clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Men's Basketball Preview: UConn vs No.2 Duke, 8pm ET, ESPN, Izod Center

What, How, and Why to watch UConn Duke

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight's the night: UConn-Duke in another match-up to add to this rivalry. A loss would mean that we only have two other chances for quality out of conference victories at Florida and Stanford. But, a win could potentially be season-changing and send us into AAC play feeling high and mighty.

Where and When to find the game

Location: Izod Center, East Rutherford, N.J.
Time: 8 PM ET
Radio: WTIC 1080
Online Streaming: WatchESPN

What to watch for:

1. How does Amida Brimah respond after his career day?

Brimah absolutely dominated in the 106-85 victory over Coppin State with a 40-point, 12-rebound performance on a perfect 13-for-13 shooting. Yes, it was against a very bad Coppin State team, and most of his points came on alley-oops, but it was nice to see him fill up the box score the way he did. Against the three best opponents we have faced this season, Brimah only scored six points against Dayton and West Virginia and then four against Texas, so this past game should certainly boost his confidence. Obviously, Duke is going to be a completely different team than Coppin State and will show a lot of man-to-man defense, so alley-oops may not work the way they have this season. If Brimah is going to want to make an impact on offense, he is going to have to catch the ball on the block and make a move against Jahlil Okafor, Amile Jefferson or even Marshall Plumlee. Honestly, I would love to see him face-up and shoot once or twice early on in the game to get him going-he has the stroke for it.

2. Daniel Hamilton vs Justise Winslow

Both of these 6-foot-6-inch swingmen were top-30 recruits in the class of 2014, with Daniel Hamilton ranked 30th and Justise Winslow 15th. While Hamilton is known for his offensive game, Winslow is known for his defense. He is an extremely physical defender that can guard multiple positions and was considered the most impressive defensive player on the all-star circuit a year ago. Winslow will most likely start out on Hamilton, so it will be a good test for UConn's freshman to go up against an elite defender. The matchup should be the same on the other side of the ball-Hamilton on Winslow and while Winslow is not known to be a scorer, he can create for himself and others off the dribble. Hamilton will have to keep him in front to keep him in check, something he is more than capable of doing.  It should be a fun matchup between two future pros.

3. Phil Nolan on Jahlil Okafor?

Believe it or not, Phil Nolan is a very good defender. He's not elite by any means and may not totally shut down a big man, but he will make an impact with his physicality and charge-taking abilities. Last year against Michigan State in the Elite Eight, Nolan played 27 minutes and spent most of the time on Adrien Payne. While Payne was not your typical big man, Nolan did a fantastic job in not allowing him to beat us, holding him to just 4 of 14 shooting. Against Texas and their big men this season, Nolan played 23 minutes – his most minutes played by far all season. He spent time on Myles Turner, the second-ranked center in the class of 2014, and held him to just seven points on 1 of 4 shooting. In the game tonight, Duke has the best center, and potentially the best player in the country in Jahlil Okafor. Okafor is full of moves in the post, and Phil Nolan may be the best option to put on him in this game.

4. Can our offense do the job?

We actually match up well with Duke defensively but winning this game solely on defense will be extremely difficult. Duke is too talented and too well-coached to lose a grind-out game in the 50s. If we try to play a slow game with them featuring a lot of halfcourt sets, they are going to win. We need offense big time this game, and we need up-tempo offense.  This is why the Coppin State game was big from an offensive standpoint. We proved that we are still able to score a lot of points, and even though Coppin State was very bad, it boosts the confidence of the team, especially going into a game with this magnitude.

In my opinion, defense was not a point of emphasis at all in our last game. We knew Coppin State wanted to get out and run and that's the type of game Kevin Ollie wants so that's what we did. We have to get out and run and be successful in doing so to win. Our defense is going to get stops when they need to, it's just a matter of if we can take advantage of those opportunities.

Tonight, we finally cash in on those opportunities. The UConn faithful will travel well to New Jersey to experience a season-changing victory.

UConn 78 Duke 71