Gameday: No. 4 UConn vs. No. 5 St. Mary's | 6:10 p.m., TNT
The Huskies are looking to make the Sweet 16 for the first time in nine years.
This is UConn men’s basketball’s biggest game since 2014.
Though the Huskies made the tournament in 2016 and even won their first-round game that year, the team was never destined for much after losing 10 games in the regular season as a member of the American Athletic Conference.
This year’s Huskies are overflowing with potential in a year where the field is wide open. The fact that they hadn’t won a tournament game under Dan Hurley tempered expectations. But now that they’re past that threshold, anything seems possible, especially after the way they beat Iona.
The only thing between UConn and a Sweet 16 trip to Las Vegas is a Saint Mary’s team that’s ranked 12th in KenPom and has long played second fiddle to Gonzaga in the WCC but is a strong contender in its own right. The Gaels won the conference regular-season crown this year and are in their second consecutive Round of 32.
UConn comes in seemingly playing at the top of its game. The Huskies have won seven of their last eight and 11 of their last 13. No matter what the armchair coaches will say, this is a very good team. Dan Hurley has a very good, well-coached team.
The bench has been great. Andre Jackson has been tremendous offensively to match his defensive intensity and playmaking. Adama Sanogo and Jordan Hawkins have largely been up to the task of pacing this team. There’s no barrier between UConn and a deep NCAA Tournament run beyond its own execution.
And finally, let’s remember that none of this is guaranteed. UConn being back in the national title hunt is a tremendous achievement for this athletic department. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen this caliber of men’s hoops team, well before 2014.
So cherish it, and be sure to credit Hurley, Kimani Young, Luke Murray, Tom Moore, and Mamadou Diarra for what they’ve done as coaches, and guys like Jackson, Sanogo, and Hawkins who believed in this downtrodden program’s potential and helped turn this thing around.
Round of 32 Game Preview
When: Sunday, March 19, 6:10 p.m. ET
Where: MVP Arena — Albany, New York
Radio: UConn Sports Network
Odds: UConn -3.5, over/under 128
KenPom Predicted Score: No. 4 UConn 66, No. 5 Saint Mary’s 63 | 59 percent win probability
Saint Mary’s head coach called Gonzaga’s Drew Timme the best big man in the country… wonder what Adama Sanogo will have to say about that on the court today.
In an interview with Fox Sports’ John Fanta, Sanogo discussed the Iona game and their path forward.
The Huskies have the advantage in most key categories, but Saint Mary’s is slightly better at getting to the free-throw line and avoiding turnovers, while also fouling less.
The Gaels have one of the best scoring defenses in the country and are also among the best at keeping opponent assists and offensive rebounds down. These are all areas where UConn tends to excel, presenting a real clash of styles and strengths against a defensively-strong team that likes to keep the pace down as well.
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