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Big East Tournament Preview: No. 11 UConn men’s basketball vs. Providence | 2:30 p.m. ET, FS1

The Huskies handled the Friars last time out. Can they do it again?

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Providence Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

When: Thursday, March 9

Where: Madison Square Garden — New York City


Radio: UConn Sports Network

Odds: UConn -7, over/under 145 - Odds presented by DraftKings

KenPom Predicted Score: No. 4 UConn 78, No. 5 Providence 71 | 75 percent win probability

UConn heads into the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on a five-game winning streak. The Huskies may be the 4-seed in the tournament, but just about every other number has UConn as a favorite heading into New York City, sitting No. 11 in the AP poll — second in the conference behind Marquette — and tops in the Big East in KenPom at No. 4.

Additionally, DraftKings has UConn as the favorite to win the Big East Tournament, coming in at +210. KenPom agrees with Vegas, giving the Huskies the best chance to win the Big East Tournament at 32.2 percent. The next-best school, Creighton, has a 21.5 percent chance.

The results on the court match what the analytics are saying. UConn is arguably playing its best basketball of the season right now — no small feat for a team that opened the year 14-0 and rose to No. 2 in the AP Poll. Since a three-point road loss to Creighton on Feb. 11, the Huskies have defeated each of their five opponents by a margin of nine points or more.

On the other hand, Providence has stumbled, dropping three of its last four to end the season, including a shocking 14-point upset at the hands of Seton Hall to finish with back-to-back home losses. Despite the recent struggles, PC is still an NCAA tournament-caliber team with a lot on the line. The Friars have one of the best players in the tournament in All-Conference First Team selection Bryce Hopkins and still boast an offense that’s inside the top 20 in efficiency per KenPom.

When UConn Has the Ball

The Friars have Hopkins and Ed Croswell anchoring the frontcourt, which has presented matchup problems for UConn. Croswell is one of the few bigs in the conference that can match the rebounding prowess of Adama Sanogo and Donovan Clingan and is a solid shot blocker.

In the first matchup between these two teams in Rhode Island, Dan Hurley played Sanogo and Clingan together for long stretches to help the Huskies compete down low. In the last meeting in Storrs, the two didn't share the floor together, but still combined for 23 points on 14 shots and helped UConn double up PC on the boards, 40-20.

Sanogo, Clingan, and Andre Jackson are the reasons why the Huskies are the top offensive rebounding team in the country, and UConn will need another strong effort from them to take down the Friars.

Jackson may not have been a major scoring factor last time around, with just four points, but his growth as a scorer lately has helped UConn immensely. The junior guard is averaging 11 points per game during the current five-game winning streak while averaging over six boards and nearly five assists in that span. He’s also 4-7 from three in his last four games.

Jordan Hawkins was about the only Husky who struggled in the blowout win over DePaul last week, scoring just three points in nearly 30 points. The sophomore All-Big East First Team selection bounced back in a big way against Villanova with 24 points but shot just 3-11 from three. After shooting 4-17 (23.5 percent) last week from deep, Hawkins will look to bounce back at MSG, where he was 4-10 two weeks ago against St. John’s.

Alex Karaban, fresh off a 4-8 3-point shooting week and Big East Freshman of the Year snub, should be a factor from the perimeter as well.

When Providence has the ball

In PC’s first game against UConn, Ed Cooley leaned on Hopkins early and often and it worked, with Hopkins scoring 23 points and adding 13 rebounds. In the second game, Cooley went to Hopkins early with some success, but Karajan’s improved defense prevented Hopkins from completely dominating, as he scored 16 points but had zero rebounds.

Hopkins, who has the 11th-highest usage rate in the conference, will get the lion’s share of possessions on offense. The Huskies will need another solid defensive performance from Karaban to keep him in check.

UConn may be the top team in the country for offensive rebounding, but Croswell is the top individual offensive rebounder in the Big East, per KenPom. The Huskies held the PC big man to just three offensive boards last time out, and will need to do so again to keep Croswell from helping PC rack up extra possessions.

Jared Bynum played nine minutes in the first game between UConn and PC due to injury, but made his presence felt in the regular season rematch by shooting 4-6 from three. Bynum isn’t normally known for his shooting as he's just 32.7 percent from three, but his ability to stretch the floor along with Hopkins (38.9 percent) and Noah Locke (38.2 percent) could pose problems for the Huskies if the long ball starts falling.

UConn will need to remain disciplined on defense to prevent the Friars from getting to the foul line, where they get over 21 percent of their points. PC excels at drawing fouls and shoots nearly 75 percent as a team from the stripe. In their loss at Providence earlier this season, the Huskies committed 27 fouls, compared to 14 in their win over the Friars at the end of February.