Saturday College Basketball Preview: Texas at Connecticut
by Matt Severance - 1/21/2010
Maybe Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun was the problem?
Not to make light of Calhoun’s health issue that has forced the Half of Famer to take an indefinite leave of absence from Connecticut, but the Huskies ended a three-game losing streak on Wednesday night in their first game without Calhoun by stomping St. John’s.
UConn seemed to fix a lot that was wrong during the skid, as it made 6-of-14 three-pointers after hitting only 6-of-28 during the three-game losing streak as well as 11-of-12 free throws after shooting just 59 percent from the line during the previous three games. UConn made 56.9 percent of its shots overall and 65.4 percent in the second half. Interim coach George Blaney started a three-guard lineup against the Red Storm and may again Saturday – Blaney is 5-3 in games in which he has subbed for Calhoun.
But Saturday’s game with No. 1 Texas will obviously present a much bigger challenge than St. John’s did. Texas is a two-point favorite for Saturday’s game, the final non-conference matchup for both teams, on Bookmaker.
The Longhorns won’t be No. 1 when the new polls come out next Monday as they fell at Kansas State on Monday night. Texas shot just 36 percent from the field against the Wildcats, 3-for-11 from three-point range, 9-of-22 from the free-throw line and had only one player score in double figures. But there’s no shame in losing in Manhattan (as in Kansas). However, what might be concerning is that star center Dexter Pittman has been limited to 5.0 points per game on 35 percent shooting and 4.5 rebounds per game in four Big 12 games as opposed to averaging 14.6 points a game on 74 percent shooting and 7.1 rebounds in non-conference games. And the Horns are one of the nation’s worst free-throw shooting teams, which certainly played a role on Monday.
Interestingly, Texas will be the first No. 1 team ever to play at Gampel Pavilion on the UConn campus – other than the Huskies themselves. And Connecticut is just 1-6 all-time against the nation’s No. 1 team. However, the Huskies haven’t lost a non-conference game on campus in their past 30, dating to 2001, and have won 20 straight there overall when you factor in conference games. Texas hasn’t been great on the road this year, going 0-4 ATS, and hasn’t covered since beating Michigan State on Dec. 22. Under Rick Barnes, UT is 50-55 all-time against ranked teams
Texas definitely has more depth than does UConn – 10 Longhorns average at least 12.9 minutes per game and no player averages more than 29. The Huskies have seven players averaging double-figure minutes and four of them play 30 or more. To win, Connecticut needs a game from its Big 3 of Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson and Kemba Walker similar to Wednesday when the trio combined for 56 of the team’s 75 points. The Huskies are 0-4 against ranked teams this season (1-3 ATS) – and have dropped five in a row against ranked foes overall -- but could have easily won two of them. I believe they end that skid on Saturday because of Calhoun’s absence because the Huskies seem motivated to win for their coach.
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