Jon’s Take: UConn MBB’s March Madness Outlook


The UConn men’s basketball team wins against Xavier on Saturday, February 19, 2022. The win puts them on their 10th Big East victory of the season. As March Madness approaches, we take a look at how the Huskies will fare. Photo by Sofia Sawchuk/The Daily Campus

GROUND

It was a pretty easy choice, with the bad taste of last year’s round of 16 loss to Maryland still resonating in the mouths of UConn fans. While the Huskies are unlikely to get upset for a second straight year, most teams at this time are a little too comfortable with their talent level, leaving the door open for scrappy underdogs to shock the world. . There are potential talented matchups at the 12th seed, with teams like Indiana, North Texas and VCU falling into that category. It’s up to the Huskies not to be complacent and stick to their identity, as Dan Hurley reminded us during his press conference on Tuesday. Hurley ran with his 45:07 mantra this offseason, alluding to the final 5:07 of the Big East Tournament loss to Creighton and 40 minutes of the Maryland game, so hopefully he anchored that mentality among his guys heading into the playoff season.

CEILING

This kind of varies. Yes, the Huskies could have a miraculous, fairy-tale run like in 2014. In fact, they should be ranked two spots higher than that year’s team. However, even at its peak, I see UConn’s ceiling for this year as an Elite Eight/Final Four team. Even going that far would be a huge success and a testament to Hurley’s culture shift since he showed up on campus in 2018. They’re a very talented team that has proven they can stick with top talent. level. He was fantastic in wins over Auburn and Villanova, and his only double-digit loss of the year was an road loss to the Wildcats. This team is still in the game and putting on a ton of fights, so the ceiling for the Huskies is to play a few games against stiff competition, which would send them late into the second weekend or even into the Final Four.

REALISTIC PROJECTION

Just because they’re good enough to make it to the Final Four doesn’t mean it’s going to work out that way. March is always pure madness, so there will likely be a variable that will stop the Huskies in their tracks. I think they will come out of it in the first weekend, because it is quite possible to even be favored in their clash in the round of 16. However, all it takes is an icy attacking game off the bench, another heavy turnover from the starters, or early foul trouble for Adama Sanogo and Isaiah Whaley to send Connecticut wrap. It’s rightly a Sweet 16 team.

ESCAPE PLAYERS

Adama Sanogo – What more can we say about the second-year forward, who has always been the focal point of this offense. Since his first breakout campaign and a massive 30-point performance against now-No. 4 Auburn, Hurley and Co. ran their offense “inside out,” using Sanogo as a go-to option down low, then finding open guys on the wing if he gets doubled. The All-Big East First Teamer is averaging 18.8 points per game in his last five games in which he was foul-free, with the outlier being a blowout win over Georgetown. If this guy stays hot, watch out, because not only does he give a huge boost on offense, but the rest of the team tends to thrive on him.

RJ Cole –UConn’s student section may have chanted “one more year” to the main guard on Saturday, but assuming Cole moves on, he has to get through his March moment before he leaves. There have been plenty of Husky guards over the years, with Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier coming to mind. The All-Big East First Teamer certainly fits that bill, as he leads the team with 15.8 points per game. When Sanogo is struggling or the team is in a cold spell, it’s always Cole working on both ends of the floor, pulling loads or making clutch baskets. He’s easily been Connecticut’s most consistent player this season, so expect him to play a major role in the Huskies’ big dance.

Tyrese Martin – Although he hasn’t been named to an all-conference team this year, Martin has the makeup to be the stuff of March legends. Among all players with at least 30 attempts, the senior guard leads the Huskies in three-point percentage (43.9%) and is third on the team in points per game (13.4). He tends to have high-volume matches in spurts, so if UConn makes a deep run in the tournament, there’s a very good chance the guard has contributed hugely for at least a few contests. Nightly, his 7.6 rebounds per game out of the backcourt help Connecticut be one of the best rebounding teams in the nation.

X-FACTOR

game bench – During his press conference on Tuesday, Hurley said his team’s difference makers, the players who could put UConn at the top of the competition were on the bench. He’s absolutely right, because in some of the biggest team of the year wins, the combination of Tyler Polley and Jordan Hawkins has scored at least 20 points. Both players are gaining momentum at the right time in their on-and-off seasons, and with Jalen Gaffney playing more consistently and Akok Akok providing more quality minutes off the bench, this group of guys could very easily be the deciding factor. in select NCAA Tournament games.

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