UConn women’s basketball will open their 2021 NCAA tournament run against High Point University on Sunday evening. This is the Huskies first ever meeting against the Panthers, who earned a No. 16 seed in the tournament after winning the Big South Conference Tournament championship.
High Point is 21-6 on the season, but has lost just two games since starting the season 1-4. They are the 84th best team in the country, according to Her Hoop Stats’ ratings. The most comparable team rating wise, from the Huskies schedule this year, is Villanova at 75th. The Panthers’ ranking is not the only similarity between High Point and UConn’s Big East opponent.
“They shoot a lot of threes, they play five out, and they make a lot of threes,” Chris Dailey, who will serve as UConn’s head coach for the first and second rounds of the tournament, told reporters. “That’s one good thing, we’ve played a lot of teams like that — DePaul, Creighton, Villanova. All of those teams are similar to High Point.”
Saying High Point shoots a lot of threes might be a bit of an understatement. The Panthers have both attempted and made the second most 3-point field goals in the country this season. They take over 45 percent of their shots from beyond the arc, which ranks third in the nation.
High Point also makes a high percentage of those shots, shooting at a 36.4 percent clip from beyond the arc on the season. Their roster boasts five players that shoot over 35 percent from beyond the arc on at least 80 attempts. Skyler Curran and Jenson Edwards lead the way, both averaging over 40 percent from deep.
Curran and Edwards also lead the team in scoring, combining for an average of 31.8 points per game for the Panthers. Curran, a junior, also leads the team in rebounding with 7.3 boards per game. Edwards, a redshirt sophomore, adds 5.7 rebounds and 4 assists per game as well.
Outside of containing High Point’s best 3-point shooters, their likely won’t be a lot to challenge the Huskies in this matchup. UConn will have quite the size advantage inside, with just one player in the Panther’s rotation exceeding 6-feet. The Huskies should be able to pound the ball inside to Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Aaliyah Edwards and cleanup on the glass with ease.
Keys to the game for the Huskies:
Defending the perimeter
Look for Christyn Williams to build on her Big East tournament performance and shut down either Curran or Edwards. If UConn can force High Point into contested shots from beyond the arc, their won’t be much the Panthers can do to keep up with the Huskies.
Avoid a slow start
Based on the Huskies’ performance in the Big East tournament, it seems like the slow starts that plagued them all season long are a thing of the past. Still, it’s important for UConn to continue that trend into the NCAA Tournament and set the tone with this opening game.
See some shots fall
This game is set to be played at the Alamodome, which will eventually host this year’s Final Four and National Championships. Shooting in such a large arena can be difficult at first. If the Huskies can knock down their shots in this game, they should feel more comfortable shooting in the arena when they face tougher matchups.
Per Her Hoop Stats, the Huskies have a 96.9 percent chance of coming up with the win over High Point, with a predicted margin of victory of 24.9 points.
UConn should have no problem coasting to an easy win in this one. If their defense is as locked in as it was during the Big East tournament, the Huskies should exceed that margin of victory and open their tournament run with a 30-point or larger victory.