Ladies and gentlemen, it's time for YOUR defending national champion UConn Huskies to open 2012 NCAA Tournament play.
Tonight, in their second-round (really first round, but whatever) contest against slight favorite Iowa State, Jim Calhoun and company are in both familiar and unfamiliar territory.
The Huskies are playing in Louisville's KFC Yum! Center, an arena they've played in already this season (though they've never won here); they're also be playing in front of a hostile crowd, as they often seem to do in the NCAAs regardless of seed (though tonight won't be quite as blatant as the 2011 Sweet 16, 2009 Final Four, 2006 Elite Eight, 2003 Sweet 16, 1998 Elite Eight, 1995 Elite Eight...I'm sure I'm missing at least one).
On the other hand, the Huskies enter the tournament not being one of the top threats to win the championship - this is the first time since 1992 that UConn has made the tournament and not been seeded #5 or higher. Tonight will also be the first time the Cyclones and Huskies meet in men's basketball.
I don't know if anyone can quite predict what's going to happen tonight. Iowa State seems like a nightmare matchup for UConn - a small, athletic team that shoots and defends the 3 exceptionally well, in addition to not allowing offensive rebounds. Combine that with a series of mediocre performances all year long, and it's tough to feel like this is more than a 50-50 proposition.
Still, I'm happy to go to war with at least two future pros and a Hall of Fame coach, no matter what the Huskies' weaknesses are.
The game tips off at approximately 9:20 p.m. (or about 25 minutes after Kentucky finishes pummeling Western Kentucky) on TBS, with your announcing crew of Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery. This will be your OpenThread for the evening.
Let's go Huskies.
Below the jump, some numbers to sink your teeth into:
A quick Four Factor comparison for you, courtesy of KenPom:
|FT Rate (Off)||34.4||217||38.7||115|
|FT Rate (Def)||24.9||5||25.7||10|
There's no doubt Royce White is a major threat for UConn's forwards, but I would wager that Calhoun would be more than happy for White to get his 15 and 10, as long as the perimeter shooters are contained.
In the end, this game will likely come down to whether Alex Oriakhi and Andre Drummond control the boards, whether Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier hit their shots, and whether everyone in a UConn jersey can buckle down and play the sort of defense that carried the Huskies to a national title nearly 365 days ago.