You’ve got to be kidding me. Louisville, who has been dominating their opponents, is a four seed but yet ranked 5th in the country. How is this possible? But the biggest disrespect to the AAC is to put the other three teams in the same bracket. Why couldn’t they spread the teams around so that they don’t have to eat their own? It is unacceptable. The seedings for UConn, Cincinnati, and Memphis are about right. Maybe there could be an argument on Cincinnati’s because UConn beat them 2 out of 3 times, but the Bearcats did have a share of the American title.
UConn lands in Buffalo, N.Y. which should provide them with enough fans to make it a good atmosphere as they take on St. Joes. The Hawks are led by five really good players and UConn can’t head into this game and overlook them. Langston Galloway, a senior guard, is their offensive powerhouse. He leads the team in 3-point percentage at 43% and doesn’t turn the ball over. Ronald Roberts is their anchor down low. He’s a senior, 6-8 and 225 pound power forward that averages 14 points and 7 boards a game. His downside is his free throw shooting which is around 59%.
They also have a high powered freshman in DeAndre Bembry. He’s a 6-6 small forward that does most of his work in the paint. He only made 36 of his 138 field goals from deep. Like Roberts, Bembry is a poor free throw shooter, hitting just 57% at the line. The X-factor to this game is Halil Kanacevic. He’s a senior 6-8 power forward that averages 10 points and 8 rebounds. Not only does he lead the team in rebounds but he also leads the team in assists and it isn’t even close. He has over 50 more assists than any other player on his team. It is imperative for UConn to be crisp on their rotations especially if they send help to him because he has a great feel for the game and can create easy shots for his teammates. Chris Wilson is a junior guard that isn’t a great shooter but has a knack for getting points though he only averages 9 a game. Half his shots are from deep and he makes 35% of them. Coach Phil Martelli uses a short bench and the minutes drop off drastically after the starting five. Papa Ndao and Daryus Quarles average 11 minutes and Isaiah Miles averages 9 minutes.
St. Joes was average in both scoring and defense in the Atlantic 10. They ranked 8th out of 13th on offense, averaging 71.5 points per game and 6th out of 13th on defense, letting opponents score 67.1 points per game. Their Achilles heal is in their free throw shooting, ending up dead last in the league and shooting a measly 64% from the charity stripe. That allows UConn to feel comfortable in playing aggressive defense and they should send the Hawks big men to the line instead of giving them easy buckets. They also are prone to coughing the ball up while not turning their opponent over and are second to last in their conference in turnover margin. The one thing UConn needs to focus on is protecting the perimeter because this St. Joes team can light it up and leads the A-10 in 3-point shooting, hitting 38% from deep.
On paper, UConn has the upper hand in this match-up, but they’ll need to do a few things to make sure that they move on. They can’t allow open shooters. They’ll need to run them off the line and funnel them into Brimah or Nolan. St. Joes isn’t a great offensive rebounding team, which is one of UConn’s weaknesses. UConn needs to focus on pushing the ball once they secure the rebound and attack, attack, attack. Get to the line and get St. Joes into foul problems early. Make those unused bench players play in this game. The one thing UConn can not do is look ahead to the next round and let this team stay into the game. If UConn plays their game, they should be able to pull away and win it, even if they don’t have their jumpers working. Kevin Ollie will have this team focused and ready to play. This will be Napier’s last run and UConn fans should be prepared for something special.