This certainly isn’t how we thought UConn would be ending its season.
Kevin Ollie’s Huskies head into the regular season finale looking to even out their record, which currently sits at a disappointing, to say the least, 14-15. They are ranked 88th in KenPom and sit tied for fifth in the conference standings.
The majority of the blame, however, goes to the injury gods, who took two of UConn’s best players, new starters Alterique Gilbert and Terry Larrier, for the year. Though the team lost its first two games with a full roster, a sin it appears Ollie will be paying for indefinitely, there’s no doubt this would have been a much better season with those two. Freshman Mamadou Diarra would also be shut down for the year with a knee condition.
After all of that, Jalen Adams was banged up at times, including the road loss to Houston and the home loss to SMU. Christian Vital, who had emerged as a useful player in a year where he was supposed to be a deep bench player, missed a handful of games. For a stretch, UConn was down to a six-man rotation with big men Steve Enoch and Juwan Durham out injured. The guys who have made it out alive are rightfully exhausted, Adams and Rodney Purvis play close to 40 minutes a night.
From a very early point in this season, we knew UConn needed to win the AAC Tournament if it wanted to make the 68-team field in the NCAA Tournament. The chances of that happening took a huge hit as the Huskies dropped a road contest against East Carolina in their previous game. Vital missed the game with a concussion, Adams injured his ankle the game before but played through it, and Rodney Purvis played with a finger he dislocated during shootaround.
But the standings don't factor in the degree of difficulty due to injury loss, so the Huskies are currently tied for fifth with Memphis and sitting on the outside of a first round bye because they cede the tiebreaker to the Tigers for that last spot.
UConn needs an improbable win against No. 18 Cincinnati (26-4, 16-1 AAC) and for Memphis to lose to SMU to secure that fifth spot and a first round bye. KenPom gives that combination of outcomes a 30% chance of occurring.
This will be the last game of Rodney Purvis, Amida Brimah, and Kentan Facey’s careers. Though their tenure in Storrs may not have been as fruitful as fans would have liked, it was a very important storm which they helped UConn weather and their impact has been huge.
Brimah takes a lot of lumps for his relative lack of offensive progression, but his defensive contribution doesn’t show up under his name on the stat sheet. Purvis may not have lived up to his billing, but he has played well, been an active recruiter, and represented his new school well. Facey showed glimpses in his first three years but finally blossomed as a senior, averaging 9 ppg and 7.4 rpg.
Cincinnati is led by Troy Caupain (9.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 4.6 apg) and Gary Clark (10.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.2 apg) but look to Kyle Washington and Jacob Evans, who both average 13.5 points per game, offensively. This is a good, balanced Bearcat team which can beat you in many ways.
Kevin Ollie and his squad will have their hands full but who knows maybe they can make some magic in a game which means much more to them than it does to their opponent.