How to Watch
Time: 8:30 PM ET
Location: Gampel Pavilion
Records: UConn 7-3 (4-3) | Butler 5-7 (4-5)
Spread: Butler +7
ATS Records: UConn (8-2) | Butler (5-7)
KenPom Rankings: UConn – 26 | Butler – 87
The Huskies got the better of the Butler Bulldogs in their last meeting, winning 72-60. This was UConn’s first true game without Bouknight and they answered the call. However, after that game UConn struggled a bit against DePaul before blowing a 14-point lead to St. John’s. On the other hand, Butler is coming off back-to-back wins over Creighton and DePaul.
Butler is starting to figure things out. Aaron Thompson (13.1 PPG, 4.3 APG) and Jair Bolden (13.5 PPG, 3.9 RPG) are playing well, and the freshman guards continue to improve with each game. However, Butler can struggle offensively. They currently rank 10th in the Big East in adjusted offense per Kenpom. The Huskies will have to continue to rely on their formidable defense as until they find more consistency on offense without Bouknight.
The Huskies need to get back to the basics. I’m not a coach and certainly don’t claim to have much basketball coaching knowledge, but I would like the see the Huskies use their strength (defense) to help their offense. It seems like a simple concept, but Hurley and UConn like to slow the pace down once they are in their half court sets and without Bouknight they struggle there. Donny Marshall (and anyone else who watched the game against Creighton) kept pointing out how the UConn offense struggled mightily against Creighton especially when they ran the shot clock down below 10 seconds. With a team full of athletes, why not try to push the tempo a bit and trust that your defense can get the stops you need, even if the opponent gets a few extra possessions per game?
This would be a good game to experiment a bit, based on the numbers anyways. UConn ranks 9th in the conference in tempo whereas Butler is dead last at 11th and is not exactly an offensive powerhouse. This could help Polley, who thrives from deep in transition. It also rewards bigs who run the floor and in general scoring in transition/quickly after a made basket can boost UConn’s confidence on offense and also be demoralizing to an opponent. Sometimes thinking and planning too much is overrated and getting back to the basics can help that. UConn has forced too many bad takes late in the shot clock, not something you want to do when the team is already searching for answers on offense. The good thing is that the team doesn’t necessarily seem deflated, a testament to what Hurley has built in only year three.
It might not be pretty, but the Huskies get a nice bounce-back win over a tough Butler team. I expect to see Isaiah Whaley channel his inner wrench by locking things down on defense. Polley knows he can score at any level and I’d look for him to be aggressive and for Hurley to draw up more action to get Polley open looks. UConn had 18 offensive rebounds against Creighton but finished poorly on second chance opportunities. These things happen, but I hope we don’t see so many misses on layups ever again. The Huskies will be fine and their time without Bouknight now will prove huge down the stretch later in the season.