When: Tuesday, 9:00 p.m.
Where: Austin, TX
Radio: WTIC AM-1080, WILI-AM 1400, WELI-AM 960, and WGCH-AM 1490
UConn, after picking up three straight wins in their last three contests, is looking to extend the streak through their last game before opening conference play as they take on Texas tonight. Texas is one of UConn's very few non-conference opponents that has a high RPI (they rank 17th, somehow), so picking up a win here would be very important for the Huskies' NCAA Tournament resume.
Texas is a fairly strong team, ranked just outside the top 25 in most major polls, but the Longhorns do struggle on defense at times, and that weakness will be made all the more exploitable with the loss of center Cameron Ridley due to a broken foot. Ridley will likely be replaced in the starting lineup by Prince Ibeh, who plays capable defense in a backup role, but does not have nearly the offensive ability of Ridley.
Of course, Texas isn't the only team in this game missing a star defensive center, as UConn will have to play another game without defensive cornerstone Amida Brimah, who is out with a broken finger. The Huskies are naturally forced to play a little smaller without Brimah in the lineup- a change that might be more advantageous to the Longhorns if Ridley was healthy.
Texas will likely look to take the ball inside against UConn despite the absence of their top inside scorer. Stretch-four Connor Lammert might look to drive more often, and guards Isaiah Taylor and Kerwin Roach will be forced inside by the steadily-improving UConn perimeter defense, which might work in Texas' favor as neither has a reliable shot from range. More worrisome are Eric Davis Jr. and Javan Felix, two small guards with great outside shooting ability.
Taylor, Felix, and Lammert will be on the court for Texas' most dangerous offensive lineups, but that will also force the Longhorns into a weak defensive side of the ball. They are not a balanced team, and without Ridley, lack a balanced two-way star player, like, say, Daniel Hamilton, or even Shonn Miller. Each of the Longhorns' lineups has advantages and disadvantages, and they'll likely need Shaka Smart to out-coach Kevin Ollie in order to win.
On the Huskies side of the ball, look for Shonn Miller to keep getting more minutes, and look for the battle for playing time between Phillip Nolan and Steve Enoch to continue. Despite the hopes of many UConn fans entering the season, this team is not particularly deep, and the frontcourt is stretched very thin with the removal of any starter, but especially the center. As long as either Nolan or Enoch can have a positive impact on tonight's game, UConn could maintain their typical game plan.
Offensively, the Huskies have shot over .600 from the floor as a team in each of the last three games. This is a mark that will surely not last forever, but it does illustrate that their offense is finding its groove, which is a dangerous idea for UConn opponents. UConn ranks 19th in overall offensive efficiency, and 40th in opponent-adjusted offensive efficiency, showing how dangerous they can be when they play effectively. Despite some early-season struggles, Omar Calhoun and Rodney Purvis have been playing much better as of late, and both can be very destructive to opposing defenses. If UConn gets an early lead, and Smart is forced to play an offense-heavy, defense-light lineup, the Huskies could take over the game early.
It's an important game for UConn against a tough team currently on a six-game win streak that includes victories at Stanford and against the then-third-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels. UConn does already have a transitive win over Texas, who lost to Michigan two days after UConn beat them, but they won't impress anyone on the Tournament selection committee without a real win. Tonight they'll get their last chance at beating a Power Five conference team before AAC conference play starts.