(10) Saint Joseph's Hawks 24-9 (11-5)
KenPom: 49th (66th Offense, 55th Defense)
TODAY IS THE DAY! UConn is back in the NCAA tournament after a 735 day break, and I know I speak for Husky Nation in saying I could not be more ready.
UConn, a 7 seed in the East region, is facing the 10 seeded Saint Joesph's Hawks. The Hawks finished the season winning 9 of their last 11 games including a 65-61 victory over VCU for the Atlantic 10 tournament championship. St. Joe's and UConn played two common opponents in BU and Temple. St. Joe's lost to Temple by 8 while UConn swept the Owls by an average of 18 points, and both teams beat BU convincingly early in the season. The Hawks are led by a freshman with a killer afro, a 255 pound New Yorker with a really long last name, and a guy named Ronald. All kidding aside, this team is very sound on both ends of the floor. Their frontline in Halil Kanacevic and Ronald Roberts, Jr. average 8.8 and 7.4 rebounds per game, respectively. Their leading scorer Langston Galloway is an intriguing matchup for the Huskies back court as he shoots 43% from 3 point land, attempting about 6 per game. Also, the Hawks have 6'6 freshman DeAndre Bembry, averaging 12.0 points per game, scoring in double figures in 13 of their last 15 games.
Though this is a solid Saint Joe's basketball team, there are plenty of weaknesses that UConn will be able to exploit. First, the Hawks don't have a player getting significant minutes who is taller than 6'8. This bodes well for our shot-blocking, rim-ROCKING (sorry, got carried away) 7'0 freshman Amida Brimah. If he can stay out of foul trouble, something that has been quite challenging for the young fella over the course of the season, it will give UConn a major advantage.
Secondly, Sant Joe's leading assist leader is their big man Halil Kanacevic at 4.4 a game. This is a telling stat, in that the Hawks' guards don't pass the ball significantly well. With UConn's high pressure perimeter defense led by Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, a quickness that the Hawks didn't see every night in the possibly-overrated A10, St. Joe's guards could be in for a long night. UConn's guards' quickness on offense, too, is a major reason I believe the Huskies should win this game. St. Joe's relies heavily on its starters every game, making up nearly 85% of the team's scoring. If Napier, Boatright, and co. can make this an up tempo game, it can only benefit the Huskies. Also if the UConn guards can get into the lane, getting a Hawk or two into some foul trouble, I don't know if St. Joe's has the bench to match the athletes this UConn team presents.
In a single elimination tournament, you have no choice but to leave everything you have out on the floor. After 2012's second round embarrassing exit at the hands of Iowa State, Shabazz Napier, Niels Giffey, and the rest will not let this team falter like two years ago.
"We need to leave it all on the floor. I don't think we did that (vs. Iowa State)." -Niels "the Chemist" Giffey
UConn 75 St. Joseph's 69