How to Watch
Time: 8:30 PM ET
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: 97-9 ESPN
Location: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, CT
Records: UConn 17-7 (8-5) | Seton Hall 15-8 (6-7)
KenPom Rankings: UConn – 19 | Seton Hall – 34
NET Rankings: UConn – 18 | Seton Hall – 34
Spread – Seton Hall +6.5
Total – 141.5
Can I skip this part? The UConn Huskies lost in overtime 90-87 early in the year against the Seton Hall Pirates at the Prudential Center. I watched on as UConn had no answers for… Kadary Richmond? Don’t get me wrong. Richmond is a good player, but he torched UConn for 27 points and shot nearly 77% from the floor. On the season, Richmond is averaging 8.9 ppg on 39.4% shooting.
People will want to qualify this loss by noting that UConn was coming off a COVID pause, players were on minutes restrictions, and they hadn’t played in a couple weeks. That’s all fair. But Kadary Richmond still shouldn’t have scored 27 points and it was a game the Huskies could have stolen on the road. Can the Huskies avenge the loss with a home win over the Pirates?
The middle of the Big East has been a gauntlet, each team dealing with injuries, attrition, and more games than usual stuffed into February because of COVID rescheduling. As the regular season draws to a close, every game is looking more and more important and the gap between 3rd place and 6th place seems shifts each night. Keep in mind, the top 5 teams get to bypass playing on Wednesday in the upcoming Big East tournament. With COVID pauses clogging up the backend of everyone’s schedule, no one will want to be playing an extra game if they can help it.
Last week, the Huskies went 2-1 with wins over Marquette and at St. John’s and a tough loss on the road at Xavier. The Huskies close out the season with 4 of their 6 remaining games at home. It’s time to start clicking and reaching their ceiling. We’ve seen that in spurts this season, but not nearly enough. So, the question for me entering this game and the final stretch of the regular season is this: what Huskies will we see? The Huskies played perhaps their best half of the season against Marquette and had apparently regained their swagger. Only to quickly lose it on a road trip to Cincinnati and then get bailed out by Tyrese Martin and Isaiah Whaley who helped the Huskies hang on for a win over St. John’s. This has kind of been the story all season. Inconsistency, which has led to some tough losses against better competition.
At this point, the game plan is simple. Like Hurley is always saying, play to their identity. The problem is, UConn seems to lose sight of that too often and it can get them in trouble. They will need to avoid the things that have hamstrung them at times throughout the season. They can’t come out flat in the first half against a good Seton Hall team. They have to limit silly fouls and careless turnovers, and it would help if they converted some layups.
What about Seton Hall?
Earlier in the season, I thought the Pirates might be fighting for the Big East regular season title. They entered Big East play standing tall at 9-1 with wins over Michigan and Texas; their lone loss coming on a buzzer beater against Ohio State. Now, Seton Hall will be looking to get back to .500 in league play, but they seem to be figuring things out down the stretch. I’m not sure they’re quite playing their best basketball yet, but they took a good Xavier team down at home and probably should have knocked off Villanova. Despite the mid-season lull, the Pirates have won 3 of their last 4, and they’ve done this all without Bryce Aiken. The Pirates are still firmly in the mix for a top 5 finish in the league and safely in the field for the NCAA tournament. A win at Gampel over UConn should have Pirates fans feeling good. Still, it’s unclear when Aiken might return, but if he can make it back for the Big East tournament and March Madness that would be a huge boost for the Pirates. They are a different team when Bryce Aiken is on the floor playing under control and with confidence.
These two teams are about as evenly matched as it gets. I think that was demonstrated in their previous matchup that required overtime to settle things. Seton Hall took the first round at home and it’s time for the Huskies to return the favor.