The 5-2 Arizona Wildcats travel to the east coast to play the 6-1 Connecticut Huskies. The Cats have yet to play a “true” road game this season and this one, though not being played in Storrs on the UConn campus, will be played in nearby Hartford and is basically a home game for the Huskies.
#4 Jalen Adams 6’3″ G (Sr.)
#1 Christian Vital 6’2″ G (Jr.)
#3 Alterique Gilbert 6’0″ G (So.)
#12 Tyler Polley 6’8″ F (So.)
#25 Josh Carlton 6’9″ F (So.)
Off the bench: #2 Tarin Smith 6’2″ G (Sr.), #0 Eric Cobb 6’10 F (Sr.), #10 Brendan Adams 6’3″ G (Fr.), #14 Kassoum Yakwe 6’7″ F (Sr.) #15 Sidney Wilson 6’7″ G (Fr.)
Offense: UConn runs a very fluid offense and will look to isolate their bigs–Carlton & Cobb-in the post with some 4 out 1 in sets, at times clearing out one side of the court and setting up a 2 man game. If they don’t get a look out of that they swing the ball and their guards and wings are excellent at getting into the lane off dribble penetration and perimeter ball screens. They will play at a fast pace and look to get transition baskets as well. They are currently ranked 19th in the NCAA averaging 87 points per game. They have 4 players averaging double digit points and Jalen Adams leads the team with 18.4 points per game. Last year in Tucson–in a 73-58 loss to the Cats–Adams played nearly the entire game (39 minutes) and didn’t have a particularly good one. He had 13 points, 5 turnovers and was 5 of 16 shooting. Do not expect a repeat performance of last year in today’s game.
Defense: The Huskies play a full court man to man defense. They will usually pressure the inbounds pass off a dead ball but otherwise they will pick up full court to apply some pressure to the offense. They don’t really look to trap too much off the press and it seems more to focus on making the offense work in an attempt to speed them up, wear them out, and get them to make mistakes. In the half court their man defense overplays a lot of the passing lanes and they will switch on many of the Guard to Guard screens. They are allowing 74 points per game and Arizona is scoring 79ppg.
Strengths: Experience, Depth & Athleticism. This a very athletic and aggressive team that can go 10 players deep and has very good veteran guard play. They also have decent size inside with Carlton and this game could see a bigger role for 6’10” 275 lb. Eric Cobb (currently averaging 14 minutes per game) against an undersized Arizona frontline. This team has certainly taken on the persona of its first year coach Danny Hurley–former Seton Hall guard & brother of Arizona St. head coach Bobby Hurley–with his grit and aggressive style. College basketball is better for having more Miller/Hurley matchups. I love it when former college point guards coach against one another. It seems to add another level to the excitement.
Weaknesses: There aren’t many weaknesses on this team but they can go through spells of streaky shooting. In their only loss–to Iowa, by 19–they were 4 of 24 from 3 point land, a cringe-worthy 17%. The game before that–in a 7 point win over Syracuse–they were 12 of 21 for 57%. Though UConn does have decent size they are not a particularly great defensive rebounding team (249th in the NCAA) which might lead to some much needed second chance offensive opportunities for Arizona–who rank 285th in the NCAA in offensive rebounding.
Summary: This will be a really tough challenge for the Cats as they have to travel across the country, play early in the day, and go up against a tough UConn team that will for the most part be playing a home game. The Huskies recently saw the return of St. John’s transfer Sidney Wilson. Earlier this week he played in his first game and saw only 5 minutes but there is a great deal of excitement about his ability and potential. It will be interesting to see how much time he gets today as Coach Hurley adds another weapon to this already talented team. Both teams starting guards are their top scorers and I suspect UConn will focus on getting the ball to its post players this game and try to take advantage of the size difference, but the many talented guards for both teams will factor heavily on the outcome of this game. The rebound battle will be extremely important for Arizona once again. The Huskies are 75th in offensive rebounds and 19th in opponent’s defensive rebounds. Which means they have been getting a lot of second chance opportunities. It will certainly take a team effort on the glass today for the Cats to leave the east coast with a victory.