Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
After a 2-3 start to Big East play, it's time to come to grips with where UConn is going.
UConn's 69-61 loss to Pitt this afternoon was a mixed bag. The Huskies looked dreadful for much of the first half--they only scored 22 points--and it seemed like UConn might have been headed for it's second straight blowout loss. UConn fought back in the second half though on the back of Ryan Boatright, who scored 16 of his 20 points in the second period, shouldering much of the load for an injury-limited Shabazz Napier.
Still, the Huskies limitations were clear and they were once again hampered by poor post play. Tyler Olander seemed generally ineffective against a bigger Pitt front line, despite grabbing six rebounds and while Enosch Wolf looked better, he continues to commit unnecessary fouls, especially away from the basket, which limited his court time.
UConn is now five games into its 18-game Big East schedule, and much like today's game, it's been a mixed bag. They're 2-3, and while the Huskies played well in their two wins, especially the impressive victory over Notre Dame, the three losses have been quite frustrating. The opening loss at Marquette felt a lot like today's game--a road loss against a solid, if unspectacular opponent--in that the Huskies could have won if they had a few more breaks go their way, but in which they were ultimately held back by their limited roster. In some ways it's almost easier to deal with the blowout loss to Louisville, an elite team that UConn didn't have a realistic shot of beating, at least not this year.
I think it's fair to say that UConn, at its best and barring injury, is a mid-level Big East team. And, honestly, with this roster that's a compliment. With that in mind I wanted to take a look at the last 13 games of the Huskies' schedule and predict where UConn will wind up. I asked Meacham to do the same, and both of our picks are below. Please feel free to make yours in the comments as well.
Here are my predictions:
- vs. Rutgers - W
- @ Providence - L
- vs. South Florida - W
- @ St. John's - W
- @ Seton Hall - W
- vs. Syracuse - L
- vs. Villanova - W
- vs. Cincinnati - L
- @ DePaul - W
- vs. Georgetown - W
- @ Cincinnati - L
- @ South Florida - W
- vs. Providence - W
If that's right--and I promise you that it is not--It'd have UConn finishing out their schedule going 9-4 and ending the year with a 21-9 (11-7) record. The first thing that should jump out at you is that the remaining schedule is crazy easy, and maybe the easiest conference schedule UConn's played since the Yankee Conference. The two Cincinnati games and the Syracuse matchups are probably the only sure losses. I think I may be a game or two overoptimistic here--I think Georgetown could easily be a loss, and getting a split on that St. John's / Seton Hall mini road trip is entirely possible--but I honestly have a hard time seeing a lot of losses here without UConn suffering from an injury. That last South Florida game could be tricky as well, it's a late tip (9 p.m.) and could be coming on the heels of a bad loss at Cincinnati.
So going game-by-game I have UConn at 21-9, I think 20-10 is probably the most likely result, and could see an 18- or 19-win season easily.
Here's Meacham's take, which sorts the schedule into groups:
We'll win a game we shouldn't and lose a game we shouldn't. The only things i know are 1) we're losing at least 1 to providence and 2) st. john's is going to beat us in MSG like always.
3-2 in the next five (Rutgers, Providence, USF, St. John's, Seton Hall)
1-2 in the three after that (Syracuse, Villanova, Cincinnati)
3-2 in the last five (DePaul, Georgetown, Cincinnati, USF, Providence)
That would put UConn at 19-11 (9-9), so we're not too far off. I'd be happy with either result, and if you had offered me 19-11 at the start of the year I would have taken it in a heartbeat. It'll be a slightly illusory 19 wins, thanks to the softness of the schedule, but with this roster and a brand-new coach, that is still quite an accomplishment.
What are your thoughts? Share your predictions below.