Can the Connecticut Huskies get another big win over a top-25 team? We’ll find out as Rick Pitino leads his Louisville Cardinals into Hartford Monday night in a game I just might make an appearance for.
The Cardinals are coming into this one as six point favorites and winners of 10 straight, including three in a row to begin Big East play. UConn enters following a huge win at No. 17 Notre Dame behind Shabazz Napier‘s 19 points and a career-high 16 points from Tyler Olander.
Louisville’s defense has been stifling so far in conference play, allowing just 52.7 points per contest, better than their season average of 56.3, which is 16th in the NCAA. Senior Peyton Siva is a rare pass-first, defensive minded point guard (11.9 ppg/5.8 apg) and junior guard Russ Smith (18.7 ppg) is the top scorer for the ‘Ville. Smith has managed just 19 points on 4-of-24 shooting over the past two games. Siva has also helped lock down opposing point guard with his defense, helping Louisville hold opponents to just over nine assists per game.
The Huskies have won two straight in the Big East following a heart-breaker in their opener at Marquette, a team that’s quietly sitting at 3-0 in conference play. UConn needs solid guard play from Napier and Ryan Boatright in order for them to compete with an experienced Louisville club. The Huskies are shooting 32.5% from deep on the season, but will need to see that number increase if they expect to win tonight. Connecticut needs someone to step up a la Olander versus Notre Dame.
How can UConn pull off another upset?
Three point shooting. Louisville struggles from beyond the arc, especially in conference, where they shoot a pitiful 29% from three. UConn is holding Big East opponents to just 28.3% from three, so if this trend continues this evening, the Huskies have a realistic chance at turning Hartford, Ct. into Upset City.
Rebounding. Both teams are pretty evenly matched as far as rebounding numbers go, but many a giant have been slayed for losing the battle on the boards. Louisville’s Chane Behanan (7.4 rpg) and Gorgui Dieng (9.8 rpg) are beasts so Olander and DeAndre Daniels are going to need to win some battles down low in order to help the Huskies neutralize the Cardinals’ bigs.
Can UConn pull off another upset?
I don’t see why not. Ollie has this crew playing hard despite the fact that they’ll be postseason ineligible, which says something about the character of this team. They could be playing like last years team–a team that ran a stagnant offense and looked uninspired–but Ollie has breathed new life into this program.
The pick? Louisville had to fly in today because of dense fog in the greater Hartford area last night, so court storming at the XL Center in Hartford might be in order, self not included.