UConn Travels to New York on Tuesday to face Maryland in the Jimmy V Classic
Maryland comes into this game off a beatdown of St. Francis (Penn.), where the Terps posted a 41 point win. UConn has not played in six days, last beating Sacred Heart 82-49. With the lights shining bright in Madison Square Garden, the headliner of the annual Jimmy V Classic to benefit cancer research promises to be a doozy of a contest.
The name of the game for the Huskies is balance: Four separate starters average in double figures for fourth-year coach Kevin Ollie, and all of them have led this team in scoring at least once. Expect points to come from the guards and wings, as Maryland’s size and depth in the frontcourt could trouble a UConn post game that is somewhat underdeveloped. Rodney Purvis slashes to the bucket well, but has had trouble finishing in traffic. This timidity could be a result of Purvis shying away from contact, as he is only a 52 percent free throw shooter so far this season. Freshman Jalen Adams will likely be called on to play big minutes off the bench. His on-ball ferocity may be the Huskies only hope of containing Melo Trimble. Maryland’s aforementioned frontcourt will be a massive test for the Huskies; Brimah is a shot-blocking menace, but was incredibly foul-prone in 2014-15 (4.3 fouls per 40 minutes). UConn will need him to stay on the court, and will likely also require quality minutes from reserve big men Kentan Facey, Phil Nolan, and Steve Enoch.
Maryland went back to dominance over the weekend, but definitely still has the UNC loss on the mind. Mark Turgeon’s team, like the Huskies, has incredible scoring balance, led by preseason All-American Melo Trimble. Suliamon, the former Blue Devil, has looked right at home playing for the Terps, knocking down 53 percent of his shots from deep. Jake Layman, captain of the “It feels like you’ve been in college for seven years” team provides matchup nightmares for UConn whether he’s at the 3 or the 4. Then, there is the frontcourt, where Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter has been doing everything from hitting threes to grabbing rebounds in traffic. Diamond Stone gives a special angle to this game. The Milwaukee native was heavily recruited by the Huskies, who were in his final 3 along with the Terrapins and Wisconsin. Alas, being in the red and gold mean his advanced post game and brute physicality will be tormenting the UConn big men for the better part of the night. Damonte Dodd and Slovakian Michal Cekovsky and provide further size and skill.
In their first five games of the season, the Huskies hit over nine threes a game, before only making five combined between Gonzaga and Sacred Heart. This is a team with a bevy of talented shooters, including Purvis, who despite his free throw troubles, is hitting 41 percent on treys. The key could be Sterling Gibbs, who nailed five threes in a game against New Hampshire, but has hit just once over the past two games from beyond the arc, including going 0 for 6 against the Zags. If he can rediscover the shooting touch, there will be a lot less pressure on Purvis to score from the guard spot. Suliamon has been unconscious from deep, while Trimble knocked down four of five against the Tar Heels. Layman as a forward has also got a tremendous touch, further showing what a mismatch he is. Even Robert Carter has proven to be a threat from deep, making 33 percent. Guard Jared Nickens is possibly the best shooter off the bench in the country. He has taken the most three point shots on this team, and is connecting 40 percent of the time.
Small Ball Lineups
The Huskies have made a living off of small lineups, most notably in 2013-14. For the first time since 2011, this team has depth at the power forward and center spots. However, the best Husky lineup may be when Hamilton slides to the 4, creating a major challenge for bigger and slower power forwards. This lineup gives Hamilton, one of the country’s best passers, more options than he could possibly desire. However, Maryland has their own counter in the form of Layman. His athleticism and handle create equal challenges for Terp opponents. It also puts three sharpshooting guards—Trimble, Suliamon, and Nickens—on the floor at the same time. Whichever team has the better playing small ball lineup will likely walk out of the Garden with a win.
Maryland comes into this game ranked as one of the best teams in the country. They’ve got a backcourt led by the best point guard in America, and versatility throughout their starting lineup. On their bench, players like Nickens and Dodd provide further elite level talent. But, even when I take my blue-tinted glasses off, I think the Huskies are primed to pull the upset. The frontcourt will need to play above its paygrade for UConn to have a chance. Daniel Hamilton could wind up being the best player on the floor. His vision, nose for the ball, and scoring touch make him the biggest triple double threat not named after a holiday (hint: East Lansing, Michigan). Hamilton has shown the ability to take on the scoring load when necessary, which will be the case against the Terps. Lastly, I am picking UConn because of where this game is being played. Madison Square Garden has another name among UConn fans: Storrs South. When the Huskies play in Manhattan, the fans come out in droves (2014 NCAA tournament says ‘hello’). Make no mistake, Maryland will be well represented, but this should feel like a home game for UConn. The Huskies have built up quite the following in New York, and Manhattan is a short train ride away for Connecticut residents. The masses will flock to the mecca, and be rewarded with an upset that vaults the Huskies back into the national picture.
UConn 77, Maryland 72.
Stats courtesy of
University of Connecticut
University of Maryland
Daniel Hamilton: http://www.uconnhuskies.com/view.gal?id=186731
Jake Layman: http://www.testudotimes.com/2015/11/17/9752224/jake-layman-melo-trimble-wooden-award-watch-list-2015-maryland-basketball
2014 Elite Eight: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/30/uconn-michigan-state-elite-eight-garden_n_5059766.html