NCAA tournament team previews: Connecticut Huskies
As part of its preview of the 2014 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team's national rank. For more teams, click here.
Record: 26-8, 12-6 in AAC
Adjusted offense / Adjusted defense: 109.4 (78th) / 92.9 (11th)
Seed: No. 7 in East
Key player: Shabazz Napier, 17.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 4.9 apg, 1.7 spg
The Case For:
The Huskies were ranked highly at the start of the season, but they truly landed in the national consciousness when they upended then-No. 15 Florida in early December on a Shabazz Napier buzzer-beater in Storrs. They took a step back right at the start of the AAC season, but ended up winning 12 games in the conference and beating Cincinnati twice and Memphis three times. All told, they finished the year 7-5 against the RPI top 50 and 10-7 against the top 100, with just one loss coming outside the top 100.
Napier, a member of SI.com's All-America first team, leads UConn in points, rebounds and assists per game. He is capable of putting this team on his back and taking it all the way to the Final Four, just as a certain previous Huskies guard did three years ago. However, unlike the mostly one-man Kemba Walker Show, Napier has more help. DeAndre Daniels (12.5 ppg), Ryan Boatright (11.8 ppg) and Niels Giffey (53 percent from 3-point range) all contribute offensively. The Huskies own the 11th-best defense in terms of adjusted efficiency and have limited opposing teams to the 10th-worst effective field goal percentage. They shoot 38.7 percent from behind the arc, ranking 25th in the country, and their 76.1-percent success rate from the free throw line is 10th-best.
The Case Against:
If there's one area in which the Huskies are vulnerable, it's the defensive glass. They allowed opponents to secure 33.4 percent of available offensive rebounds, which ranked 271st in the country.
Furthermore, they have trouble winning if Napier is not at his most efficient from the floor. While most teams will be in trouble when their best scorer is held in check, it is especially true for the Huskies. Napier shot worse than 40 percent in 10 of the 14 games Connecticut played against tournament teams and surprise-snub SMU. The Huskies lost six of those 10. They like to play at a very slow, methodical pace. Any team that can get them out of that makes them uncomfortable. Given the fact that there isn't a ton of transition scoring on this team, they struggle in games that get up and down the floor. Their two-point shooting percentage is outside the top 200, as well. If Napier isn't getting in the lane and getting easy buckets, chances are no one is.
SI prediction: Beat St. Joseph's in second round, beat Villanova in third round, lose to Iowa State in Sweet 16 View complete bracket predictions from SI.com's panel of experts