If this game was matching up the current Washington team with a Connecticut team from any of the last several years, UW would be a much more serious underdog. However, Calhoun is gone, and so is some of the elite talent that UConn usually possesses. That being said, Washington certainly shouldn’t be favored, as they have struggled to take care of mediocre opponents on their home court, so beating even a below average (by the lofty standards of the Calhoun years) UConn team on the road isn’t something that will come easily.
Combing over statistics from the non-conference slates of both teams, there are several similarities. Each team scores, on average, just over 70 points a game. UConn is led in that category by Shabazz Napier’s 16.8 a game, followed closely by 16.1 from Ryan Boatright. Each team has been well below average when it comes to assisting baskets, with Washington averaging a hair over 12 a game compared to 13 for UConn. Both teams shoot 46% from the field. On the glass, both teams have had serious struggles, though the issue is far worse for Connecticut, who rank 323rd in the nation with a measly 30.3 boards per game. While Washington’s 36.2 is only good enough for 142nd nationally, that number has been on the rise lately as players like Desmond Simmons have stepped up their rebounding efforts.
So, I would say that is probably the single biggest issue for this UConn team. It isn’t even a matter of style of play or pace, either. Connecticut’s rebounding percentage is only 44.2%, which is 337th in the country, compared to 51.7% for Washington. When I took a look at individual rebounding numbers, things did not improve. The team leader in that category is 6’8″ sophomore forward DeAndre Daniels with only 4.3 boards a game, and only one other player averages 4.0. There is no one on the team that has shown himself to be capable of cleaning up the glass, so unless UW returns to disastrous Colorado State-game style rebounding, it should be a major advantage.
Even if both teams have similar stats on offense and both struggle on the glass, defense is where they separate a little. UConn is basically average when it comes to points allowed per possession at .94, good for 108th in the country. Washington, however, is tied for 261st in the country with 1.03 points allowed per possession. The difference might not seem huge, but over the course of a game, .9 points per possession can add up to a decent scoring margin.
Of course, statistics can be tough to fairly compare when the two teams have played completely different non-conference schedules. If these were two Pac-12 teams that were already into the meat of the conference schedule, it would be a different story, but in this case it’s important to see if these two teams pass the eye test. Have they looked like they’ve struggled? Have their losses been reasonable, or tough to swallow?
In UConn’s case, the 9-2 record isn’t bad, especially when you take a look at the two losses. Both were at home, as UConn hasn’t played a single true road game so far this year. The first was a close 66-60 loss to a very competitive New Mexico team that has compiled a sterling 13-1 record this year. Next was an even closer 69-65 loss to NC State, which is currently 9-2 and ranked 23rd in the country.
Washington, as you may know, has lost to less respectable teams. Aside from the neutral site loss to highly-ranked Ohio State, the other three have all been home defeats. The Colorado State loss would have been alright if it hadn’t been such an embarrassing blowout, and the three-point to Nevada isn’t a total disaster, but when you combine the two with the last-second one-point defeat at the hands of Albany, and it paints a pretty ugly picture.
UW has been inconsistent, has struggled to stop just about anyone on defense, especially consistent three-point shooters, and offensively it’s really just C.J. Wilcox/Scott Suggs or bust. While improvements to the health of the team and to the rebounding effort has been nice, I’m really not sure that Washington is ready to win against this UConn team on the road. It wouldn’t be shocking, and I doubt we’ll be looking at a blowout, but I expect those east coast Huskies to come out victorious in this non-conference Husky on Husky battle.
Connecticut 73, Washington 64