How to Watch
Time: 12:00 PM ET
Radio: 97-9 ESPN
Location: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
Records: UConn 10-3 (1-1) | Seton Hall 10-3 (1-2)
KenPom Rankings: UConn – 22 | Seton Hall – 25
NET Rankings: UConn – 17 | Seton Hall – 24
(via DraftKings Sportsbook)
Spread: Seton Hall -3.5 | UConn +3.5
Moneyline: N/A as of now
UConn and 24th ranked Seton Hall are set to square off for the first time this season on Saturday. The two teams split the series last season with each team winning on the road. Is that a preview for what’s in store this weekend? Overall, the Huskies lead the all-time series 44-18 since the inception of the original Big East.
UConn hasn’t played a game since their win at Marquette on December 21st and it’s not entirely clear who will be available for the Huskies. Seton Hall will have no sympathy though, as they have been dealing with the same issues.
The Hall got off to an 0-2 start in the Big East with tough losses to Villanova and Providence. Of course, the Pirates were undermanned each game but are looking to get back to .500 in league play with a win over the Huskies.
At full strength, I think both teams have shown they are two of the deepest and most talented teams in the Big East.
Per KenPom, UConn’s offensive adjusted efficiency ranks 35th in the country. Seton Hall ranks 39th. Defensively, Seton Hall has the slight edge. The Pirates rank 23rd in the country, compared to 25th for UConn. However, with all the COVID pauses and altered player availability, statistics and metrics are hard to apply meaningfully.
Regardless, this should be a defensive showdown, especially if UConn is undermanned, they will need to dig their heels in on the defensive end. That is easier said than done against a team like Seton Hall, who seems to have limitless veteran options on both ends of the floor.
Jared Rhoden sits at third in the Big East averaging 16.4 ppg. He and Bryce Aiken have the ability to hit big shots in big spots. And if things aren’t going well for them on a particular day, the Pirates are getting back Tyrese Samuel.
Willard can go small if needed and play some combination of Samuel, Alexis Yetna, and Tray Jackson as his frontcourt. He can also go big with Ike Obiagu who is tied for third in the Big East with 2.6 BPG. It will be curious to see how UConn matches up with this team. I suspect we will get a heavy dose of Tyrese Martin on Jared Rhoden.
As a team, UConn will have to force Seton Hall into tough, long-range shots and win the rebounding battle. Long shots produce long rebounds, and a depleted team can’t afford to give up second-chance points. The Pirates have struggled from deep this season, but they still seem to hit big shots when it matters.
The biggest question mark this game for UConn is, of course, the offense. Especially if they are not at full strength and especially if they have been limited in practice. Tyrese Martin is emerging as a go-to option. RJ Cole is steady but often asked to do too much as the shot clock is winding down. Adama Sanogo has been dealing with an abdominal injury and tweaked his hamstring at practice.
If he is able to play he will have to deal with Ike Obiagu inside. Andre Jackson has been a rebounding force and needs to get out in transition more to facilitate his offensive game. Guys like Jalen Gaffney, Tyler Polley, and Jordan Hawkins will need to show more consistency for the Huskies' offense to take off. That’s not asking too much, but it may be tough with such a long layoff between games.
It’s unclear who will be available for the Huskies and how much they’ve been able to practice amid COVID issues. At full strength, I think both teams have shown they are two of the deepest and most talented teams in the Big East and this is a matchup I was really looking forward to. I’ll give the slight edge to Seton Hall in this game because it’s at home and I suspect they will be much closer to full strength than UConn. Most teams haven’t fared well when coming off a pause, but perhaps the Huskies can disprove that theory. If UConn can stay focused defensively to at least keep things close, they may be able to steal one on the road.