After returning from a grueling stretch of basketball in what is supposed to be paradise, the No. 17 UConn Huskies return to friendlier confines after a 2-1 Thanksgiving week at the Battle 4 Atlantis. They’ll face a Maryland- Eastern Shore team that has not fared as well on the year.
When: 7 p.m. Eastern
Where: XL Center
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: UConn Sports Network
Odds: UConn -33, over/under 134
KenPom Predicted Score: UConn 83, Maryland-Eastern 50
The Hawks sit at 2-4 headed into Hartford and are ranked No. 351 out of 358 teams according to KenPom. Maryland-Eastern Shore has played just one home game so far this year, a 91-42 win over Bryn Athyn College, a Division III school in Pennsylvania. They had an additional non-Division I contest scheduled against Division III Hood College, which is also in Maryland, but it was postponed due to COVID-19 safety protocols. Those are two of four Division III opponents on the Hawks’ schedule this year.
Maryland-Eastern Shore’s other win came on the road against Fordham in double overtime, while Liberty, Campbell, Temple and St. Joseph’s have all served defeat to the Hawks, in order from most recent to least recent. The loss to Liberty came on Saturday, so the Hawks will be slightly less rested than UConn, which last played on Friday.
When UConn has the ball
After playing three tough opponents in Auburn, Michigan State and VCU, the Huskies should have a little more operating room on Tuesday evening. Overall, Maryland-Eastern Shore ranks below CCSU, which UConn dusted on Nov. 9, in KenPom and are the second-worst team in adjusted defensive efficiency that the Huskies have played so far, behind those very same Blue Devils. The Hawks are ranked No. 317 on the defensive end according to KenPom, surrendering 107.6 points per 100 possessions. By contrast, UConn scores 111.3 points per 100 possessions and is ranked No. 25 in adjusted offensive efficiency by KenPom.
This efficiency is due to UConn’s strong presence down low, including reigning Big East player of the week Adama Sanogo, as well as Isaiah Whaley and sizable wing players in Tyrese Martin and Andre Jackson. Maryland-Eastern Shore does not have any of those things, with just three players taller than 6-foot-5. Two players standing 6-foot-7 are solidly within the rotation, with Kohen Thompson averaging 19 minutes per game and Mayowa Akinsanya plays 10.3 minutes, though the team’s tallest player, 6-foot-10, 240-pound freshman Marko Milivojevic, has just 12 minutes all season.
When the tallest player in the opposing starting lineup is 6-foot-5, the significantly larger Sanogo and Whaley need to go to work against smaller competition. Perhaps Samson Johnson can get some significant minutes and confidence against Division I competition.
When Maryland-Eastern Shore has the ball
The Hawks, despite playing what is listed on the roster as four-guard starting lineup, do not get out and run as much as some would think, playing offense mostly in the half-court. The team is ranked No. 235 in the country in tempo, according to KenPom, with an adjusted 67.8 possessions per 40 minutes. In contrast, the fastbreak-happy Huskies are No. 85 with 70.4 adjusted possessions.
If Maryland- Eastern Shore stays true to form, UConn should get the opportunity to force a lot of turnovers. UConn already plays smothering defense and is ranked No. 24 in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom. Five players (RJ Cole, Jalen Gaffney, Jordan Hawkins, Jackson and Sanogo) average more than a steal per game in the early going, while Jackson, Sanogo and Whaley each have more than 1.0 blocks per contest. As a team, UConn averages 8.9 thefts and 7.6 blocks per game.
Maryland- Eastern Shore is the third-worst offense in college basketball, averaging just 85.2 points per 100 possessions. The team averages 37.5 percent shooting against Division I opponents and it took the Hawks double-overtime to crack 70 points against Division I competition for the first time. It’s likely to be open season for the UConn defense, providing for a lot of short possessions and easy points on the other end.