How to Watch
Time: 6:30 PM ET
Radio: 97-9 ESPN
Location: XL Center, Hartford, CT
Records: UConn 15-6 (6-4) | Marquette 16-7 (8-4)
KenPom Rankings: UConn – 18 | Marquette – 23
NET Rankings: UConn – 18 | Marquette – 25
The UConn Huskies beat the Marquette Golden Eagles early in Big East play behind a monster performance from Tyrese Martin (25 points, 6 rebounds). RJ Cole chipped in an efficient 20 points. However, these are not the same two teams that met in late December. Marquette has been one of the hottest teams in the country. After starting Big East play 0-3, the Golden Eagles have won 8 of 9, including two wins over Villanova. Their only loss coming in a hard-fought battle at Providence, who apparently doesn’t lose anymore.
UConn is coming off two ugly and rather uninspiring losses but still find themselves in the AP Top 25. They have yet another opportunity for a quality win against Marquette. The Huskies put up a clunker of an offensive game against Creighton last Tuesday at the XL Center. UConn fans took to the internet to do what they do best: be mad online. Here we are with another Tuesday night game in Hartford. I can hear the complaints and excuses already.
To calm down the fan base, this weekend, the Huskies headed to Philadelphia and put up one of their worst defensive games in recent memory. Adama Sanogo and Isaiah Whaley both picked up 2 early fouls and Eric Dixon dominated the Huskies inside. Quite frankly, Dan Hurley looked outmatched in the two losses. Credit to Doug McDermott and Jay Wright. On to the next one.
So, what about Marquette? To me, this feels like a “big picture” momentum game, which is why I’m not getting down into the weeds for this preview. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this is a make-or-break game for UConn, but you certainly want to be playing your best basketball as March approaches and two poor performances in a row don’t exactly suggest that’s what’s happening. Hopefully, it won’t be 3.
Momentum is a hard thing to measure, but fortunately, there are smarter people out there than I that have figured it out. Haslametrics notes that Marquette “has been playing some of its most efficient basketball of the season recently and is presently ranked FOURTH in positive momentum.” Out of 358 teams.
Since January, Marquette has steadily climbed from outside the Haslametrics Top 100 teams to number 27 currently. Shaka Smart has earned the trust and respect of his players and the results speak for themselves. Simply put, Marquette is playing great team basketball and I’m not sure there’s much else that needs to be said.
UConn, on the other hand, ranks just 244th in momentum currently. Slow starts have become a bit of an issue and the bench scoring is practically nonexistent. Everyone needs to be more consistent game to game and that just really hasn’t happened outside of RJ Cole.
That said, things aren’t that bad for UConn. Two losses may not feel good, but the Huskies control their fate. They don’t necessarily have to do anything too special down the stretch to comfortably make the NCAA tournament. This is life in the Big East. You have to bring your best to win every night, but (most) losses won’t hurt your resume as much as they hurt your feelings.
Hurley and the team have some things to figure out no doubt, but this is a talented, veteran team with plenty of opportunities ahead starting with this home game against Marquette. Can they take advantage of the opportunity and sweep the rolling Golden Eagles?
Marquette continues to be on the rise and will be tough to slow down. They have lots of options on offense and work hard on defense. Beyond that, Marquette is a fun team to watch, well, because, they play for each other and have fun doing it. They certainly won’t be going down without a fight.
Hurley has continued to note that the team needs to play to their identity. To me, this means UConn needs to get back to the basics. That starts and ends with defense. Put the Creighton and Nova game behind you and play hard-nosed defense from the tip. The offense will follow, but Marquette will give the Huskies everything they can handle.
I think (perhaps more like I hope) UConn bounces back in this one and completes the season sweep of Marquette. Maybe that’s me being a homer, but I can’t see them losing 3 in a row, especially 2 in a row at home. Although, I can’t say I will be surprised if they fall behind early and need an incredible second half to get the win.