The American Athletic Conference tournament starts on Thursday with UConn matching up against USF. The two teams split their regular season matchups with both teams winning close games at home, so it might as well be a coinflip on a neutral court in Memphis. Neil Simmons and Jorge Eckardt debate whether the Huskies can win this game, or if their season will come to an early end.
Neil Simmons: Call it delusional optimism, but I think the Huskies are going to pull this one out. They beat USF at Gampel just over a week ago without Jalen Adams in the lineup and got a nice confidence boost with their first road win of the season against East Carolina on Sunday. Coach Hurley will harness some of that UConn March magic to get the team fired up and ready to play on Thursday.
Jorge Eckardt: They barely beat USF and, this time, I doubt Ray Allen will be in the building giving them a little bit of extra motivation. The Bulls also shot just 32.8 percent from the field, one of only two times over their last ten games that they shot under 40 percent. And while they didn’t have Jalen Adams, they did have Alterique Gilbert who scored a quarter of their points. However, on Thursday, the Huskies will be without their leading distributor. Also, they haven’t won a road game against a team not named East Carolina since Jan. 13, 2017.
Simmons: It’s not like the Huskies can’t hang with the Bulls. They won at Gampel without hitting a single three pointer and, when these teams played each other in Tampa, they built a double-digit lead before things unraveled. Losing Gilbert is definitely a big blow, but UConn is still good enough to win without him. Adams plays the same role, Christian Vital can get red hot and Josh Carlton has come on strong lately. I’m not optimistic about Houston in the next round, but they are more than capable of winning this game.
Eckardt: Sure, Vital can heat up, Carlton can have another great game and the Huskies can be competitive and maybe win this game. Jalen Adams CAN also drop 50 points. But the odds that everything they need to happen happens is not very good. The fact of the matter is it’s been a bad year for UConn basketball, and USF is simply the better team. While it would be awesome to watch a Cinderella story from Jalen Adams to close out his UConn career, I just don’t see it happening. Besides, he already had his Cinderella moment in his freshman year and that shot will live on in UConn history forever.