Big East (27-4, 15-3)
Seed: #1 West
Big Wins: 1/21 Villanova (89-83), 2/2 at Louisville (68-51), 2/11 Syracuse (63-49)
Bad Losses: 12/29 Georgetown (63-74), 2/16 Pittsburgh (68-76), 3/12 vs Syracuse (117-127)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2008, First Round loss to San Diego
Coach: Jim Calhoun (41-18 in 20 NCAA appearances)
Why They Can Surprise:
Connecticut might have a handful of quality scorers, but it is their defense and rebounding that makes them special. And that all starts with 7-3 center Hasheem Thabeet. The big man is well known for his defensive presence and averages 4.6 blocks per game and alters countless other shots. When Thabeet is under the basket, it is hardly worth even trying to get to the rim. But Thabeet has developed into more than just a defender. He averages 10.9 rebounds per game and has even emerged as a decent scoring threat around the basket. Add forward Jeff Adrien and his 10.0 rebounds per game and very few teams can compete with the Huskies on the glass.
The most amazing thing about the frontcourt is that they do it all without getting into foul trouble. After Thabeet and Adrien there is a pretty big drop off in talent, but Thabeet and Adrien have combined to only foul out of three games all year, and one of those went into six overtimes.
Why They Can Disappoint:
The Huskies weakness is on the wings. A.J. Price is a fine point guard who has done a solid job running the show. However, Price is also the lone outside shooting threat on the team, especially without Jerome Dyson. Dyson has been out since mid-February with a knee injury and his absence will be noticeable during the tournament. He was averaging 10.6 points per game and was the only other major threat to hit the outside shot. Now it is even more important for Price to hit the long ball or the opposition can clog the paint and have a much easier time trying to stop the Uconn offense.
Who To Watch:
Hasheem Thabeet, Jeff Adrien and A.J. Price are the stars of the team, but the difference between a Sweet Sixteen and a National Championship will be how the other four players who see regular minutes play in March. If Craig Austrie and freshman Kemba Walker can hit the outside shot and if junior Gavin Edwards can give Adrien and Thabeet a break without too much of a drop off in production, the Huskies will be the team to beat. The most important players to keep an eye on are on the wings. Austrie and Stanley Robinson have to help replace Dyson and the Huskies will need them to do more scoring than they usually do.
A.J. Price, Senior, Guard, 14.0 ppg, 4.7 apg
Craig Austrie, Senior, Guard, 7.2 ppg, 2.1 apg
Stanley Robinson, Junior, Forward, 7.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg
Jeff Adrien, Senior, Forward, 13.6 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 1.1 bpg
Hasheem Thabeet, Junior, Center, 13.7 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 4.6 bpg
Gavin Edwards, Junior, Forward, 3.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg
Kemba Walker, Freshman, Guard, 8.7 ppg, 2.7 apg
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 76.0 (50th in nation, 7th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 61.9 (42, 2)
Field-Goal Percentage: 47.4 (32, 3)
Field-Goal Defense: 37.7 (4, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 4.7 (299, 15)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: na
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.3 (187, 8)
Rebound Margin: 8.3 (6, 2)
Assists Per Game: 15.0 (63, 8)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.2 (34, 5)
Joel’s Bracket Says: Elite Eight loss to Missouri