Does UConn have a chance at getting an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament? Let's ask ESPN bracketology expert Joe Lunardi:
"@YoungJands: @ESPNLunardi Can UConn get an at large?" Highly unlikely.— Joe Lunardi (@ESPNLunardi) February 28, 2015
HIGHLY UNLIKELY!!! Joey Brackets still has hope! If UConn wants their at-large chances to go from highly unlikely to somewhat unlikely, it is going to have to find a way to beat the SMU Mustangs, the same team that blew out our Huskies on College Game Day just over two weeks ago.
For UConn to earn its first ever win against SMU, it is going to take a significant improvement on the offensive end from the last meeting, where the Mustangs held UConn to 34% shooting from the field and 28% from three to go along with 15 turnovers. With Amida Brimah in foul trouble, the Huskies were out rebounded and had no answer for SMU's front court combo of Yanick Moreira and Markus Kennedy who combined for 26 points and 18 rebounds.
Rodney Purvis had one of his worst games of the season in Dallas, going 1-9 from the field, but comes into the XL center with renewed confidence after playing a key role in shutting out East Carolina down the stretch in UConn's win on Wednesday. With Daniel Hamilton growing up before our eyes, a confident Rodney Purvis could turn this UConn offense into something legit. Hamilton has excelled playing the role of a facilitator, taking some pressure off Ryan Boatright and elevating the game of Amida Brimah and Purvis. With UConn winning 5 of its last 7 and playing possibly its best game of the season the last time they played at the XL center, I expect this offense to be working at much improved efficiency against the Mustangs this time around.
Defensively, I am pretty excited to see how UConn's new starting lineup fares against SMU's front court. Phillip Nolan and Brimah have started next to each other the past two games, a combination Kevin Ollie rarely went with over the last two years until last week. If Amida Brimah can avoid foul trouble, essentially a prerequisite to any possible UConn victory, the Huskies will have a chance. Daniel Hamilton has been rebounding like a madman over the last month, most notably notching a career high 17 boards on Wednesday, and with Facey also getting more comfortable in his role off the bench, UConn's front court should be up for the task on this Sunday afternoon.
Prediction: It is widely known now that it is going to take a championship run in the AAC tournament for UConn to be invited to the big dance, making the outcome of this game not quite as important as it could have been. The most important thing this afternoon is for UConn to show both themselves and Husky Nation that they can at the very least compete with the current class of the AAC in the nationally ranked SMU Mustangs. Though a win would do wonders for this team's confidence, I see Ollie and the Huskies saving it for a meeting in Hartford later in March.
SMU 67, UConn 65