When: Friday, Nov. 18 - 8:30 p.m.
Where: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Connecticut
Radio: UConn Sports Network
Odds: UConn -18.5, over/under 134.5
KenPom Predicted Score: UConn 77, UNC Wilmington 58
The UConn men’s basketball team has one more cupcake on the schedule before it heads cross country for the Phil Knight Invitational. The Huskies take on UNC-Wilmington (1-2) Friday night, looking to go 4-0 on the young season and avoid laying one of those disastrous early-season eggs that torpedo a team’s NET come March.
The Seahawks’ KenPom ranking of 210 shouldn’t scare anyone, but their two losses were to North Carolina and Oklahoma, so don’t expect the 2022 CBI champions to roll over.
When UConn Has the Ball
The Huskies hopefully welcome back one or both of Jordan Hawkins and Andre Jackson. Whoever returns, their reintegration into the offense will be a plotline to watch. UConn has fed Adama Sanogo inside, and that won’t change—he’s averaging roughly a field goal attempt every other minute this year. But how will Tristen Newton, Nyheim Alleyne, and Hassan Diarra’s touches be redistributed with Hawkins or Jackson in the fold?
Barring setback, Hawkins looks good for tomorrow night. Jackson gameday decision. https://t.co/hYiDlRh03U— David Borges (@DaveBorges) November 17, 2022
Getting Hawkins or Jackson up to game speed is critical. More production from freshmen Donovan Clingan and Alex Karaban is expected, with the former already imposing his will on the game and the latter showing the ability to seamlessly fit into a variety of roles.
UConn’s front court efficiency has been remarkable so far. Sanogo is averaging 19 points and nine rebounds in just 22 minutes. Clingan is putting up 10 points and seven rebounds in just over 16 minutes, while Karaban is also in double figures with 11 per game.
Clingan and Karaban won’t always score double figure scoring every night, but even 15 points between them is found money given the rest of the scoring talent on the roster—Newton is stuffing the stat sheet with a 15-7-5 line, while Alleyne, Hassan Diarra, and Joey Calcaterra have all filled it up at some point this season. Considering the career percentages of Newton and Alleyne, expect one or both to eventually shoot their way out of their current subpar clips.
UNCW likes to switch one through five, with the Seahawks trotting out a host of versatile, athletic 6-foot-6 types that can muck up an offense. Last year’s team that won the CBI was 14th in the country in turnover margin and 6-foot-2 senior Shykeim Phillips in particular could feast on a sloppy UConn backcourt—he’s averaging two steals per game this year. The Huskies have been careless with the ball at times, so tightening up offensive sets and individual handles is a must.
When UNCW Has the Ball
The Seahawks’ offense starts and ends with containing 6-foot-6 sophomore Trazarien White, who is averaging 18.3 points per game this year. He poured in 19 points when the Seahawks only lost to North Carolina by 13 in the season opener. If Jackson is back, he probably gets the assignment, but if not, who will?
Inside, 6-foot-9 senior Amari Kelly and 6-foot-8 grad transfer Victor Enoh from Marist will need to be kept off the glass. Eric Van Der Heijden, a 6-foot-9 sophomore transfer from Ole Miss, is shooting 41% from downtown, and any floor spacer could spell trouble for Sanogo and Clingan.
Can UConn’s size and length disrupt UNCW’s guards enough? The Seahawks guard duo of Phillips and the 6-foot-1 guard Donovan Newby, a transfer from Milwaukee will be checked by the 6-foot-5 Newton and 6-foot-3 Alleyne. Diarra may not have a size advantage, but his physicality is always welcomed.