The Layup Line: Connecticut Part 2

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Three regular season games left. A top 10 ranking in sight. Surely, the Bearcats won't limp to the finish line.

Two losses separate the Connecticut Huskies (22-6) from the Cincinnati Bearcats (24-4) - yet Cincinnati's ranked #11 in the AP poll and UConn's merely receiving votes. That'll happen after a mid-season 15 game winning streak.

Now, the Bearcats travel to the XL Center in Hartford where the Huskies have lost just 1 game this year. Well... they've actually lost 2 other games in their home state this season, but those were at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs. And it sounds so much more frightening to say "the Huskies have lost just 1 game this year," so let's go with that.

  • Game: Saturday, March 1, 2014; 12:00pm EST
  • Location: XL Center; Hartford, CT
  • TV/Radio: ESPN (Mike Patrick, again); 700 WLW

I'm feeling pretty confident about this one. And that's out of the norm.

The Bearcats have had a week off after the tough loss to Louisville, and I truly think that'll be enough to refocus them for the home stretch. In fact, I'm not sure they lose any of their remaining regular season games.

Seems cocky, right? Read it again. All I said is I'm not sure they lose any of their next 3. That's not really going out on a limb...

Look, UConn is still UConn. Shabazz Napier's averaging over 19 points a game in conference play, and, as I wrote in the last preview, he's still a do-it-all for the Huskies. But he can be contained - similar to what happened in their last meeting.

If there's a problem on Saturday, I have a feeling it'll be from 6'9" forward DeAndre Daniels. You probably don't remember Daniels because he sat out the previous meeting with back pain. But he's a bad, bad man. He's deadly around the arc, but the Bearcats switch well off of screens. Should be interesting...

What the 'Cats have to do to win:

  • Share the ball. The Bearcats didn't pass the ball well during the first half of their last game against UConn, and they found themselves down at half. They found their groove in the second half, though, and out-assisted (new term) the Huskies overall, 15-9, while rallying to win.
  • Guard the 3. Same story, different meeting. The Huskies still lead the American in three-point percentage, and it's not even close. Don't let them light it up from the outside.
  • Keep JJ out of foul trouble. He has to play more than 3 minutes in the first half for the Bearcats to win. Common sense. But UConn is a great defensive rebounding team, and the 'Cats will need Jackson to grab several offensive rebounds in order to win.

My prediction: I alluded to this earlier, but I think the Bearcats can steal one on the road. Either Shaq, Titus, or Troy will step up (they only need one) while SK and Mr. Mean Face roll along. Something about that Louisville loss still stings, and I think we'll see a level of effort we haven't seen in a while - and that's saying something. Here comes the kiss of death: Bearcats win 68-65.

Oh yeah, and with St. Louis losing last night, a win on Saturday will catapult Cincinnati back into the top ten.

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