There wasn’t really too much doubt about UConn’s NCAA Tournament hopes, but the Huskies officially secured their place today with a big win over the Cincinnati Bearcats. This game was the type of low scoring, defensive affair that Cincinnati forces its opponents to play, but Shabazz Napier was able to lead the Huskies to victory with a game high 18 points and 11 rebounds. In fact, Napier and Sean Kilpatrick were the only two players who scored in double figures.
UConn struggled offensively throughout the afternoon, but they played very good defense and harassed Cincinnati into 20 turnovers and a measly 27.1% field goal percentage. Lasan Kromah and Ryan Boatright chipped in just enough offensively to push UConn over the top. In the end, the Huskies earned this win from the free throw line, converting 18 of 25 attempts, including several by Napier to ice the game.
UConn remains three games back of Louisville in the AAC standings, but a Memphis win over Louisville this afternoon would pull the Cardinals back to the pack a bit. UConn’s regular season title hopes are very faint, but they could still potentially earn a share of the inaugural AAC title with some help. More importantly, UConn secured its fourth win over a Top 25 team this season, pushing their record to 23-6 overall and 11-5 in the AAC. Their resume only has one bad loss on it, and the Huskies rank 29th in RPI, safely putting them in field of 68.
UConn still has its home finale against Rutgers, which will be an emotional senior day for Napier and Niels Giffey, before closing the season at Louisville. A win against Louisville and a strong showing in the AAC Tournament could really boost the Huskies’ seed for the NCAA Tournament. UConn needs to continue to work on their rebounding and interior defense if they want to be a threat in March, but with their outstanding guard play they are not a team anyone wants to face.
The pressure is now off UConn for the moment, though they obviously want to close the season strong. The Huskies still have some improving to do before the NCAA Tournament, but at least they don’t have to worry about getting in.