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UConn men’s basketball can’t let “Teddy Buckets” become a thing

Teddy Allen is the WAC Player of the Year and the Aggies’ best player.

NCAA Basketball: New Mexico State at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Every March, college hoops fans unearth an underdog darling, a David that takes down a Goliath. Fans are always on the hunt for the next Cinderella that upends a bracket. On Thursday, the No. 5 seed UConn men’s basketball team must make sure New Mexico State’s Teddy Allen doesn’t join the ranks of RJ Hunter, Ali Farokhmanesh, Clayton Custer, and TJ Sorrentine.

Stop trying to make “Teddy Buckets” happen

If the Huskies fall victim to the dreaded 12-over-5 curse, it will be because they couldn’t contain Teddy Allen, the WAC Player of the Year that led the conference in KenPom’s offensive efficiency. The 6-foot-6 junior guard was a rotation player for Bob Huggins and West Virginia his freshman year, then the leading scorer for the Nebraska Cornhuskers his sophomore year. Now, he’s on his fourth school in four years (he transferred to Wichita State for the 2018-19 season but sat out).

Allen is a matchup nightmare and the straw that stirs the drink for New Mexico State. He put up 41 earlier this year against Abilene Christian, and set Nebraska’s single-game scoring record (also 41 points) last year. He has four games this season of 30+ points. The kid is a verified bucket. He also has tourney experience, with 12 minutes in West Virginia’s Sweet 16 matchup back in 2018 and 42 total minutes in the Mountaineers’ first two tournament games. If the game’s on the line, you know it’s going to be him.

Priority number one, two, and three is to make sure “Teddy Buckets” doesn’t become a thing in March. Nightmare fuel for the Huskies is Allen getting going early and casuals taking to the underdog with the catchy nickname.

Watch that video and you’ll see a smooth stroke and NBA size for a guard. He may not be an elite athlete, but he has an uncanny feel for the game. Consider the 1:10 mark where he goes backdoor and uses a herky jerky fake to get his defender in the air. Can you just see Andre Jackson biting on that and picking up his third foul?

UConn has the personnel to check Teddy, though. A snarling Tyrese Martin has the size and Jackson has the athleticism, but both will need to watch the euro steps and slow-mo pump fakes. Running Allen off the 3-point line, where he likes to duck behind screens and pull up, is critical.

Whaley and Sanogo’s communication on pick and rolls is important, too. The hard hedge from UConn’s bigs should help run Allen off the 3-point line and force him into a tough two or a pass. If Teddy Buckets is forced into a distributor role instead of a playmaker, UConn will be in good shape.

How do you wear out a guy with a usage rate like Allen’s? You throw multiple looks at him throughout the game, you get physical, and you make him work on defense. Per EvanMiya, Allen’s defensive performance rating is very pedestrian, so the likes of Martin and Jackson should have the greenlight in attacking the matchup.