How to watch
When: 4 p.m. Eastern
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: UConn Sports Network
Line: UConn -4, O/U 128.5
KenPom Predicted Score: UConn 67, Butler 63
Fresh off an 82-61 domination of DePaul, the Huskies completed a massive 29-point turnaround against Marquette with a banged-up James Bouknight sitting on the bench for a large part of it. The DePaul game was cool, but that win and the prospect of many great games across the season in Big East play reminds us how exciting this conference move is for Husky hoops fans.
While UConn’s grand Big East return is off to an incredible start, Butler appears a little down following a 2020 season where they went 22-9 and ended the season ranked No. 25 in KenPom. They currently sit at No. 85 in KenPom with just three wins out of eight. Two of them came in the conference, one against basement-dwellers Georgetown and one in their impromptu two-game series against Providence, which came as a result of various COVID-related cancellations.
Butler is middling on both offense and defense, ranking 93rd and 84th in those categories respectively. They're a solid 3-point shooting team, hitting 36.1% from beyond the arc as a team, but don't push the pace whatsoever and prefer to slow the game down, ranked No. 299 in the country in pace.
The rematch of what many people call the greatest NCAA tournament championship game of all time looks to be tipped in UConn’s favor. The Huskies need to be wary of star man Jair Bolden, a transfer from South Carolina who has proven himself as a legitimate scorer in the Big East, averaging 13.4 points per game against Big East competition and shooting 41.9 percent from three on 31 attempts. Bolden originally started his career with George Washington University before making the move to South Carolina under Frank Martin.
His partner in the backcourt is Aaron Thompson, who made his return from a sprained ligament earlier this month with an acrobatic layup to score the go-ahead two points for the Bulldogs over Georgetown. Joining them in the starting lineup is freshman sensation Chuck Harris, who committed to Butler over Providence and burst onto the scene this season with double-digit scoring efforts in six of seven starts. Harris, like Bolden, is a threat from long range, shooting 44.1 percent from three on 24 attempts.
Senior Bryce Nze and junior Bryce Golden are the two mainstays in the frontcourt, an experienced duo that started all 31 games for Butler in 2019-20. Nze hasn’t had the most incredible start to his 2020-21 campaign, shooting just 43.3 percent from the floor, but has plenty of time to recover his form from last season, where he shot 67.7 percent near the rim, led the conference in defensive rebound percentage.
What to watch for
When UConn has the ball
How does Bouknight feel after his injury scare during the week? UConn's budding star sat on the bench for much of Tuesday's game against Marquette, but the Huskies were able to find offense from other areas; Tyler Polley (23 points on 8-12 shooting) and Isaiah Whaley (15 points and 13 rebounds) picked up the slack.
Will Bouknight be back on the court? If he does return, he will likely be used more like he was on Tuesday, a decoy to let UConn's other scoring options work. Or, he might even miss the game altogether — Hurley said Bouk’s a game-time decision to play. If that's the case, will Polley and Whaley be able to step up again? What about the other guards? RJ Cole and Jalen Gaffney haven't exactly gotten off to the hottest shooting start imaginable.
Bouknight made the trip and is a game time decision with a hyperextended elbow.— Mike Mavredakis (@MMavredakis) January 9, 2021
"He's been really limited," Hurley said.
When Butler has the ball
Will UConn let the game come to them and let Butler play their slow, plodding style or will they be aggressive and try to force turnovers? The Bulldogs take care of the ball, ranking No. 44 in the nation in percentage of possessions ending in turnovers. Aaron Thompson and Jair Bolden are yet another strong guard duo that the Huskies’ backcourt will be forced to defend, but they've done a solid job keeping opposing guards quiet so far. UConn held opposing backcourt duos to 20-51 shooting in conference play so far.
UConn gets it done against another middle-of-the-road conference opponent. If Bouknight plays, they’ll probably try to use him in a similar way as the second half against Marquette — deferring to Polley and others to lead the attack. Adama Sanogo had a quiet game against Marquette, so expect him to show out against a mediocre frontcourt.
Final Score: UConn 76, Butler 64