Now this is a great Round of 64 (second round) matchup. Connecticut, like other AAC teams, is upset by their seeding. The Huskies have decent reasons, but getting swept by SMU doesn’t help the matter. They’ll face an extremely difficult task in St. Joseph’s, who are coming off the A10 Tourney title. Still, UConn is a decent -4.5 point favorite.
Connecticut’s non-Conference Schedule is fueled by one win and that was over the No. 1 team in the country, Florida. There are a few other interesting results for the Huskies in non-Conference play though, as their lone three neutral site Games were won by a total of Four points. None of those opponents made the Tourney. OUtside of the SMU losses, UConn’s big loss was at Houston, who they turned around and beat by 37 points at home.
As for the Hawks, they were a bubble team until their three straight wins in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. OUt of conference, they lost to Temple, LSU and to Villanova by 30 points. Even right before the Tourney, St Joe’s lost two straight Games to George Washington and at home to LA Salle. Basically, you don’t know what to get from this team.
The Huskies are led by one of the best back cOurts and possibly best guard in the nation. It’s hard to see Shabazz Napier going down quietly and losing this Game. Napier is a player that can take over Games and leads the Huskies in almost every category (17.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 4.9 APG, 1.7 SPG).
St. Joseph’s is led by a similar player and also a senior in LAngston Galloway (17.5 PPG, 4.3 RPG). If these guys are hitting their shots, this will be a great back-and-forth Game. But in the end, it’s going to come down to the rest of the roster. And the biggest name between these teams has to be Halil Kanacevic, who was huge for the Hawks in the A10 Tourney. He averaged close to 15 points and boards per Game. As a big man, he’s vital to this offense as he also leads the team in assists. Ronald Roberts Jr. can’t be forgotten either as he gets things done in the paint.
The problem for the Hawks is that they don’t have much of a bench, although it’s a wonder if that will come into play in this first Game as Connecticut isn’t great at drawing fouls.
OUtside of Napier for the Huskies, Ryan Boatright is another player on the perimeter that can change the Game, but isn’t too consistent. On the inside, they’ll need DeAndre Daniels the entire Game to help on Kanacevic and Roberts. The x-factor may end up being Niels Giffey, who creates matchup problems due to his ability to stretch the defense.
Pulling someone like Kanacevic away from the basket will help greatly in getting Napier open looks. Center Amida Bromah will also need to be a factor at some point for the Huskies. He finished with 14 points and seven boards in the last Louisville Game and needs to cement himself in the paint.
It’s not the ideal matchup for Connecticut, but with Napier and Boatright leading the way, they’ll have an advantage. Those two just have to hope Kanacevic isn’t able to do his thing on the other end of the cOurt.