This is a big game tonight (7 p.m., ESPN). And it's Monday. Put the two together, and you get..."ESPN's Big Game Tonight, Which Is Monday". Someone should trademark that.
UConn (16-11, 6-8) is in the midst of what appears to be a prolonged run of not sucking. They finally picked up their first two true road wins of the season last week, and can feel pretty good about their March chances with four more wins (they'll have 5-9 more games to do so).
It would be even more helpful if one of those wins came tonight. The Mountaineers (21-5, 10-4) are the last ranked team on UConn's regular-season schedule, and a win here would give UConn three really good top-50 wins (Villanova, Texas) to go with a high RPI and strength of schedule.
Now, UConn can still get in the tourney with a loss tonight - no shame in losing to a team as good as West Virginia. But now that we've gotten our hopes up again, losing tonight, at home, would be awfully disappointing.
Use this thread for all your game discussion, and below the jump, a really quick Four Factor look to see the statistical probability of UConn getting its swagger back in the form of a 3-game win streak (which would be their first since Dec. 20-27).
The Four Factors, as always courtesy of KenPom.com:
|Off. FT Rate||46.0||37.6|
|Def. FT Rate||24.7||38.8|
West Virginia is the 10th team in KenPom's top 25, and the second-highest rated, on UConn's schedule. (Though Duke is #1, which just sounds and feels wrong.)
The Mountaineers are exceptionally efficient on offense and really good on defense. The 119.7 offensive efficiency is good for 3rd in America, yet only one of the component Four Factor numbers really back that up.
But boy, are those rebounding percentages impressive. Nobody in America this year has been better at grabbing offensive rebounds than West Virginia. UConn gives up more offensive rebounds than all but the worst 100 teams in America. Uh oh.
Teams seem to shoot well against West Virginia, but when they miss, the 'Eers usually get the rebound. So UConn is going to need a good shooting performance, or else come up with an uncharacteristically good perfomance on the boards against an elite rebounding team.
Bob Huggins has recruited, like, a dozen athletic-as-hell 6'6-to-6'9 guys, most of whom can shoot and slash. They're a tough matchup for any team, but if any team is built for an athleticism-off, it's UConn. (Then again, that doesn't always work out well for UConn.) The Mountaineers come in after needing some late second-half spurts to beat Seton Hall and Providence, and before that, losing tight ones with Villanova and Pittsburgh.
I'm interested to see if Calhoun sticks with Ater Majok for 25+ minutes, purely for defensive purposes against Kevin Jones/Devin Ebanks/Wellington Smith, or whether he goes small and tries to make this a run-and-gun game. I'm hopeful that UConn continues its string of good shooting (6-13 from 3 on Saturday). I'm despondent this game is being played in Hartford.
And I'm worried. West Virginia is very good. A win here would be an upset, but it would also mean boatloads of good things for UConn going down the stretch.
Then again, UConn's probably terrible and probably going to get blown out by 30 in front of a quiet 15,000.
Prediction: West Virginia 99, UConn 51