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Layup Line: Connecticut

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The Bearcats visit the defending national champions in Hartford, Connecticut this weekend. Can they maintain their winning ways against the pre-season AAC favorite?

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Three contests between the Cincinnati Bearcats and Connecticut Huskies last year, and it seemed like each had a similar flow and feel. Cincinnati, as you may remember, won the first contest at home and then dropped the next two. UConn, as you may remember, went on the win the national championship.

How close were all three contests last year? Cincinnati radio broadcaster, Dan Hoard, summed it up well enough on Twitter Thursday night:

  • Game: Saturday, January 10 @ 11:00am ET
  • Location: XL Center; Hartford, CT
  • TV/Radio: ESPN2; 700 WLW

So what's in store for the Bearcats as they travel through the frozen tundra to the east coast this weekend?

A Connecticut team that's played a fairly tough schedule but hasn't quite risen to the opportunity on a consistent basis - thanks, in part, to injuries. After the Huskies OT loss to Temple a couple weeks ago, UConn coach Kevin Ollie said, "You just have to play through the ups and downs with this team. There are going to be some ups and downs."

One of those downs was senior Ryan Boatright missing part of that game due to injury. Bearcat fans are plenty familiar with the UConn guard who's stepped out of the shadow of former teammate and all-everything stud, Shabazz Napier, and leads his team in scoring this season with 16.8 points a game.

Boatright's healthy now and appears to be tougher than ever. The Huskies, as a whole, play with great energy and passion - meaning UC will have to straight bring it on the road this Saturday.

Connecticut features a slew of talented younger players, too - including sophomore center Amida Brimah. The 7 footer averages over 11 points each contest, but just 5.2 rebounds a game.

What the 'Cats have to do to win:

  • Keep Octavius Ellis out of Foul Trouble. Brimah is a handle down low. He shoots 69% from the field, 73% from the free throw line, and hardly ever turns the ball over. Ellis' athleticism will be needed to neutralize UConn's big fella.
  • Force turnovers early. UC will turn the ball over against Connecticut's defense, so don't freak out when they do. If the Bearcats can match the Huskies, though, and turn them over early on, they'll have a shot to keep pace for 40 minutes.
  • Transition Defense. UConn will go coast-to-coast without hesitation, so getting back in transition will be key. A blocked shot or a bad shot attempt by Cincinnati could turn into a quick two-points on the other end.

I don't like the fact that the Huskies are finally healthy; it's like it's time for them to finally gel. And with the game in Connecticut, I flat-out don't like the Bearcats chances. Call Mr. Pessimist but this one will probably be trouble: Huskies 57-52.