College Hoops Pick
Right now, the AAC belongs to SMU. Of course, the Ponies aren’t eligible for postseason play, which hurts the Conference mightily. Two teams also fighting for the top of the Conference and postseason eligibility are Connecticut and Houston. Both teams have decent records, but neither has been able to put together a consistent run this season.
UConn has a couple nice wins against Big Ten teams as well as a Game at Texas, but a home loss to Temple in AAC play wasn’t good for its Conference title chances. The Huskies haven’t played well enough on the road in the last couple years to afford to lose home Games, especially after another road loss to Tulsa. Now in a stretch of back-to-back road Games, at least one win would be nice.
Houston is in the same mold, although with worse losses to Rhode Island and Grand Canyon, and without a good win all year. The Cougars’ best win probably came at Temple a couple weeks ago in a huge 77-50 win. The same Temple team that UConn lost to at home.
As is usually the case with this Kevin Ollie team, the Huskies base their Game off defense. The loss of lengthy big man Amida Brimah (3 blocks per Game) has been an issue and he’s still out for a few weeks more. Without Brimah in the middle, the Huskies haven’t had the same kind of rim defender as they’re used to and they don’t have enough playmakers to offset that.
Transfer Sterling Gibbs was a nice addition, but he’s been inconsistent along the way, failing to show up against better opponents. Gibbs scored 11 points total in losses to Gonzaga and Temple, but then 26 against Memphis last weekend. At this point, UConn only has Four scorers and if one or two of them have an off night, it’s going to be a tough Game, especially without Brimah out there. Daniel Hamilton is the guy Houston has to pay attention to as the sophomore averages 12.9 points, 8.5 boards and 5.1 assists per Game.
Still, this is a winnable Game for the Huskies against a Houston team still looking to find a big win. The Cougars are coming off a tough road Game at Cincinnati and then travel to SMU after this Game. Similar to UConn, Houston also only has Four players averaging double digits, but the Cougars have a bit more depth.
Houston will probably turn to Devonta Pollard early in the Game and see what he can do against Connecticut inside. If that goes to plan, that’ll open up room for slashers like leading scorer Rob Gray Jr. or transfer Damyean Dotson. One thing going in Houston’s favor is that they have guys that can shoot off the bench in LeRon Barnes and Ronnie Johnson, who hit a combined seven threes in the loss at Cincy.
This will be the second Game of a long road trip for the Huskies, who were in Tulsa on Thursday night, so that advantage goes with the home team, although Houston did lose in Cincinnati on Wednesday. These two teams match up similarly and that should result in a hard-fought, lower scoring Game. This is the type of Game the Huskies need to win to impress the committee, but without Brimah, it may be another one that they come up short in.