College Hoops Monday: Your Commentary
If either Connecticut or Louisville shows up at Freedom Hall not understanding the magnitude of the game they should be eliminated from at-large consideration. Hate to be so harsh but both teams are essentially at the point where they need to go on a run if they're to make the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies, who have been without head coach Jim Calhoun for the last four games due to health reasons, own just one Top 25 win (Texas) and they've yet to beat anyone of consequence on the road (as a matter of fact they've yet to win a true road game). UConn has three capable scorers in Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson and Kemba Walker, and Gavin Edwards has done a good job off the bench.
But when you're averaging 14.7 turnovers per game (14th in the Big East) you're not going to win big games. Of course Syracuse is 15th but compare their offensive weapons to Connecticut's and you can figure out which one has the better chance of winning on an off night. That's been an issue for Rick Pitino's Cardinals as well, and they're hoping to bounce back from a painful loss of their own with West Virginia winning by three on Saturday. One area that has to worry the Cardinals, although it may not cost them on Monday night, is defending the three. Opponents are shooting 42.1% from distance this season, by far the worst number for any defense in the Big East.
Louisville will need to look inside early and often to Samardo Samuels; it's tough to think that Alex Oriakhi, Ater Majok or Charles Okwandu have the presence and experience to muscle up to the sophomore and shut him down. The Cardinals will also need to use their full-court pressure to turn over a UConn team that's proven to be prone to being careless with the basketball. In a game matching two teams that if not for the underwhelming play of many other "bubble teams" they may be in even more trouble when it comes to the Tournament, the home court advantage may be the deciding factor.
Other games of importance include a struggling Texas visiting Stillwater with hopes of ending their current skid, but they'll have their hands full with swingman James Anderson. The question: can the Longhorns generate enough offense, especially if J'Covan Brown continues to come off the bench? Whether or not they can will determine the outcome of this one, with both teams being relatively close in statistical categories such as points per possession and offensive efficiency. Iona host Canisius and with a win they move into sole possession of second place in the MAAC, and two of the better teams in the SWAC face off when Jackson State visits Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
7p ESPN Connecticut at Louisville
7p ESPNU Prairie View A&M at Alabama State
9p ESPN Texas at Oklahoma State
9p ESPNU South Carolina State at Florida A&M
7p Belmont at East Tennessee St
7p Northern Illinois at Kent St
7p Canisius at Iona
7:30p Howard at Delaware St
8:30p Jackson St at Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Louisville over Connecticut: Both teams can be a bit careless with the basketball but since the Cardinals have displayed a better ability to make things happen in regards to forcing turnovers they're the pick. Look for Samuels to have a productive game inside while his teammates use pressure to win the turnover battle. Cards by seven.