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Bracketology Forecast: Taking a look at UConn men’s basketball’s potential first weekend matchups

The Huskies are a consensus potential No. 5 seed.

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Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

For the second year in a row, head coach Dan Hurley has the UConn men’s basketball team firmly in the NCAA Tournament field. While the Huskies’ Big East Tournament chances came to an end Friday night against eventual champion Villanova, the bracketology “experts” have UConn pretty firmly pegged as No. 5 seed — their highest seeding since they won the national championship as a No. 3 seed in 2011.

Before we dive into where the Huskies are projected to go come Selection Sunday, let’s take a quick look at their resume.

UConn Huskies (23-9, 13-6 Big East)

AP Poll rank: No. 20

KenPom rank: No. 18

NET rank: No. 16

Quad 1 record: 5-6

Quality wins: Auburn, Marquette (x2), Seton Hall (x2), Villanova

Bad losses: None

The Huskies certainly have their best credentials in the Hurley Era this season and the early season win against Auburn and later victories against the likes of Villanova and Seton Hall certainly cement UConn as a single-digit seed. The Huskies’ worst loss of the season is likely the one to West Virginia on the road in December, which now counts as a Quad 2 loss with the Mountaineers now ranking just outside the top 75 in NET.

Let’s take a look at where the experts have the Huskies in their respective bracket forecasts as the Selection Sunday show approaches.

Last update: 11:55 a.m.

ESPN

Region: West (San Francisco)

Seeding/matchup: No. 5 seed vs. No. 12 UAB

Potential second round matchup: Winner of No. 4 Arkansas vs. No. 13 Vermont

No. 1 seed in region: Gonzaga

Analysis: This might be the worst case scenario for UConn. UAB is a top 50 team in KenPom and is fresh off a Conference USA tournament title. If the Huskies get by the Blazers, they would take on an Arkansas team that has the 16th best defense in the country or a trendy upset pick in Vermont, a top-60 KenPom team who is the best in the country at limiting offensive rebounds on the defensive end. That doesn’t factor in Gonzaga, the projected top overall seed, being in the Huskies’ bracket.

CBS Sports

Region: East (Philadelphia)

Seeding/matchup: No. 5 seed vs. No. 12 UAB

Potential second round matchup: Winner of No. 4 Illinois vs. No. 13 Vermont

No. 1 seed in region: Baylor

Analysis: Another matchup with the Blazers and the Catamounts in the same pod. Illinois finished the regular season strong with wins over Michigan, Penn State and Iowa, but was promptly bounced in its first game of the Big 10 Tournament by Indiana. The Illini rank one spot higher than UConn in KenPom at No. 17 and shoot 36.7 percent from three as a team. They also feature one of the most dominant big men in the country in Kofi Cockburn.

The Athletic ($)

Region: West

Seeding/matchup: No. 5 seed vs. winner of First Four game: No. 12 Notre Dame vs. No. 12 Texas A&M

Potential second round matchup: Winner of No. 4 Illinois vs. No. 13 New Mexico State

No. 1 seed in region: Gonzaga

Analysis: While ESPN and CBS have the Huskies in Buffalo for their first weekend, The Athletic has UConn in Milwaukee taking on the winner of a First Four matchup. Since the inception of the First Four over a decade ago, First Four teams have a better record in the tournament from the first round on (18-20) than No. 8 and No. 9 seeds do.

It’s a little daunting to run into a team that already has a win and some momentum under their belt, but the Huskies should be able to hang tight with either Texas A&M or ND, depending on who comes out on top. Notre Dame would be the preferred choice considering that it ranks 52nd in KenPom compared to A&M’s 42nd ranking. The Irish are also one of the worst teams in the country at forcing turnovers while A&M is one of the best.

NCAA.com

Region: Midwest

Seeding/matchup: No. 5 seed vs. No. 12 South Dakota State

Potential second round matchup: Winner of No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 13 New Mexico State

No. 1 seed in region: Kansas

Analysis: The Jackrabbits are the lowest-rated team in KenPom that UConn has been paired with so far, but would probably represent a trendy upset pick come Selection Sunday. SDSU has not yet lost in 2022, winning 21-straight games on the way to a 30-4 record and Summit League Tournament title.

Even though UConn would have a significant size advantage, SDSU’s shooting could be enough of an equalizer to give the Huskies plenty of trouble. The Jackrabbits lead the country in the 3-point percentage (44.2 percent) and effective field goal percentage (59.7 percent) while posting the 12th-most efficient offense in college basketball.

Should the Huskies get by South Dakota State, they would likely have to take on Mick Cronin and UCLA in round two — a brutal draw, considering the Bruins are ranked No. 7 in KenPom, meaning they likely deserve a much higher seed. If UConn can get through that, things do open up a bit as NCAA.com has Auburn as the No. 2 seed and Kansas, the weakest No. 1 seed in the tournament, in the bracket.

Sports Illustrated

Region: South

Seeding/matchup: No. 5 seed vs. First Four winner: No. 12 SMU vs. No. 12 Notre Dame

Potential second round matchup: Winner of No. 4 Arkansas vs. No. 13 Vermont

No. 1 seed in region: Arizona

Analysis: First Four momentum aside, either SMU or Notre Dame would be a good matchup for the Huskies. The Mustangs have played in just four Quad 1 games this year, winning two of them, but are an experienced team that fell just short of an AAC title to Memphis. SMU has been playing ultra small-ball as of late, using 6-foot-5 Marcus Weathers as the center in its lineups nearly one third of the time. That could give Adama Sanogo a prime opportunity to bounce back from an underwhelming weekend in the Big East Tournament.