UPDATE: After numerous media reports, The Gazelle Group, who is running Bubbleville at Mohegan Sun, announced that this game has been cancelled.
“The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and Gazelle Group announced late Friday night a positive COVID-19 test within the NC State program has abruptly brought an end to Bubbleville. After 26 successful matchups in the past 10 days, this evening’s positive test was the first that unexpectedly interrupted game play.
In accordance with the Connecticut Travel Advisory, all members of the NC State program provided a negative test result prior to travel. All members received a PCR test immediately upon arrival at Mohegan Sun and again received negative results prior to their matchup against UMass Lowell on December 3.
In accordance with NCAA protocols, the team tested again today, 24 hours prior to their matchup with UConn scheduled for December 5. Upon determination of the positive test result, tomorrow’s game has been canceled and tracing protocols have been enacted,” the Gazelle group said in a statement.
How to watch
When: 12 p.m. Eastern
Radio: UConn Sports Network
Line: UConn -1.5, O/U 143
KenPom Predicted Score: UConn 72, NC State 71
UConn’s first game in Bubbleville at Mohegan Sun wasn’t pretty, but the Huskies held on to secure a quality win over USC. Even up against some of best talent in the country in freshman Evan Mobley and his brother Isaiah, seniors Josh Carlton and Isaiah Whaley combined for 19 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks, controlling the boards on both ends. Standout sophomore James Bouknight continued his hot start to the season with an 18-point performance, and Tyrese Martin put together another solid performance in his second game at UConn with 11 points and seven boards.
While the Huskies did enough to win, they still have a lot to work on. Even with a hot offensive start — UConn hit five of its first six 3-point attempts — the Huskies couldn’t keep it going, scoring just three points over the final eight and a half minutes. And even though Bouknight, Carlton and Whaley performed well, Adama Sanogo, R.J. Cole and Jalen Gaffney struggled in their first matchup of the season against stiffer competition. That trio will certainly have growing pains across this season, but Dan Hurley and the Huskies need those players to contribute somewhat consistently in order to get back to the NCAA tournament.
Overall, it’s hard to not be optimistic after seeing the Huskies grind out a W out over a talented USC squad. Hurley said it himself, this was a game that last year’s team would have likely lost. It looks like UConn is certainly heading in the right direction.
The Huskies have another opportunity to build their tournament resume against a solid NC State team to wrap up the Legends Classic in Bubbleville. The Wolfpack (3-0) rank 36th in KenPom — the highest ranked opponent UConn (3-0) has faced so far — but haven’t played a top-200 team in KenPom yet.
Like the Huskies, their best win of the season came Thursday night, with NC State rolling past UMass Lowell 90-59 at Mohegan Sun. The Wolfpack had 14 players see action in the win over the Riverhawks, but likely will use a smaller rotation against better opponents. The Wolfpack have a pair of wings in Devon Daniels (18 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, both team highs) and Jericole Hellems (14 points per game) that lead the way offensively. Cam Hayes, a top-100 recruit and freshman guard who can score and distribute, leads the team in assists and has proven to be a formidable third option so far.
Where the Wolfpack really shine is on the defensive end. They have yet to allow more than 61 points in a game this season and focus on creating chaos, especially in the backcourt. NC State ranks fourth in the country in both turnover percentage (32.8 percent) and steal percentage (17.3 percent), relying largely on pressure from Hayes and senior Braxton Beverly. Both guards rank in the top 90 in steal percentage this season and should present a defensive challenge for Cole, Gaffney and Bouknight.
What to watch for
When UConn has the ball
How will UConn, specifically the guards, handle the Wolfpack defensive pressure? The Huskies cut down their turnovers from 19 and 15 in the first two games to 11 against the Trojans. Even though Cole and Gaffney didn’t do much offensively, their ability to limit turnovers helped the Huskies pull through.
Josh Carlton will be another player to watch. After logging only three minutes in the first two games, the senior big put together a really great performance, dominating the offensive glass and going toe-to-toe with Evan Mobley for stretches on defense. Regardless of the distribution, Carlton will likely be part of a three-headed monster at the center spot between Sanogo, himself and Whaley that should give the Huskies a huge advantage on the glass.
When NC State has the ball
NC State doesn’t really have a go-to guy, but rather a balanced offensive attack between Daniels, Hellems and Hayes. Against USC, Hurley’s game plan was to focus on shutting down Mobley, and it sort of worked — he scored 17 points, but went a long stretch without being able to get any touches. Can UConn limit three legit offensive options at the same time? It’s a major defensive assignment for Martin, Bouknight, Tyler Polley and Whaley against Daniels (6-foot-5) and Hellems (6-foot-7) especially with only one day to prepare. It’s not only a test for the UConn players, but for Hurley and his staff.
Lastly, although NC State may have the edge in KenPom, they haven’t played a team nearly as good as the Huskies yet. They’ll be the ones adjusting to a higher level of play and athleticism as they go up against a talented and deep team of its own caliber.
UConn shakes off the poor offensive performance in the second and comes out hot to start once again. Cole and Gaffney battle through some early turnover issues but eventually the combination of Bouknight, Martin, Carlton and Whaley is too much for NC State. The Huskies put together a more consistent performance and eventually starts pulling away with some key defensive plays in the final minutes. Martin continues his strong start with some easy baskets in the paint, strong defense on Daniels and Hellems and a load of rebounds to get UConn to 4-0.
UConn 75, NC State 68