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Preview: No. 4 UConn men’s basketball at Butler | 6:30 p.m. ET, FS1

The Huskies head out to historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.

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

UConn will play their first away game of 2024 against the Butler Bulldogs at Hinkle Fieldhouse. KenPom ranked Butler 96th in preseason rankings, and they have risen up to 63rd after starting the season 10-4. However, Butler has gone 1-2 in conference play, with losses to Providence (85-75) and St. John’s on Tuesday (86-70). This will be a difficult matchup for UConn, as the Bulldogs are 8-0 at home and the Huskies will still be without star big man Donovan Clingan.

TV: FS1

Radio: UConn Sports Network

Odds: UConn -6.5, over/under 144.5 (odds via DraftKings)

KenPom Predicted Score: UConn 76, Butler 70 | 71 percent win probability

Series History

The most notable matchup between UConn and Butler is rather obvious, that being the 2011 National Championship game in which the Huskies won 53-41 on the back of a 16-point performance by Kemba Walker. Butler has not made it beyond the Sweet 16 since, only landing there once in 2017.

Other than that, UConn and Butler have only met six other times, with the Huskies boasting a 6-0 record. In this matchup, UConn has won every game by at least 12 points, and by at least 17 points in the last four tries. The largest margin between these teams was their January 2023 game, in which the Huskies won 86-56.

What to Watch for

Generate offense off of turnovers

One of the stronger components of both of these teams is their ability to create turnovers. Both teams may be without their blocks-per-game leaders (Clingan and Connor Turnbull). Despite that, each team is averaging over six steals per game (Butler with 6.4 and UConn with 6.1) and over two blocks per game (not including those from Clingan and Turnbull). Both teams give up a nearly identical number of turnovers as well, with the Huskies losing 10.3 a game to the Bulldogs’ 10.7.

Creating these turnovers is one thing, but to win this game, UConn will need to create fast-break transitions and generate offense off of defense. With Tristen Newton, Stephon Castle, and Cam Spencer all averaging over a steal a game, look for them to lock down on defense and force Butler to make mistakes on the other end.

Move the ball on offense

UConn sees a significant advantage on a game-to-game basis compared to Butler in its assist numbers, as the Huskies average 18.3 a game compared to the Bulldogs’ 15.1. All three of the guards previously mentioned are averaging three or more assists a game, with Newton averaging 5.7 a game currently. This makes it extremely clear that guard play will be a critical component to UConn producing offensively.

Spacing is critical to any offense without a doubt, however, with Clingan still out, it becomes even more of an emphasis. When Clingan is on the court, feeding him and letting him do his work is an easy solution to any offensive miscues. However, when he is off the court, the offense requires a little more finesse to function at the same level, and generating open looks will likely be a point of emphasis for Dan Hurley and the Huskies.

Keep Butler away from the stripe

Butler has been producing at a relatively high level when given free throws, converting 193 of their 250 free throw attempts (77.2 percent). On top of that, 17.3 percent of Butler’s points are scored from the free-throw line. Focusing on forcing the Bulldogs to take shots and make them, rather than hitting them with soft fouls, should keep them in check offensively. UConn ranks around mid-pack in fouls (148th, 16.8 per game) so they will have some work to do in this department no doubt.

Turning this on its head, drawing fouls should be a critical point emphasized by the Huskies. Butler currently ranks third best among all teams in fouls (only 13.3 a game), so UConn needs to find ways to get them to foul. Whether this be sitting on the edge of the paint and drawing charges, or just creating enough contact on drives to get shooting fouls, there needs to be some level of thought going into how to draw fouls in this game.

Sick as dogs

Hurley told reporters pregame that the team is dealing with cold/flu-like symptoms working their way through the team. It’s unclear whether it will impact anyone’s availability Friday night, but it’s something to keep an eye on.