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Layup Line: UConn (and March Madness Thoughts)

Two immovable forces collide tonight. The Bearcats are on a five game winning streak and seem to be a different team here down the stretch. The Huskies are playing for their lives on their home court. Something's gotta give.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

They're red and black and slide snugly over my less-than-athletic-looking legs. The horizontal stripes alternate in color and really don't do much to make my growing figure look any more slim. But I don't care.

I'm talking about my underwear.

It's that time of year, folks. The time of year where what happens on the court only seems slightly less important than whatever superstitions we hold during each game. So here's my yearly PSA: don't let the craze of March Madness mess with your contribution to Bearcat victories.

  • Game: Friday, March 13 @ 9:00pm ET
  • Location: XL Center; Hartford, CT
  • TV/Radio: ESPNU, 700 WLW

During each UC free throw, I hold my hands in a frighteningly specific manner in front of my face. Elbows resting on my knees, hands pressed flatly together, fingers sitting just below my nose as my thumbs curl under my chin. My friends joke that it looks like I'm constantly picking my nose, and I wish it were that simple.

I don't remember where it started, but it seemingly works - so there's no way I'm letting the 'Cats down now. Which means, if there's a superstition you keep during the season, March is your time to shine.

Think of it this way: all year you've been honing your craft. You're the guy at the end of the bench, waiting for his moment. And your number was just called. Get out there and do what you're meant to do...

You didn't come here to read a preview about UConn, right? I mean, we've played each other twice this year, a hundred times over the past decade, and now face off in the American Athletic Conference tournament. You know what to expect from UConn.

The Huskies cruise into the game tonight after breezing by USF last night, 69-43. Thanks a lot, Bulls, for really roughing 'em up before they take the court tonight.

That's okay. This is a new UC team that doesn't want to face a tired Huskie squad. A victory over UConn might help the Bearcats jump off the 8/9 seed line that you constantly see them projected in right now. Or at least, I hope.

It'd be nice if AAC rookie of the year Daniel Hamilton missed a few shots tonight, though. The UConn freshman struggled through the end of the regular season, making only 6 of 28 shots. And then came out last night and swarmed USF, hitting 6 of 8 shots - including 4 of 5 from downtown. I personally think he's the key to whether or not UConn runs through the AAC tournament on their home floor.

What the 'Cats have to do to win:

  • Protect the ball. Look, my keys to victory are going to get pretty repetitive over the next week. When the Bearcats don't turn the ball over, they execute - statistically and visually - the best offense we've ever seen in the Mick Cronin era.
  • Feed the paint. Both Octavius Ellis and Gary Clark have been able to effectively distribute the ball out of the paint. If the offense runs through these two, good things should happen for UC.
  • Turn up the edge. The Bearcats jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead on UConn at home earlier this year and never looked back - partly because of the pressure and intensity they brought on both offense and defense. To beat UConn again, the 'Cats will need to kick it up a notch - and hopefully carry that attitude throughout the NCAA Tournament.

I've had a good feeling about this UC team ever since the Crosstown Shootout, but tonight's a little up in the air. The Bearcats haven't blinked in the last 5 games, so the cynic in me wonders when the letdown will come. Plus, if you check out social media or Bearcat forums, UConn's in the middle of their cinderella run through the conference tournament on their home court and we should feel sorry for anyone in their way. Never fear, the nose pick is here. Bearcats win 58-53.

And if the Bearcats don't win tonight, it's because of you and your clean underwear.