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UConn gets 4-seed, matchup against No. 13 Iona in West Region
Dan Hurley and the Huskies will start the NCAA Tournament on Friday in Albany.
It’s going to be a homecoming for Andre Jackson and a reunion of many familiar faces for the UConn Huskies to open the NCAA Tournament.
The fourth-seeded Huskies are preparing to face No. 13 Iona in Albany, N.Y. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. (TBS) in MVP Arena.
“I think they’re going to have to buy a lot - my family is going to have to buy some tickets,” Jackson said on Sunday night after the Huskies (25-8) learned their postseason destination.
UConn is looking to win its first NCAA Tournament game since 2016. Ranked fourth in the nation in KenPom, the analytics site predicts a nine-point UConn win, with an 80% chance of advancing. Evan Miya is projecting a 40% chance of advancing to the Elite Eight.
The Gaels (27-7) are led by Rick Pitino, the former Louisville head coach who is rumored to be the frontrunner for the open St. John’s coaching job. Iona also has former UConn guard Taliek Brown on its staff.
Pitino has the Gaels back in the tournament for the second time in three years after beating Marist in the MAAC championship on Saturday. Iona has won 14 straight games and is led by conference player of the year Walter Clayton Jr. (16.9 points, 44 percent on 3-pointers).
Meanwhile, UConn is back to the Big Dance for the third straight time under Hurley, but still looking for a win in the Big Dance. The Huskies have exited in the Round of 64 the last two years, losing to Maryland and New Mexico State.
If the Huskies advance to the Round of 32, they would play the No. 5 Saint Mary’s/No. 12 VCU on Sunday. Kansas is the top seed in the West, which plays its regional games on March 23 and 25 in Las Vegas. The Final Four is in Houston.
“I think we’re going to be fine for next week,” UConn center Adama Sanogo said. “We know they are a good team and that they are going to be coached well… We have four days before the game and I think we’re going to be ready for it.”
The Huskies exited the Big East Tournament on Friday, losing to eventual champion Marquette, 70-68. It was the third straight season losing in the semifinals.
“I’m excited,” said UConn sophomore Jordan Hawkins, who missed last season’s NCAA game in Buffalo due to concussion problems. “I didn’t get to play in it last year, so first NCAA Tournament, it’s going to be fun.”
“I can’t wait.”
This also may be his last tournament as a Husky given his pro aspirations and potential. Hawkins acknowledged playing against a legendary coach in Pitino, but really perked up when Brown’s name was mentioned.
“That’s my guy, Taliek’s my guy,” he said. “It’s going to be fun playing against him and competing against him.”
The Huskies have been the higher seed in their previous two trips to the NCAAs. Last year they were victims in the dreaded No. 5/12 pairing, with a 70-63 loss to the Aggies.
“Every team and every year is different,” Sanogo said. “So let’s go to the game, play the way we have all year and we’re going to get a win.”
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