The two teams have not met since the Elite Eight of the 2011 NCAA Tournament when the Huskies squeaked past the Wildcats 65-63.
UConn is 5-0 in this series, but players like Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb are long gone, and frankly the current Huskies are nothing like those that won the national title 2011 and 2014.
But let’s get to know them anyway.
- 71-63 win vs. Oregon in Portland on Nov. 23
- 77-57 loss to Michigan State in Portland on Nov. 24
- 102-67 loss to Arkansas in Portland on Nov. 26
- 72-63 loss to Syracuse in Madison Square Garden on Dec. 5
(UConn has not played a true road game yet this season)
The Huskies are a poor offensive team, scoring 100.0 points per 100 possessions which ranks 258th (of 351) in college basketball.
UConn shoots a low percentage both beyond the 3-point line (31 percent) and in front of it (46 percent).
It has not shot above 37 percent from 3 in a game all season.
What the Huskies are good at is getting to the free throw line, as 23 percent of their points come from the charity stripe, the 31st-highest mark in college basketball. They shoot 74.3 percent at the line..
But that is really all they are good at. Their offensive rebounding numbers aren’t anything spectacular and neither are their turnover numbers. UConn plays at a similar pace as Arizona, but has only eclipsed the 80-point mark twice all season.
If Arizona’s defense is truly improving, this should be a team it should have no trouble defending.
UConn beat Oregon, but only shot .373/.176/.706 in that game.
So you have probably figured out that UConn’s strength is its defense.
Even so, the Huskies rank just 73rd in adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom. For reference, Arizona ranks 60th.
The Huskies have had elite defenses in recent years, 2015-16 and 2013-14 specifically, but that’s when they had an elite shot blocking presence in Amida Brimah who continually ranked in the top five in college basketball in block percentage.
He graduated after last season, and UConn no longer has an intimidating presence in the paint. The Huskies rank 98th in the country in block percentage now and their tallest player is 6-foot-9.
The only peripheral that stands out about UConn’s defense — and it’s not good — is that it fouls a lot, ranking 211th in opponent free throw rate.
In terms of raw efficiency, UConn allows 99.6 points per 100 possessions which ranks 168th in the country. Better than Arizona, but still not a good mark.
Players to watch
Jalen Adams, junior, PG, 6-3, 195 lbs
Adams is Connecticut’s leading scorer (19.2 ppg), assister (3.7 apg) and stealer (1.6 spg).
He shoots 44.8 percent from the field, 34 percent from 3, and 69 percent from the line. Adams takes 5.6 3s per contest, but only 2.9 free throws, so it’s safe to assume he tends to take a lot of jumpers.
Adams has scored in double figures every game this year and has reached the 20-point mark in four of nine games. He scored 31 points on 13-22 shooting in an overtime win over Monmouth on Dec. 2.
Adams handles the ball more than any other player on the team, so UConn’s offense can be a threat when he is clicking.
Terry Larrier, junior, G/F, 6-8, 185 lbs
UConn is a poor 3-point shooting team, but Larrier is an exception. The lanky forward is shooting 44 percent from 3, averaging 4.6 attempts per game.
He actually shoots a higher percentage outside the arc than he does inside it, so obviously the key to defending him is running him off the 3-point line.
Larrier is UConn’s second leading scorer (15.6 ppg) and the leading rebounder (5.7 rpg).
Christian Vital, sophomore, G, 6-2, 178 lbs
Volume shooter is how I would describe Vital.
While he is UConn’s third-leading scorer (12.8 ppg), he is super inefficient. Vital is shooting 36 percent from the field and takes 5.5 3s per game despite only making 26 percent from that range.
Vital doesn’t pass the ball much — posting 17 assists to 13 turnovers — but he does get to the line a healthy amount (5.9 FTA) and converts at a high rate (84.7 percent).
Vital scored 30 points on just 15 shots against Boston and 29 points on 14 shots against Columbia, so when he is on, he can be lethal.
But most of the time he is not.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire