that he wanted it to, but this year showed a ton of heart from this kid. During a stretch of the season, he was willing to change his entire offensive game to get Lamb the ball more. While it didn't lead to wins, it showed that he would sacrifice for the team.