When: Tuesday, Nov. 15 - 7 p.m.
Where: XL Center — Hartford, Connecticut
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: UConn Sports Network
Odds: UConn -20.5, over/under 152.5 (odds via Borgata)
KenPom Predicted Score: UConn 87, Buffalo 66
When UConn has the ball
At this point, it’s far from a secret what UConn wants to do on offense. Dan Hurley is going to continue working the offense through Adama Sanogo, who has dominated in the early going. While the competition level has been sub-par, Sanogo has still averaged 23 points and 10.5 rebounds in only 23 minutes per game.
With Jordan Hawkins looking likely to miss his second straight game after taking a hard spill against Stonehill, Sanogo should get even more touches in an offense that he has already taken over. It’s still early, but Sanogo currently has the second-highest player efficiency rating in the country, and one of the highest usage rates per ESPN’s Hollinger Player Efficiency Ratings. Translation: He gets the ball a ton and is extremely efficient when given opportunities. Combine this with Buffalo’s undersized front line — starting five-man Jo Smith is nearly 45 pounds smaller than Sanogo — and it should be another day of feasting for UConn’s Wooden Award hopeful.
Besides the obvious, UConn will look to build on their great 3-point shooting night from Friday, when the Huskies shot 10-21 with six different players cashing in from downtown. At full strength, this offense is likely at its best when they can space the floor with at least three shooters around Sanogo and allow him more space to operate underneath, which will also lead to more open shots from the perimeter.
This is a bit harder to do with Hawkins not able to go and Andre Jackson still out, but it just opens the door for Karaban and Calcaterra to step in and continue to impact the game in positive ways. Karaban is the second-leading scorer on the team with 11.5 points per night, which should only increase as Hawkins misses more time. Karaban has looked extremely really comfortable within the offense so far, even showing an ability to face up and take the ball to the rim. He’s stepped up in Samson Johnson’s absence, who missed last game due to a foot injury and may be out until Big East play begins, according to Hurley.
The play of top-100 freshman Donovan Clingan also cannot be overlooked. UConn doesn’t scheme up touches for Clingan the same way that they do for Sanogo, but he has been a fear-inducing presence down low, leading the team with 3.0 blocks per game, to go along with 9.5 points and 7.0 rebounds. Clingan is also top 30 in the NCAA in per-40 minute rebounding, which is four spots higher than his superstar teammate.
Hurley’s new set of guards haven’t shot the ball particularly well to start the year, and going up against Buffalo’s trio of big and athletic guards isn’t going to make matters easier. It will be tough for Buffalo to account for all of UConn’s offensive options, so Newton and Alleyne should still get their fair share of open looks.
When Buffalo has the ball
The Bulls are balanced, with their offensive and defensive efficiency ratings on KenPom with a difference of just two. The only problem is that their ranking for both of these metrics is below 200, so they aren’t very good on either side of the ball. One thing Buffalo loves to do is run, as they rank No. 1 in the country in adjusted tempo. UConn is No. 219, so it will be interesting to see how much Buffalo is able to speed up the tempo and get UConn to play their game. The Huskies are no stranger to this style of play, but with the players they have in this game and an offense centered around an old-fashioned big, turning the game into a track meet is not exactly what they want to do.
Second-year head coach Jim Whitesell welcomes a plethora of new faces to the program this year, highlighted by former JuCo All-American guard Zid Powell. Powell has been the team’s best player to start the year, averaging 16.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per night. He does most of his damage in the mid-range and at the rim, so UConn is going to need to cover the high-ball screens that eventually come to help free up Powell for scoring opportunities.
Joining Powell in the backcourt is Division II transfer Amoni Foster, who got some pro attention last season after putting up 17.8 points and 4.9 rebounds at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, but he has struggled through two games. UConn cannot make the mistake of overlooking him in the scouting report, because if Buffalo is going to have a shot in this game it will likely be because of Powell putting up numbers.
Sophomore Curtis Jones (14.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists) rounds out one of the MAC’s best backcourts that will really test UConn’s guards. UCF transfer Isaiah Adams is the lone frontcourt producer for Whitesell’s squad, but he has struggled to shoot the ball and is considerably undersized compared to UConn’s front line at 6-foot-6, 210 pounds.