After UConn’s second straight week of being ranked No. 1 on the AP Poll, the Huskies will have to take on a conference rival with the Xavier Musketeers coming to the XL Center. The Huskies have a varied history against the Musketeers, and this week will be filled with critical matchups as to continue a seven-game win streak and remain on top of the collegiate basketball world. A win for Xavier on the other hand means everything — this game could be the last chance for Sean Miller to get the Musketeers back on track this season.
UConn has not played in over a week, with their last game on Jan. 20, while Xavier played Tuesday against Creighton in an 85-78 loss. While this could be a positive, giving UConn some rest and more time for Clingan to keep ramping up, it could also serve as a potential issue if the Huskies come out flat.
Radio: UConn Sports Network
Odds: UConn -11, over/under 149.5
KenPom Predicted Score: UConn 79, Xavier 70
UConn has a career 4-4 record all-time against Xavier, with a 1-1 record at home, both games however were played at Gampel. UConn has won this matchup in 1991, 2021, 2022 and most recently 2024 on Jan. 10 by a score of 80-75. Xavier’s most recent win in this matchup was on Jan. 23, 2023, where the then-No. 13 Musketeers pulled off a three-point win over the then No. 19 Huskies.
What to Watch For
Please keep off the glass
One of the most important parts of this game for UConn will be the ability to keep Xavier off the glass and prevent rebounds on both ends. Xavier ranks near the top of college basketball in rebounds per game at 15th with 40.2 during the 2023-24 season, while UConn ranks around the middle of the pack at 57th with 38.4 per game.
This was one of the bigger reasons as to why the last matchup with Xavier came down to the wire. Even though UConn tied the Musketeers in defensive rebounds that game (with 22 each), the Huskies got absolutely obliterated on the offensive glass as Xavier had 20 offensive rebounds to UConn’s 8. Not having Clingan for that game certainly was part of the reason as to why this became an issue. Cleaning the glass of any stray rebounds will be critical in this matchup, and hopefully, Clingan will be able to help with this situation.
Keep the fouls to a minimum
Fouls have been a huge issue for both of these teams this season, to the point where both rank outside the top 150 in the best-disciplined teams. UConn ranks T-173rd in fouls per game (with 17.0 per game) while Xavier ranks T-215th (with 17.4 per game). When these two teams matched up last time, it was even worse, as they both accrued 19 fouls each throughout the game.
While this may not seem to be an enormous issue if the foul numbers were equal, it was, as the Huskies had an extremely difficult night from the stripe. UConn shot 7-14 from the line (50%), while Xavier shot 22-27 from the line (81.5%). Even more intriguing, two players for Xavier had the same amount of, or more made free throws than the Huskies did as a whole (Quincy Olivari 10-12, Desmond Claude 7-8). Despite the same amount of fouls, the sheer amount of free throw opportunities was a huge difference due to when the fouls occurred, and Xavier made sure to convert on their chances. Dan Hurley needs to emphasize keeping things clean on defense and keep Xavier away from the stripe.
Force Xavier to score inside
The weird thing about Xavier is that despite their exceptional rebound numbers, they actually struggled immensely against UConn in the paint last time out. The Musketeers shot 16-43 from inside the 3-point arc (37.2%) compared to 7-21 from three (33.3%), compared to UConn who shot 60.6% from 2-point range that game (20-33).
Forcing Xavier into the paint, where Donovan Clingan resides (No. 33 in blocks among collegiate basketball players with 2.0 per game) is going to be necessary for UConn to secure a win.