On the road to the Final Four, Geno Auriemma and the UConn Huskies have been able to catch up with their past.
Tonight will be no different as the Huskies will face upstart and upset minded Dayton in the Albany Regional Final. There was a lot of talk during the press conference and within the Connecticut media about how the Flyers remind Auriemma of past UConn teams in the early 1990s. They play an up-tempo style and will want to run with the Huskies.
The question is if they will be able to execute on offense and defense?
Jim Jabir is the Flyer's coach, a nice guy, and a good coach. He has been to six straight NCAA tournaments with the Flyers. He has been having success in the Atlantic Ten, with a 2nd place finish in league play, but he is actually a familiar victim of UConn from his previous gig.
Jabir was the coach at Providence from 1996 to 2002 before he resigned. This is the time period when Auriemma was beginning to build a national powerhouse and the Friars were a Big East doormat.
Some of UConn's largest margins of victories within the Big East came against the Jabir's Friar teams. UConn outscored Jabir coached teams by an average of 45.3 points in nine meetings (97.7-52.4).
The most notable games in series between Jabir's Friars and UConn was a 126-48 beatdown in January 1998. This came following a Huskies lost to Tennessee. Six years later there was the Sue Bird, Tamika Williams, Ashja Jones, and Swin Cash 2002 senior night massacre of 106-41 in which former UConn AD Lew Perkins apologized to Jabir before the game. The only time UConn and Dayton played was in November 2011 where the Huskies won 78-38.
Tonight, UConn will be looking to advance to their eighth straight Final Four. They are beating opponents by an average of 47.7 points per game in the tournament thus far.
Dayton had a much tougher road to this point and are looking to advance to their first Final Four. They are scoring at will and like to play an up-tempo style. They went to Lexington and beat No. 2 seed Kentucky (99-94) in the second round and then upset No. 3 seed Louisville (82-66) in the Sweet 16.
The Flyers are playing with house money and little expectations of advancing. They are playing loose and say they have no fear of the UConn jersey. They know the odds are against them, Nate Silver's 538 gives the Huskies a 99% chance of advancing and the betting line is 33.5 points according to SportsBet.com.
With three convincing wins so far in the NCAA Tournament, UConn is clearly playing very well. Offensively, they put on a clinic against Texas, breaking an NCAA record for largest margin of victory in the Sweet 16 with their 104-51 victory on Saturday afternoon.
The one concern from Saturday's rout was the lack of playing time by the bench. Kiah Stokes gave 19 quality minutes with four points, four blocks and seven rebounds, but Gabby Williams (13 minutes) and Soniya Chong (10 minutes) played a combined 23 minutes off the bench.
This could be just to the fact that Auriemma is tightening up his bench or he does not trust them to play defense in the postseason.
We will see if Auriemma uses Chong and Williams more tonight as the pace of the game will be a lot faster.
Tonight's winner will face the winner of Tennessee-Maryland in the National Semifinals next Sunday night in Tampa, Florida.