On Saturday, 9th-seeded Connecticut will battle the number one overall seed Kansas Jayhawks in a round of 32 game. This game will be in the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa at 7:45 p.m, and can be seen on CBS.
This will be the first time in UConn’s history that they will face off against the Jayhawks in tournament play. Both of these teams are very well-respected college basketball universities, both being in the top 10 all time for most national championships, UConn having four and three for Kansas.
The winner of this game will go on to face the winner of the Maryland/South Dakota St. vs California/Hawaii game. Maryland and California’s NBA talent could be a major matchup problem for either team that wins.
UConn is coming off a big win in Thursday’s round of 64 game over Colorado, in which they battled back from a rough first half, scoring just 27 points. However, they fought back and outscored Colorado 47-31 in the second half en route to a seven point victory.
UConn made it into the tournament via winning the AAC tournament. In the AAC tournament, UConn was led by freshman guard Jalen Adams and Junior forward Daniel Hamilton. The Huskies managed to squeak out a 4OT win against Cincinnati in the first round of the tournament, followed by 10+ point wins over Temple and Memphis to win the AAC Championship. UConn is now on a five-game wins streak and getting hot at the right time in the season.
In the Huskies round of 64 game against Colorado, they were led in scoring by Rodney Purvis and Daniel Hamilton. The key to this game was UConn’s ability to knockdown open jumpers in the second half. In the first half of this game, they weren’t finishing scoring opportunities, and they weren’t getting any offensive rebounds either. However, come the second half, UConn’s shots started to fall, as well as their ability to grab some offensive rebounds courtesy of Amida Brimah and Kentan Facey.
As a team, the Huskies overall performance against Colorado was very inconsistent with an anemic first half, followed by an energetic second half. With the number one overall seed Kansas coming up Saturday, UConn will need to play like they did in the second half all game if they plan on being in this game to the end.
The Huskies will need to put together one of their best performances of the year if they want a chance at winning this game.
Kansas is entering this game on a 15-game win streak, including winning the BIG-12 Championship. Their ability to dominate teams was clear in this tournament where they won all but one game by more than ten points.
The Jayhawks opened the tournament with a commanding 26 point win over Austin Peay. In this game, Kansas was led by senior forward Perry Ellis, with 21 points, and sophomore guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, with 23 points.
Going into this game, Kansas is the undoubted favorite, currently favored by eight points. Kansas’ talent is clear, with potential NBA players, such as, Ellis, Traylor, Selden, Graham, Mason, Bragg, and Diallo. All of this talent combined with the great coaching by Bill Self makes this a very formidable championship contender. This is what leads to the Jayhawks team being currently the favorite to walk out of Houston as the NCAAB National Champions.
Kansas has a very deep team, with at least ten players who receive consistent minutes, who also have the experience to be ready to go whenever coach Self decides to put them in the game. On the year, the Jayhawks are led in scoring by forward Perry Ellis (16.8), in rebounds by forward Landen Lucas (6.3), and in assists by guard Frank Mason (4.7). With their full lineup healthy, Kansas will be ready to go on Saturday against the defensive minded Huskies.
This UConn team definitely has a good enough defense to stick around against this loaded Kansas team. However, what isn’t known yet is if the Huskies will come into the game with a strong offense. If they come to play on offense then this could turn into a very interesting game. At their best, UConn has the ability to take down a strong team like Kansas. The key to the game will be the scoring ability of UConn’s big men, Amida Brimah and Shonn Miller. If they are able to score consistently in this game, then the Huskies will have a shot. However, in the end, it seems like the Jayhawks talent will overwhelm the Huskies, and end up winning this game 79-63.