Pick – Analysis
The American Conference has been interesting this season to say the least, and that’s not exactly a good thing. Tulsa was running undefeated through the Conference before SMU took care of them last weekend. Connecticut hopes to do the same to SMU in this one.
After last year’s Championship run, this has been a mostly disappointing year so far for the Huskies. They opened the season ranked, but that is long gone since they lost three straight early on. While their defense is still a strength, the offense has been subpar outside of Ryan Boatright. After Four straight road losses, they finally beat Tulane last weekend, although that Game never looked safe. Even with a better team last season, the Huskies were swept by SMU in two Games. With how the Mustangs have been playing as of late, UConn will need its best Game of the year to win this one.
OUtside of Cincinnati (two losses), SMU has had everyone’s number in the AAC. After a tough early-season stretch in which they started 2-3, the Mustangs have lived up to the preseason hype. At home, they’ve taken care of everyone in the conference, not including last week’s loss to Cincy.
Connecticut will need someone outside of Boatright to do something to get a win here. Boatright has done everything for this team, scoring 17.8 ppg, but he’s scoring more than that in the last month, while also rebounding (4.5) and assisting (4.3) at high rates. Rodney Purvis is one of those players that can make an impact, now coming off the bench. He went for 17 points and was the eventual difference at Tulane as he helped UConn grab a lead in the second half and hold it. Counting on Amida Brimah to be an offensive factor is no longer in play and freshman Daniel Hamilton can’t be relied upon on a normal basis.
For the Huskies to even make the big Tournament again, Purvis will need to continue his strong play, while also getting support from someone else. If not, they won’t be able to win a Game like this or even in their next one at Memphis.
SMU has basically the same lineup as a year ago, which is why they are near the top in the Conference again. However, the loss of Keith Frazier doesn’t help a whole lot, but they haven’t really lost a beat yet.
Nic Moore runs the show for the Mustangs, but he’s not in the same position as Boatright. Even when Moore has bad Games, there are other guys that can pick him up. That includes the two big men, Yanick Moreira and Markus Kennedy, who will have the advantage in this Game. For UConn, dealing with both of those big guys will be a problem and it wouldn’t be surprising if at least one of them has a good outing.
Connecticut struggled with SMU last year and there’s no reason to think that those problems won’t come up again. Nic Moore probably won’t match Boatright, but he’ll be able to do enough to combine with the bigs for the Mustangs and keep the Huskies at bay.
Our Prediction – SMU by 1