Another Wednesday night ESPN doubleheader for college basketball means another day of breaking down the big games and analyzing trends and matchups. On schedule for Wednesday night is a Big East showdown between two bubble teams and an ACC rivalry game pitting two ranked teams against each other.
Connecticut Huskies (17-12) at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (19-10), 7 p.m. ESPN
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How They Enter
Both teams enter squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Notre Dame has reached 19 wins in the tough Big East but they are playing without Luke Harangody while Connecticut recently got a boost from the return of Head Coach Jim Calhoun. After losing in Calhoun’s first game back, the Huskies went on and stunned Villanova on the road, won at Rutgers and then knocked off No. 7 West Virginia. A tough loss at home to Louisville on Saturday is the reason they are still on the bubble, and another reason is their 1-4 SU record without Calhoun on the sideline. The Fighting Irish have done a much better job competing with a missing part. Since Harangody went down with a bone bruise in his knee, Notre Dame has gone 2-2 SU but the wins were over Pitt and at Georgetown.
In the first meeting between these two teams Connecticut blitzed the Irish in the second half to win, 82-70, on the strength of a 22-point, 16-rebound performance by Stanley Robinson. Four other Huskies reached double figures including Jerome Dyson (20 points). Notre Dame was far less balanced, relying on Harangody for 31 points.
Playing without their All-American, Notre Dame has actually undergone a positive transformation. In their last two wins four players reached double figures in both games. Forward Tim Abromaitis and guard Ben Hansbrough have both raised their scoring averages to 17.4 and 12.5 points per game, respectively.
Trends that Matter
UConn is 6-1 ATS as an underdog (this game is a ‘pick’)
UConn is 1-4 ATS in their last five games following a SU loss
Notre Dame is 4-1 ATS in its last five against the Big East
It will be senior night for five Notre Dame players including Harangody, but the ones who will be playing on the court will be the difference, not the lack of Harangody. The Huskies have a lack of experience in true road settings and this will be one of the toughest places they will set in foot in this year. The pick is Notre Dame.
No. 4 Duke Blue Devils (25-4) at No. 24 Maryland Terrapins (21-7), 9 p.m. ET ESPN
How They Enter
The Blue Devils are looking more and more like a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance. They have been rolling since a blowout loss at Georgetown. Since then it has been eight straight wins and a 5-2-1 ATS run. Duke is also learning to win on the road, since their early road struggles Duke has won at Boston College, at North Carolina, at Miami-Florida and at Virginia.
Maryland is on a hot streak of its own that culminated with a 104-point performance in an overtime win at Virginia Tech. The Terrapins are a virtual lock for the NCAA Tournament, they are playing for seeding now.
Maryland has not lost a game since a 77-56 whitewashing at Duke. The Terrapins endured a cold shooting night, hitting just 37 percent of their field goals and they turned the ball over 14 times. Duke was able to get to the free throw line 22 times in that game and their big three, Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, took care of the bulk of the scoring. The Blue Devils have relied on those three this year almost to a fault. They account for 54 points per game (Duke averages 79 points as a team) and the three all average more than 35 minutes per game. No one else on the roster averages more than 25.
Trends that Matter
Maryland is 6-1 ATS in their last seven home games
Maryland is 12-3 ATS in their last 15 games overall (20-7 ATS against the ACC)
Duke is 4-1-1 ATS in the last six meetings in this rivalry
It’s Senior Night for Maryland, who will not be looking past Duke while the Blue Devils may have a huge Saturday night showdown against North Carolina on their mind. Duke went to the free throw line twice as much as Maryland did in the last meeting, the ratio will be a lot more balanced this time if not in Maryland’s favor. The pick is Maryland at home.