No. 4 UConn men’s basketball will try to match Seton Hall’s 5-1 start in Big East play and secure a potential No. 1 ranking in the AP Poll for the first time since the 2008-09 season as the program welcomes in Georgetown to downtown Hartford. The Hoyas have struggled against high-level competition this season, with just one victory against the KenPom top 200 and three double-digit losses in Big East play. However, Ed Cooley’s teams are always challenging.
Radio: UConn Sports Network
Odds: UConn -20.5, over/under 145.5 (odds via DraftKings)
KenPom Predicted Score: UConn 84, Georgetown 63 | 97 percent win probability
This will be the 73rd game between UConn and Georgetown, which will bring this series to a tie with Villanova for eight-most played all-time and second-most played of current Big East foes, behind just Providence (90 games). Each team has won 36 times.
The Hoyas and Huskies met for the first time Dec. 22, 1958 at Greer Fieldhouse, which was a UConn win. The teams split the six contests that occurred before the Big East formed and were 1-1 in the home-and-home played while the Huskies were in the American Athletic Conference, though UConn is 6-2 in eight Big East Tournament games, including the 1996 title contest.
The Huskies are 9-11 against the Hoyas at XL Center, though they’re 6-2 in the last eight in downtown Hartford and 6-0 since returning to the Big East.
What to Watch for
Don’t look ahead
This is the definition of a trap game. With a win, the Huskies are going to secure at least a No. 2 ranking in the AP Poll and depending on how voters weigh No. 3 Kansas’ big win over No. 9 Oklahoma with its loss against UCF in Orlando, UConn could be at the top of the poll for the first time in 776 weeks. No. 22 Creighton also looms, as the Bluejays will come to Gampel Pavilion on Wednesday.
As 20-point favorites, the Huskies need to take care of business and not take Ed Cooley’s team lightly. Georgetown is the clear 10th-best team in the conference and down near No. 200 in KenPom, but it would be unwise to get caught looking ahead to Creighton. Dan Hurley needs to keep his players focused on Sunday.
Georgetown is a team against which UConn should be able to go small, should Samson Johnson get in foul trouble or be ineffective. Supreme Cook, at 6-foot-9, 229 pounds, plays the most center, while back-up Drew Fielder isn't much bigger (6-foot-10, 216 pounds). Jaylin Stewart, who has been giving quality minutes as of late, and Alex Karaban should be able to handle duties in the middle.
Especially with Johnson on the floor, this should give UConn a decent size advantage and the ability to get inside. Georgetown is among the worst in the country on 2-pointers, allowing opposing teams to shoot 53.6 percent, which is No. 298 in the country. UConn still sits at No. 2, at 62.3 percent.
The 3-point shooting has regressed to the mean in recent games and is getting better, but Tristen Newton and Stephon Castle should be driving to the basket early and often, while looking for Johnson and Karaban inside. The Huskies should collect points in the paint, especially as the Hoyas only allow 30.5 percent shooting on 3-pointers, which is near the top 50.
Watch the boards
The one thing that Georgetown does well offensively is rebound the ball. The Hoyas are inside the top 50 in offensive rebound percentage (34.3 percent) and are very aggressive on the glass at that end of the floor. Without Donovan Clingan, UConn has sunk to No. 92 in the country in preventing offensive rebounds, as the opposition grabs 27.1 percent of their misses. Georgetown had 11 offensive rebounds against Seton Hall on Tuesday, which was good for a 34.4 percent rate. This helped the Hoyas stick around for much longer than the Pirates would have liked in what ended up being a four-point game.
There’s a mismatch on the other end, as UConn is Division I’s 11th-best offensive rebounding team (37.7 percent), while Georgetown is at No. 283 in the country at preventing them (32.3 percent). However, this is a place that Georgetown can hang around, as it took 10 more shots than Seton Hall and had a more than 3-in-4 chance to win late, according to KenPom. The Huskies will want to avoid a similar fate.