As noted by numerous pundits this week (see Media Matters below), UConn doesn't really have a notable win. An 11-point win over an apparently solid William & Mary team is Coach Cal's best win this year.
All it took was one conference road loss to an NCAA Tournament team to get the wolves prowling:
UConn can't recruit any more...
UConn has no offense to speak of...
UConn's a bubble team with a very uncertain future...
One of those statements is factually true. The other two...we'll see.
But it sure would nice for UConn to actually beat a good major-conference team at some point this season. Does Notre Dame qualify? I have no idea. Luke Harangoofy's crew of miscreants has UConn's resume of impressive wins - which is to say, none - with the added bonus(?) of losses to Northwestern and Loyola Marymount.
Below the jump, your game preview to get set for the lunchtime tipoff at the Morgue.
The game: Notre Dame (12-2, 1-0) at #10 UConn (10-3, 0-1)
Notre Dame knocked off Providence by 15 on Wednesday. UConn, of course, is the worst 10th-ranked team in the history of teams being ranked 10th.
The place: The Morgue, Hartford
The time: Noon
The media: ESPNU (TV); WTIC 1080-AM (radio); Illegal internet streams (if you don't get ESPNU)
The Vegas favorite: UConn, by 7
Series history: UConn leads, 15-6
Last meeting: UConn 72, Notre Dame 65 (February 28, 2009 at Gampel Pavilion)
My Senior Day. Excuse me as I get a little faklempt.
Jeff Adrien notched 12 points and 19 rebounds, while Hasheem Thabeet scored 9, rebounded 11 and blocked 5 as UConn held off the plucky Irish in the second half.
Also noteworthy from that game: whoever's in charge of pulling back curtains at Gampel Pavilion taking 10 minutes to unveil Coach Cal's 800 wins banner, and of course the distribution of the frightening Coach Cal head-on-a-stick.
State of the Huskies: We suck.
So, tell me a little bit about the Irish: They suck.
OK, so that's a bit simplistic. Harangody, the Big East preseason player of the year who looks like that guy from Mad TV from back in the day, you know about. Tory Jackson you may remember from his 17-point effort in Gampel last season.
Other than those two, Notre Dame doesn't have a lot that scares me. Ben Hansbrough (brother of Tyler) nearly had a triple-double against Providence. Although, since it was Providence, that merely proves he has functioning motor skills.
6-8 forward Tim Abromaitis (a Farmington, Conn. native) is averaging 16 points per game as well, including a 31-point effort against UConn tormentor Central Florida a few weeks back. Abromaitis is one of three 6-8 forwards to start for the Irish, along with Harangody and Tyrone Nash, so it's unclear which one will be getting his shots blocked by Stanley Robinson, and which will be getting his shots blocked by Gavin Edwards and Alex Oriakhi.
Media matters: Just two pieces to bring to your attention, besides the Courant preview. They'll give you a feel for what I was getting at in the intro. Obviously, the Boneyard has been discussing them ad nauseum for the last couple days, but I think we can wait and see if this team can improve before jumping to conclusions:
- UConn enters 2010 without resume win (Jeff Goodman, FoxSports.com)
- Beating Connecticut is no longer a signature win (John Gasaway, Basketball Prospectus)
John Gasaway is usually a pretty sharp guy, too, which is why that article in particular stings. Much like Tom Cruise, I can't handle the (possible) truth.
- UConn's inexperienced frontcourt has been exposed (Courant.com)
The preview: Looking at the stats, this is kind of a tough one to predict.
By all rights, UConn fans should be confident that a win is coming this afternoon. Then again, I'm not feeling very positive about this team lately.
With the caveat that non-conference cupcakes make the stats less meaningful than they should be:
Notre Dame's offense is the best in the Big East so far (on a per-possession basis), but UConn's defense against 2-point field goals is the best in the conference so far.
In the battle between the moveable force and the easily-resistable object, Notre Dame's defense is the worst in the conference (more than a point per possession, good for 202nd in the country) and UConn's offense has been pretty bad themselves (1.041 ppp, 10th in the Big East).
Now, Notre Dame also happens to be a pretty damned good 3-point shooting team (Abromaitis, Hansbrough and Jonathan Peoples are shoot the 3 regularly and hover around 50%, while Jackson's sitting at about 36 percent; for reference, Sticks is leading UConn's regular 3-point shooters at 42.7%). If they catch fire, the Irish can very easily win this game going away.
On the other hand, if they're not shooting well, UConn's frontcourt should be able to outmuscle the Irish on the boards, like they always do. And like Gavin posterizing 'Gody last year in South Bend, UConn will be able to score in transition.
Harangody will get his points on awkward fadeaways, though it is a shame that Thabeet is no longer around to make 'Gody sulk. But if the Irish aren't hitting their outside jumpers, UConn should win handily.
I hesitate to call this a must-win game, but given that this is the 'easy' part of the Big East schedule, it's about time to start accumulating some victories.
A loss here, and things will get very, very uneasy for Coach Cal and UConn. And by 'uneasy', I mean "I will throw a hissy fit."
UConn 82, Notre Dame 74