At various points during the 2015-2016 season, we have meticulously scrutinized and wondered aloud as to how UConn would respond following arbitrary setbacks.
After three-point losses on consecutive November days in the Battle 4 Atlantisâfirst to Syracuse then to Gonzagaâthe Huskies were expected to regroup quickly for a looming primetime nonconference showdown against Maryland.
Not even 16 minutes into that (non)contest, Maryland led 34-14, and only a furious UConn rally late in the second half kept the final score respectable.
Another such instance came immediately after the February 11th collapse at Temple, in a game in which UConn's win probability peaked at roughly 98% around the 6:00 mark, only to have Temple close out the night on a 21-4 run.
Bouncing back quite well from the meltdown in Philadelphia, UConn proceeded to knock off both Tulsa and SMU at home.
On Sunday, UConn (20-10, 10-7 AAC) again finds itself in a similar situation, playing host to UCF (12-16, 6-11) on Senior Day at Gampel Pavilion (2 p.m., ESPNU).
The Huskies enter the regular season finale on a two-game losing streak, and their most recent loss, an 80-54 laugher at the hands of SMU on Thursday in which UConn trailed by as many as 30, may have signaled the beginning of the end for a program that is in grave danger of missing consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time since the 80's.
Then again, if there is one irrefutable takeaway from this year—aside from the fact that Sterling Gibbs is a one-dimensional guard incapable of running an offense and Shonn Miller is a godsend—it's that predicting the ensuing post-loss response from a group as consistently inconsistent as the 2015-2016 version of the Huskies have been is quite reckless.
Either way, whether UConn has anything left in its tank probably won't be determined on Sunday, versus a UCF squad that made just 23.5% of its shots in the first meeting on January 31st, tied for the 19th-worst shooting percentage in a single game by any team in college basketball this season.
A better barometer is this coming Friday, from the approximate hours of 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., when UConn, already locked in at 5th in the AAC Tournament, will try to avoid losing a third time to 4th-seeded Cincinnati in what could very well be a play-in game to the Big Dance.
The Numbers Game
UConn committed a season-high 17 turnovers versus SMU on Thursday, but ball control shouldn't be an issue for the Huskies on Senior Day. UCF ranks 350th, or 2nd-to-last out of 351 D-1 teams, in opponents' turnover percentage. The Knights are also careless with the rock themselves, resulting in the 4th-worst turnover margin (-5.1) in the country.
The AAC Tournament's top seven seeds are already established, with UCF sliding into the 7-spot. The fact that the Knights are ahead of cellar dwellers East Carolina, USF, and Tulane is largely traceable to their conference strength-of-schedule of 10- only SMU has had an easier league slate. UCF has lost 10 of its past 12, with the only two victories in that stretch coming over Tulane.
On the flip side, UConn has played the American Conference's toughest league schedule, per KenPom.
What UCF lacks in entertainment value, it makes up for in stature. The Knights are the tallest team in the country, ranking 1st with an Average Height of 79.3 inches, narrowly edging out the likes of California, Maryland, Florida State, Duke, and Gonzaga. Leading the way is 7-foot-6, 300-pound freshman Tacko Fall (7.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG), who unsurprisingly has the nation's highest two-point field goal percentage (75.2%). Fall also boasts the second-best block rate (13.3%).
It's not often that Amida Brimah has to tilt his head upward toward his opposing number, but that will be the case Sunday afternoon.