No. 5 UConn men’s basketball has captured the first of what it hopes is four trophies this season, with an Empire Classic win over No. 15 Texas in Monday’s title game, which followed a strong victory over Indiana. It’ll be a brief respite for the Huskies, as a Black Friday matchup with Manhattan is on tap, one week before a journey to Allen Fieldhouse and what will surely be a highly-ranked Kansas team.
Radio: UConn Sports Network
Odds: UConn -34.5, over/under 139.5
KenPom Predicted Score: UConn 84, Manhattan 54 | 99.7 percent win probability
All stats as of the start of play on Thursday.
UConn and Manhattan first squared off early in the 1949-50 season, which was a 71-56 victory for the Jaspers at Hawley Armory in Storrs. The squads played every year but one (1966-67) between 1954-55 and 1982-83, when the Big East moved to 16 conference games from 14. The Huskies earned their first NCAA Tournament win over Manhattan in 1956 at Madison Square Garden, which was the first of four games the teams have played between the building’s third and fourth iterations.
In honor of last night's Empire Classic win, here's a picture of the Madison Square Garden marquee in 1958, just around the time UConn started to make it a home away from home pic.twitter.com/cBlDo9cflg— Tom Breen (@TJBreen) November 21, 2023
Overall, UConn is 19-14 against the Jaspers, including seven of the past eight. Manhattan came to Gampel Pavilion on Dec. 15, 2018, which was a 61-46 Huskies win. This has been the only meeting since the annual series ended.
What to watch for
Take a rest
Donovan Clingan, who played heavy minutes against Indiana for the first time this season as he returns from a foot injury, clearly looked out of gas at the end of the back-to-back against Texas. He is still getting his legs back and with No. 311 Manhattan coming into XL Center on Friday, he shouldn’t need to play heavy minutes. Samson Johnson, provided he stays out of foul trouble, seems more than capable of taking care of the center spot against the Jaspers.
Manhattan’s starting center is 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds, while Johnson is 6-foot-10 and 225 pounds and Clingan is significantly larger. UConn has plenty of frontcourt depth to ensure that nobody gets over-exerted. Maybe Dan Hurley elects to go ultra small and plays Alex Karaban at the five spot for a time.
A mismatch on the interior
Almost 60 percent of Manhattan’s points comes from 2-pointers. The Jaspers’ 58.7 percent mark is No. 56 in the country, though they only shoot 45.8 percent on interior shots, which is down near No. 300. This will create an uphill battle for Manhattan to score, as UConn is one of the better interior defenses in the country. The Huskies allow opposing teams to shoot 42.7 percent on shots inside the arc, which is No. 38 in the country.
Manhattan played Kansas on Nov. 10 and the Jayhawks are similarly strong inside, at 40.8 percent on 2-pointers, even after three games against the KenPom top-20. The Jaspers scored just 0.78 points per possession and shot 15-42 (35.7 percent) on 2-pointers. It’s likely that Saturday will go in similar fashion.
Keep moving the ball
While the Huskies are one of the nation’s elite teams on both side of the ball, another strength that’s a weakness for Manhattan is ball movement. UConn has an assist on 62.7 percent of its field goals this season, which is No. 27 in the nation. In contrast, 62.7 percent of made shots against the Jaspers have come off a helper, which is No. 342.
UConn has been great this season with ball movement, even against Indiana and Texas. The Huskies had 19 assists on 25 made field goals against the Hoosiers, with 18 on 29 made shots on Monday against the Longhorns. The extra pass should be there against Manhattan and UConn needs to take advantage to score easy points.
22 - The number of consecutive nonconference wins for UConn. The Huskies haven’t lost a nonconference game since March 17, 2022.
17.5 - The Jaspers have 17.5 percent of their shots blocked, which is the fourth-worst mark in the country. This is something to watch, as the Huskies block 15 percent of shots against, which is in the top 50 in Division I.
351 - Manhattan’s rank, out of 362 teams, in Division I experience. UConn is among the most experienced teams in the country, ranked No. 85.
4 - The number of schools that occupies the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency at KenPom. UConn joins Arizona, Marquette and Purdue.
3 - The number of locations Manhattan College has had since its founding in 1853. The school has been in The Bronx since 1922 after stints in Lower Manhattan and Harlem.