No. 11 Cincinnati is the kind of team that should, theoretically, give UConn problems.
They are good as anyone in the country defensively, and UConn is not a difficult team to develop a game-plan for. Slow down Shabazz Napier, makes life difficult for Ryan Boatright and Deandre Daniels, and win. The Bearcats attack the offensive glass as well as any team in the country, and UConn is not even in the top 250 nationally in defensive rebounding percentage. Think about it like this: Napier had 11 rebounds for the Huskies on Saturday. No one else had more than four boards on a night the two teams combined to shoot 29.5% from the floor.
Cincinnati is bigger, more physical and older than UConn.
Yet it was the Huskies that left the XL Center on Sunday with a 51-45 win over the Bearcats despite Napier, Boatright and Daniels combined to shoot 9-for-30 from the field. That’s a great sign for the Huskies, who haven’t exactly been playing their best basketball of late. They struggled to win at Temple and USF and got worked over by SMU team at home, a team that plays an awful lot like the Bearcats.
The best news for UConn is that this win should help them climb above a seven-seed. Napier, who finished with 18 points and 11 boards, is talented enough that he can lead UConn to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament, but I’m not sure this UConn team can beat elite teams when they’re at full strength on a neutral court.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.