When: 12:00 p.m. Eastern
Where: XL Center
Radio: UConn Sports Network
Odds: UConn -29.5, over/under 138.5
KenPom Predicted Score: UConn 83, Binghamton 56
After destroying its first three opponents, UConn now faces another lowly opponent, this time against the Binghamton Bearcats of the America East. After this one, the road becomes much more difficult, but this one should be a big win for the Huskies.
While the beginning of the last game against LIU started rather slowly, UConn blew the game wide open and turned it into a dunking exhibition in the second half.
The Bearcats, on the other hand, have had a less than ideal start to the season. They sit at 1-2, after three competitive games. The year began with a tough loss to Cornell 76-69. They then bested Sacred Heart on the road 72-60. An OT loss on the road at Columbia was their final tune-up before this uphill battle with a UConn team that is firing on all cylinders.
When UConn has the ball
UConn has a substantial size and athleticism advantage. Sanogo should get the ball early and often, his biggest challenger down low is six-foot-nine forward Ogheneyole Akuwovo. Akuwovo is an active big with some size but is no match for Sanogo’s nimble feet, touch, and brute strength around the rim.
UConn will try to spread the wealth and also try to speed up the Bearcats as they’ve been able to do against all opposition so far. Andre Jackson did a superb job handling the ball in the last game and that should continue since his natural ability and basketball IQ seem to be rounding into form. He was also 5-7 from the floor, including 2-3 from long range, and has shown his knack for hitting these deadly mid-range floaters. If he can gain confidence shooting the ball, especially from deep, the ceiling of this UConn team jumps up another level.
What will be interesting is how Hurley decides to deploy Jordan Hawkins. The freshman looked good in his first minutes of the season on Wednesday, but the Huskies were ahead by a significant margin at that point so there was absolutely no pressure. That may be the case again in this game, but I’d like to see Hawkins get some early action, maybe in the first half, to help get him some more competitive minutes and bring up his confidence level even further going into the matchup against No. 21 Auburn.
Two other things to look out for are Tyler Polley regaining his three-point shooting stroke, and Tyrese Martin hunting his own shot and using his massive frame to overpower opposing guards. So far Polley is 3-15 from three-point range, but it’s only a matter of time before he heats up. With the looks he’s getting thus far and his confidence level not faltering, Polley will get back on track soon. This would be the game to do it since three of UConn’s next five games are against top-45 KenPom teams.
Tyrese Martin is no doubt an integral piece of this UConn team both on the offensive and defensive end. So far, he’s been able to play very freely, picking and choosing his spots and attacking when the opportunities present themselves, both because of the lower quality opponents they have played and also due to the depth of the team. When UConn’s games get tougher, Martin will likely be counted on to generate offense by himself, taking advantage of his size to back down smaller guards in the post.
When Binghamton has the ball
The Bearcats bring a balanced scoring attack, led by point guard John McGriff, who is averaging 14.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 3.3 assists. It is clear that the offense runs through McGriff, who has taken almost double the number of field goals (51) that the next highest player on the roster has attempted thus far (27).
Binghamton is about even on both ends of the floor, ranking 301st in adjusted offensive efficiency and 313th in adjusted defensive efficiency thus far according to Kenpom, 315th overall. Judging by the first three games of the season, this team has some guys who have the potential to fill it up when hot, but are overall very inconsistent. Junior guard Tyler Bertram scored seven points combined in his first two games and then proceeded to explode in the third, pouring in 29 points on 7-10 from three-point range. Sophomore guard Kellen Amos, who comes off the bench, put up seven points in the first, 26 in the second, and then had another seven.
A classic three-guard, two-forward lineup is what Binghamton has rolled out over the course of their first three games thus far. They sometimes switch to the four-guard lineup with the Amos the offensive focal point, but this leaves them very vulnerable in the front court. UConn will almost assuredly look to exploit the many mismatches that will be apparent in this game.