This Game has a bit of significance for a number of reasons. For starters, Cincinnati is still in play for a 5-seed in the Big Dance, but those chances may be shot with another loss in AAC play. On the other end, the only chance Connecticut has of reaching the NCAA Tournament is by winning the AAC Tournament and with a win against the Bearcats, that could give them loads of confidence. To help, the Conference Tourney will be played in Hartford, which will more or less be home Games for UConn.
One of the main questions will be the status of UConn’s best player, Jalen Adams, who suffered a mild ankle sprain in last Sunday’s loss to SMU. The Huskies were down about the entire way in that Game, but playing at home, showed some fight, although it wasn’t enough in the end. Without Adams, it’d be hard to see them having enough against a team like Cincinnati, but it won’t be impossible. The Bearcats just lost to a similarly mediocre team at UCF on Sunday and there’s no doubt this team is susceptible. While they only have Four losses, a lot of that has to do with ease of Schedule.
Either way, Cincinnati still won the first meeting between these teams back in early February. To make matters worse, one of Cincy’s best players, Jacob Evans, didn’t even do anything in that Game (zero points) and the Bearcats still won 82-68. Cincy attacked with their two athletic bigs in Kyle Washington and Gary Clark, both of which can Scorein the paint and hit shots from deep as they combined for 47 points. On the other end, UConn just didn’t have enough, especially with Adams and Kentan Facey only combining for 10 points. The Huskies went through Amida Brimah most of the Game, but his 16 points weren’t enough while Rodney Purvis finished with 20 points with the help of Four made threes.
But for a team that’s already lacking depth, the loss of Adams would be huge. And even if he does play, he won’t be completely healthy. Freshman Christian Vital will be asked to play more than he’s already been forced to due to other injuries. While Connecticut is at home in its final Game of the regular season, will it have enough scoring to get the job done? Brimah will probably be a focal point again with Purvis and Facey the only other main options that can create on their own. Vital is fine, but he’s usually scored off the ball this season.
The Huskies like to build their team on the defensive end, but that just hasn’t been the case this season and that’s a main reason for their struggles. Cincinnati is the team with the conference-best defense and second-best offense. Brimah is a great rim defender, but with Washington and Clark spreading the cOurt in that first Game, Brimah’s defensive effectiveness was limited. Of course, Washington and Clark aren’t known for shooting threes, so that’s not a guarantee. That said, Evans will probably take up a bigger role, while Troy Caupain, last year’s leading scorer, runs the show.
The Bearcats have an edge on almost every area of the cOurt including depth, but winning in Storrs on Senior Day won’t come easy. If Adams doesn’t play, the Huskies will need to get production from elsewhere. Maybe they’ll keep it close, but UConn may only have five usable players in this Game, with the bench being mainly guys that don’t even average 10 minutes per Game in Conference play.
Our Pick – UCONN +5