How to Watch
Time: 7:00 PM ET
Radio: 97-9 ESPN
Location: WVU Coliseum, Morgantown, WV
Records: UConn 8-1 | WVU 7-1
Kenpom Rankings: UConn – 25 |WVU – 48
UConn heads down to Morgantown to take on an old Big East foe who now resides in the Big 12. The two haven’t met since 2014, but had some battles over the years. Overall, UConn holds a 16-6 series advantage, but the teams were much more evenly matched once Bob Huggins took over at WVU. Since then, the series advantage is just 4-3, UConn.
The Huskies program appears to be back on the rise, but still has some questions to answer, especially down 2 starters for the first true road game of their season. They currently rank 15th in the AP Poll and have a serious chance to crack the top 10 if they can take down WVU and then St. Bonaventure. WVU is a quad 1 win opportunity, a road win will go a long way. This game and this week will be a huge test for them.
West Virginia will give UConn everything they can handle.
In a way, both teams are fairly similar to this point in the season. They are still searching for some answers on the offensive end, but pride themselves defensively. Both teams have also won the games they’re supposed to and dropped a game that they probably could have won, but things just didn’t go their way that night. So, who holds the advantage?
UConn’s calling card this season was their depth. Well, it is going to be put to the test against this WVU defense. RJ Cole has done it all for this team, but who else will step up on the road? I’ll be curious to see the Huskies body language, especially the freshmen who haven’t seen much action besides Jordan Hawkins. Can the veterans keep everyone locked in for 40 minutes in a tough road environment? This will be especially important if things don’t go the Huskies way to start – another area that has plagued UConn this season, slow starts. A slow start is not something you can afford on the road against a team like West Virginia. So how do they avoid this?
This may seem obvious, but this UConn team needs to lock in on the defensive end. Too often, their slow starts seem to be due to a loss or lack of focus when their offense isn’t instantly clicking. Hurley prides himself on defense, but the team has gotten away from this a bit to start the season. With the injuries, Hurley has noted the team will try to pick up the pressure and tempo. Defense leads to offense, but sometimes, it takes a few possessions to get things going on offense. Regardless, great defensive teams don’t lose focus possession to possession.
The biggest task they have on defense? Slowing down Taz Sherman. Per KenPom, Sherman ranks 32nd in the country in percentage of possessions used, at 31.4%. Just for comparison, Adama Sanogo leads UConn in this category at 26.3% and the Huskies strategy on offense has been to give Sanogo the ball almost too much. So you can imagine how much Sherman means to this WVU offense. Make someone else beat you, not Sherman. Easier said than done.
This may be a game where Hurley kicks himself in the butt for not playing his bench more in the 6 quad 4 games in the non-conference slate. The defense and the bench will have to step up if the Huskies are to win. RJ Cole has done everything he can to make sure the Huskies are 8-1, but he will need some help on the road.
UConn 65, WVU 62
Next up: St. Bonaventure