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UConn Men’s Basketball Schedule Preview: Non-Con Cupcakes

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Games against these opponents should be comfortable wins for UConn.

NCAA Basketball: Wagner at Seton Hall Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve finally arrived at the cupcake portion of UConn’s upcoming schedule preview.

While Wagner, Northeastern, and North Florida are no pushovers—Wagner and North Florida won regular season titles last year in their respective conferences, and Northeastern is just one year removed from an NCAA Tournament appearance—all are ranked outside the preseason Top-150 according to KenPom.

If past history is any indication, you might as well go ahead and chalk up three victories to the Huskies’ (UConn that is, not Northeastern) season total.

Since 2001-02, when Ken Pomeroy first blessed us with his fancy algorithms, UConn has faced 127 opponents ranked 150th or below per KenPom ratings.

UConn’s record in those games?

125-2, with the lone setbacks coming at Houston in February 2015 and at UMass in December 2005.

WAGNER

Head Coach: Bashir Mason: 71-55 (4 years)

2015-2016 Record: 23-11 (Lost in 2nd round of NIT)

2016-2017 KenPom: 219th (252nd Offense, 200th Defense)

CBS Sports Poll: 186th

2015-2016 Summary: After winning the Northeast Conference by a full two games, Wagner lost at home to Fairleigh Dickinson in the NEC Tournament championship, meaning the Seahawks had to settle for an NIT appearance. While not the grand prize, Wagner’s NIT victory over St. Bonaventure was the school’s first-ever postseason victory.

2016-2017 Outlook: Bashir Mason has made fans mostly forget all about Dan Hurley. Mason’s next order of business is to lead Wagner to just its second NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, which dates back to 1965. With two preseason All-NEC selections in Corey Henson and Michael Carey, that’s a very realistic goal.

Players to Watch: Corey Henson (13.3 PPG, 40% 3FG) is a combo guard who led the Seahawks in scoring and 3-pointers made last year…Michael Carey, a senior who hails from the Bahamas, is one of the NEC’s finest athletes and registered 15 double-doubles last season.

Matchup with UConn: UConn opens with Wagner Friday. Keep an eye out for the full game preview.

NORTHEASTERN

Head Coach: Bill Coen: 163-160 (10 years)

2015-2016 Record: 18-15

2016-2017 KenPom: 201st (216th Offense, 191st Defense)

CBS Sports Poll: 235th

2015-2016 Summary: Vying for a second straight NCAA Tournament appearance, the Huskies began the season on that trajectory, highlighted by a late November win at Miami. But Northeastern fell apart, losing six consecutive games midway thru conference play before falling to UNC Wilmington in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament semifinals. All three players who averaged at least ten points per game last year—David Walker, Quincy Ford, and Zach Stahl—graduated.

2016-2017 Outlook: The Huskies are picked to finish 7th in the 10-team CAA, which makes sense for a program dealing with the immediate loss of three 1,000-point scorers. Bill Coen has quite the challenge on his hands, which could lead to a long winter in Boston barring a few prior complementary players making gigantic leaps.

Players to Watch: Jeremy Miller is a sophomore (8.3 PPG, 116.3 Offensive Rating) with as high a ceiling as any NEC player. Most of his damage comes from 15-feet and in, but he also shot 38% from behind the arc last year…T.J. Williams will be the Huskies’ starting point guard for the fourth consecutive season. Expect the veteran to distribute less and score more for his grand finale.

Matchup with UConn: Northeastern and UConn square off next Monday in Storrs, with KenPom giving the inferior Huskies an 8% chance of pulling the upset.

NORTH FLORIDA

Head Coach: Matthew Driscoll: 118-112 (7 years); 144-189 overall (11 years)

2015-2016 Record: 22-12 (Lost in 1st round of NIT)

2016-2017 KenPom: 192nd (81st Offense, 304th Defense)

CBS Sports Poll: 174th

2015-2016 Summary: The Ospreys were an offensive force last season, ranking 4th nationally in Effective Field Goal Percentage, 8th in 3-point field goal percentage, and 13th on shots from inside the arc. But their 304th-ranked defense (out of 351 D-1 teams) was exposed far too often, none more so than via a 97-68 loss to Florida Gulf Coast in the Atlantic Sun semifinals.

2016-2017 Outlook: North Florida is attempting to take home a third consecutive ASUN regular season crown, albeit without three of their top five scorers from last year as well as defensive improvements that are purely speculative at this juncture. UNF will be tested early, challenging themselves with a gauntlet of a non-conference slate, featuring UConn, Syracuse, Miami, Florida, and Arkansas. One advantage the Ospreys hold: They have Dallas Moore, and you don’t.

Players to Watch: Dallas Moore (19.8 PPG, 6.0 APG), the reigning ASUN Player of the Year, was one of just four Division-1 players last year to lead their respective conference in both scoring and assists. Moore potentially has an NBA future and is now more familiar with the process after temporarily declaring for the Draft last spring…Chris Davenport (12.3 PPG, 7.2 RPG) is one of the league’s top post players…He will get some help in the frontcourt in the form of Romelo Banks, who was sidelined all last year after undergoing ankle surgery.

Matchup with UConn: North Florida will enter its game against UConn on December 18th having played Florida, Syracuse, and Arkansas all in the previous 17 days. The Ospreys won’t be intimidated by another major foe.