The Eagles are one of the worst teams in college basketball, ranking No. 351 out of 358 teams in Division I according to KenPom, and are coached by former Maryland great Juan Dixon.
When: 12 p.m. Eastern
Where: XL Center
Radio: UConn Sports Network/The River 105.9
Line: UConn - 35
KenPom Predicted Score: UConn 90, Coppin State 55
Outside of some teams in the NBA, no one has played more basketball this week than the Coppin State Eagles (0-2). In his fifth season as head coach, Dixon has his team playing early and often — by the time Coppin State tips off against UConn on Saturday, it will already be their fourth road game of the week.
They’ll follow that up with three games next week to give them seven games in well under two weeks. For reference, UConn has four games in that same span.
While early KenPom numbers can be tricky, the Eagles are No. 1 in the country in adjusted tempo. That means there’s a real chance they might be dragging a little on Saturday, especially after having to play a game at Rider the night before.
For a UConn team that hopes to be a factor in the NCAA Tournament and that just demolished CCSU on both ends of the floor, the Huskies need to do the same here.
With advantages in size, speed, athleticism, talent, and rest, the Huskies shouldn’t have any trouble. If all goes well, this game should serve as a chance to get freshmen Rahsool Diggins, Samson Johnson, and Jordan Hawkins some extended minutes, and allow some of the more experienced team members that played sparingly last season like Richie Springs and Akok Akok to get comfortable with the speed of the game again.
When UConn has the ball
If Coppin State is truly committed to playing fast, UConn should take advantage early.
With big, athletic guards like Andre Jackson and Tyrese Martin, the Huskies should be able to create its fair share of turnovers and turn them into points. In half-court sets, Adama Sanogo and Isaiah Whaley should be able to handle the smaller Eagles frontcourt, where no one on the opposition playing significant minutes is over 6-foot-8.
Diggins and Johnson played sparingly against CCSU, with Johnson looking a little overwhelmed by the speed of the game. While Hawkins is working his way back from an ankle injury, he may see his first action in this game, but Dan Hurley is usually pretty cautious with injuries — he might not play at all.
Lastly, the Huskies shot the ball exceptionally well from deep on Tuesday, making eight of their 13 attempts, good for over 61.5 percent. This UConn team isn’t loaded with marksmen, but it will be interesting to watch if RJ Cole, Tyler Polley, and Jalen Gaffney — the only Huskies with multiple 3-point attempts this season — can continue to connect from deep.
When Coppin State has the ball
Coppin State is going to be tired — that’s just what happens when you play four games in the span of five days — but will it show on the court? Dixon wants the Eagles to play fast, draw fouls and get to the line, as shooting free throws is about the only thing they do well so far (78.9 percent). They’ll also chuck up some threes in the process, but only are shooting 27.7 percent from deep and averaging a touch over 20 attempts per game.
To have a shot at beating the Huskies, Coppin State will need to attack UConn’s bigs and get them in foul trouble, so this could be a good test for Sanogo’s defensive discipline. If the Eagles get Sanogo and/or Whaley to ride the bench early and get some threes to drop, they can make this game much more competitive.
Coppin State’s offense runs primarily through guards Jesse Zarzuela and Mike Hood, who averaged 16.5 and 12.5 points per game respectively in the first two games of the season. The duo serves as the Eagles’ only real 3-point threats, with Zarzuela shooting 28 percent and Hood shooting 63 percent on just eight attempts. Outside of Zarzuela, guards Nendah Take and Justin Steers have shown some success getting to the hoop and drawing fouls this season — they’re shooting over 85% from the free-throw line combined.