The UConn Huskies will wrap up their regular season on Sunday afternoon in New Orleans. Their final regular season contest as members of the AAC will be against the Tulane Green Wave (12-17, 4-13), an atrocious team which plays in a gym that fits just 3,600 and averages about 2,000 in attendance.
The Green Wave haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 1995, when they were members of the (now non-existent) Metro Conference, and have been a non-player in the (soon to be non-existent, to us) American Athletic Conference. To be fair, new head coach Ron Hunter seems to have the program moving in the right direction, though there wasn’t much room to go in the other direction after finishing 4-27 last year.
Tulane’s 2019-2020 season got off to a promising start, reaching a 10-6 mark after a win at Temple, which came just a few games after a win over Cincinnati. Unfortunately, they lost their next nine games by an average margin of almost 15 points as part of a 2-11 slide heading into this matchup against UConn, who won the first meeting between these two teams, 67-61, in Storrs.
The Green Wave are ranked a dismal 189th in KenPom but to their credit, they’re consistently bad on both ends of the floor, 195th nationally in offensive rating and 183rd defensively.
UConn enters the game ranked 49th in KenPom, which predicts a six-point victory for the Huskies on the road. They’re riding a four-game winning streak after an upset of No. 21 Houston on Senior Night in Gampel Pavilion.
Senior guard Christian Vital has been on a tear as of late for the Huskies, averaging just a shade over 23 points over his last six games, a stretch where UConn has gone 5-1. Junior forward Isaiah Whaley has stepped up his game as well, a welcome sight given the absence of Akok Akok. While the freshman big man is sidelined due to an achilles injury, two of his classmates are making a huge difference in the backcourt in Jalen Gaffney and James Bouknight.
The biggest issue for UConn is going to be its lack of depth, which makes Dan Hurley’s squad particularly vulnerable in the event of foul trouble. Josh Carlton has also had some struggles as of late, and may not be a big part of the gameplan against a smaller opponent. Tulane also frequently employs a zone defense, which will require some offensive discipline from the Huskies.
Since taking over at Tulane, Hunter has used the transfer portal to bring more talent onto the team, including former Memphis and Kansas wing K.J. Lawson, who is their third-leading scorer. Tulane’s top scorer is TeShaun Hightower, a 6’ 5” Georgia transfer who leads a guard-heavy lineup. UConn will probably rotate defensive duties on Lawson and Hightower, who scored 16 and 17 points in the last meeting, respectively.
Believe it or not there are actually some stakes to this game as well. UConn currently sits alone at sixth in the conference standings, just a game behind Memphis, who’s playing at Houston, and Wichita State, who is taking on Tulsa. UConn would lose the tiebreaker to Wichita State, but to be able to tie for fourth in the standings would be a great end to the season, even if the Huskies end up being a five or six-seed in the conference tourney.
Prediction: UConn takes care of business and after today we never have to think about Tulane athletics ever again.