After picking up two conference road victories last week, the No. 21 UConn men’s basketball team will face one of its toughest stretches of the year. The week’s slate of games starts on Tuesday night, when the team takes on the No. 10 Marquette Golden Eagles at home.
After dropping six of their last eight contests, the Huskies (18-6, 7-6 Big East) have regained some of that momentum they had when they shot their way into national prominence earlier this year. They have won three of their last four and each of their last two contests, the most recent in the form of a 68-62 win at Georgetown. UConn head coach Dan Hurley has noted in the past the difficulty of winning Big East road matchups in the past, and two wins at DePaul and Georgetown are a step in the right direction.
With the Huskies sliding mid-conference play, they currently sit just above .500 in the Big East and rank sixth behind teams like Seton Hall and Creighton. While they have a lot of distance (three wins) between them and seventh-ranked Villanova, they have a lot of ground to cover if they want to catch a team like Creighton or Providence, who are two games up in the standings.
Largely due to early-season successes, Connecticut is highly favored in many college basketball metrics such as the KenPom and NET ratings, which rank the Huskies as the No. 6 and No. 7 teams in the country, respectively. The algorithms believe in UConn’s ability to perform, and that will certainly be put to the test in a tough matchup with the scorching-hot Golden Eagles.
Marquette (19-5, 11-2 Big East) has been a team on a mission this season, shocking the nation with a big early-season blowout over Baylor in the Big East-Big 12 Battle. Winners of 10 of their last 11 and five straight, Daily Campus Preseason Coach of the Year Shaka Smart and Co. have been nothing less than impressive. With losses only to ranked Providence and Xavier on the road, they currently share a spot at the top of the conference with the Musketeers. While they’re definitely a beatable team, success for the Huskies won’t come easy – each of Marquette’s five losses have been decided by five points or less.
The two teams last squared off earlier this year at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, where the Golden Eagles surged in the second half to take the hard-fought win. In that game, freshman bigs Donovan Clingan and Alex Karaban shined for UConn, combining for 37 points and 17 rebounds. Marquette had no answers for the visiting team down low, so expect some major adjustments from the Golden Eagles’ defense in this one.
On the other end, it was the trio of Oso Ighodaro, Kam Jones and Olivier-Maxence Prosper that haunted the Huskies, combining for 51 points on 15-for-27 shooting.
With conference assist leader Tyler Kolek looking to distribute the ball and to three top scoring options, UConn will certainly have their hands full trying to limit what KenPom lists as a top-four offense in all of college basketball.
One major storyline to follow is the return-to-form of junior Andre Jackson. The captain has suffered from confidence issues over the past few games, with teams allowing and even daring him to shoot, trusting that he will miss his shot. After a rough stretch, Jackson had a massive bounce-back performance at Georgetown, finishing with seven points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. He looks to build upon that showing on Tuesday night.
Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. in front of an expected sold-out XL Center crowd in Hartford. The game will be broadcast live on FS1 with stats provided by StatBroadcast.