MEMPHIS, Tenn. - There is little doubt the UConn menâ€™s basketball teamâ€™s season could have turned out differently.
Thereâ€™s still time for the Huskiesâ€™ to write the final chapter of their 2018-19 campaign, but itâ€™s clear injuries to its key players have already made significant adjustments to the script.
â€śIt derailed their season,â€ť South Florida coach Brian Gregory, whose Bulls take on UConn on Thursday, said of injuries to Jalen Adams and Alterique Gilbert.
Gregory also is a little on edge as the Huskies may finally be getting healthy.
â€śWith Jalen Adams back, theyâ€™re as good as anyone around,â€ť Gregory said.
Ninth-seeded UConn faces eighth-seeded South Florida at FedEx Forum (1 p.m., ESPNU) in the opening game of the American Athletic Conference Tournament on Thursday.
Adams, who returned from a knee injury over the weekend to help UConn (15-16) finish the regular season with a win over East Carolina, will play this week. Gilbert, who suffered a concussion and eye injury last week in a loss to Temple, is unlikely to suit up Thursday.
The winner of Thursdayâ€™s game between the Huskies and Bulls will face top-seeded Houston in the quarterfinals Friday.
But whether the Huskies get there, UConn coach Dan Hurley was glad to see Adams return before his senior season ended.
â€śItâ€™s great to see him back out there finishing his career in a UConn uniform,â€ť Hurley said.
It has seemingly given the Huskies a shot of confidence as they try to do the seemingly impossible this week in Memphis.
â€śThe teamâ€™s in a pretty good state of mind going in,â€ť Hurley said. â€śIâ€™m excited to see what Jalen and the guys can do this week.â€ť
Gregory, for one, is impressed with what Hurley has done in his first year in Storrs.
â€śI think Dannyâ€™s done a great job. I know how difficult a job it is meshing guys,â€ť Gregory said.
Gregory has been facing similar challenges and has made some strides in his second full year at USF.
â€śWeâ€™ve made some progress. Weâ€™re not exactly where we want to be but weâ€™ve made some good progress,â€ť Gregory said of his 19-12 Bulls.
South Florida and UConn split their two meetings during the regular season, with each winning on their home floors.
â€śWe just played them eight days ago and lost a tough game on the road at their place,â€ť Gregory said of a 60-58 loss to UConn.
Although the Bulls are facing their own injury issue, with guard Laquincy Rideau battling a foot problem that could keep him sidelined this week, their dominance on the backboards could be enough to earn them a victory Thursday.
In two games against UConn this season the Bulls combined to outrebound the Huskies 93-65. Redshirt freshman big man Alexis Yetna, a native of Paris who attended Putnam Science, was the toughest rebounder for UConn to contain.
Hurley has known of Yetnaâ€™s abilities for some time, it seems.
â€śWe tried to recruit him at Rhode Island but I think he was looking for a bigger level. But I was familiar with him,â€ť Hurley said.
UConn fans have become unfamiliar with long postseason runs in recent years but like Hurley are eager to see what an almost healthy group of Huskies can do.