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Preview: No. 4 UConn men’s basketball at No. 5 Kansas | 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2

The Huskies head to Lawrence for a top-five battle with the Jayhawks.

NCAA Basketball: Manhattan at Kansas Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Arguably UConn’s biggest test this season comes on Friday night. The No. 4 Huskies will head to historic Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas for a battle with the No. 5 Jayhawks. Dan Hurley’s squad has dispatched each of its first seven opponents with ease, as it set the modern NCAA record for double-digit non-conference wins last time out against New Hampshire, but this is the team’s first true road game, coming in one of the most intense environments in the country.

TV: ESPN2

Radio: UConn Sports Network

Odds: Kansas -2.5, over/under 148.5 (odds via DraftKings)

KenPom Predicted Score: Kansas 75, UConn 74 | 49 percent win probability

Series history

The Jayhawks and Huskies have faced off just three times before, with KU winning all three contests. Kansas beat UConn handily at Allen Fieldhouse in the series opener on Jan. 28, 1995, winning 88-59. The Jayhawks then defeated the Huskies again nearly two years later at the XL Center, holding on for a 73-65 win on Jan. 19, 1997.

The most recent meeting between these two teams came in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, where Bill Self’s KU squad defeated a Kevin Ollie-led Huskies team 73-61 in the second round in Des Moines, Iowa. Since that matchup, both programs have added another national title banner in their respective rafters, with Kansas winning in 2022 prior to UConn’s 2023 title. Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, the two programs have combined to win more than 20 percent of the available national titles in that span, with the Huskies winning five and the Jayhawks winning three.

What to watch for

A battle of the bigs

Two of the best big men will go head-to-head Friday night in Donovan Clingan and Kansas’ Hunter Dickinson, who joined the Jayhawks from Michigan this offseason. While Clingan has faced elite big men before, Dickinson is likely the sophomore’s toughest test yet. Dickinson leads the country in rebounds per game and is an elite floor-stretching threat on offense, shooting 7-for-11 from deep on the season and 38.2 percent for his career. He’s the focal point of Bill Self’s KU offense, averaging 21.7 points per game, and the outcome of the game likely depends on how well Clingan (and Samson Johnson) can defend him and stay out of foul trouble.

“He’s such a technician, he’s such a polished player,” Hurley said of Dickinson. “It’s going to be a heck of a matchup. It’s probably going to be one of the better position matchups of the year.”

Stretching the floor

After being an elite perimeter shooting team last season, the Huskies’ success from downtown hasn’t been the same this year. UConn is shooting just 30.9 percent from 3-point range so far this season, and has shot over 32 percent from deep in a game just twice this year.

Kansas, meanwhile, can shoot the ball at an elite clip (38.2 percent), but doesn’t normally utilize the 3-ball too much, as they represent just 32 percent of its field goal attempts compared to UConn’s 41.4 percent 3-point attempt to field goal percentage.

The bright side? The advanced stats show that the quality looks are still coming just like last year, but the shots just haven’t fallen yet. For as much as the Huskies have struggled from deep, Cam Spencer, who Dan Hurley brought in to provide perimeter shooting help, has lived up to the hype and is currently nearly 50 percent from deep while leading the team in attempts. Alex Karaban, who shot 40 percent last season, is just 31 percent from beyond the arc so far this year but has come through when it matters, shooting 6-for-14 in two wins over KenPom top 75 teams Indiana and Texas.

Kansas’ 3-point threats consist of Dickinson and Johnny Furphy (40 percent). Nick Timberlake, who chose KU over UConn in the transfer portal this summer, has struggled this season but is shooting 35.4 percent in limited minutes.

Bounce back games

UConn didn’t exactly light the world on fire in its 84-64 win over New Hampshire, but Kansas arguably looked worse, struggling to handle an Eastern Illinois squad that ranks No. 329 in KenPom. Both teams were clearly looking ahead to this top-five matchup and should be able to shake off the less than stellar performances from earlier this week.

Resume builder

The Kansas game marks the beginning of an incredibly tough stretch of games heading into Big East play. Three of UConn’s next four opponents currently rank inside the top 12 of KenPom, save for a palate-cleanser matchup against No. 354 Arkansas-Pine Bluff. With none of the Huskies’ games against No. 5 Kansas, No. 17 North Carolina or No. 11 Gonzaga at home, UConn will need to dig deep to try and pull out at least one win to bolster their NCAA tournament resume.

Despite the challenge at hand, UConn seems ready to lean on their battle-tested players in some of the biggest games of the young season.

“Taking the joy out of winning from somebody else’s team is a great feeling, something I take pride in. We want to start with it on Friday,” Tristen Newton said.

Key stats

24 - The number of consecutive nonconference wins for UConn. The Huskies haven’t lost a non-conference game since March 17, 2022.

13 - UConn owns the longest winning streak in the country at 13 games.

76.9 - Kansas assists on over 75 percent of their made field goals, the highest mark in the country.

9 - The sum of UConn and Kansas’ ranks in the AP Poll. This is the lowest for a Huskies’ ranked-on-ranked matchup since March 7, 2009, when they faced off against No. 3 Pitt as the No. 1 team in the nation.

11 - UConn has played in 11 games featuring two top-five AP Poll squads. The Huskies are 6-5 in those games.

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