The Connecticut Huskies went on a roll in last year's NCAA Tournament that BetOnline patrons hadn't really seen before. On the way to winning the national championship, they won every game by double digits, vanquishing the likes of Arkansas, Saint Mary's, Gonzaga, Miami and San Diego State.
But let's not forget that toward the end of the calendar year they went through an awful run where they lost five of six games. So they were hardly invincible.
This season they haven't yet been touched, with a 7-0 record as they come into the Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, KS to take on the Kansas Jayhawks in one of those ESPN games that starts at 9 PM ET.
Kansas is using this season to get some retribution. His squad lost to Texas in the Big 12 Tournament and then was eliminated in the second round of NCAA Tournament play, a heart-breaking one-point loser to Arkansas.Their only loss on the season thus far was by 14 points to a torrid Marquette squad out in Hawaii. Then they turned aroiund the next night and beat top ten-ranked Tennessee by nine points.
A big part of the story on Friday night involves the battle between the big men. Kansas coach Bill Self reached into the transfer portal and was able to pull out a real bonus prize in Hunter Dickinson, a 7-2 center who had been a standout at Michigan.
And he's been a sensation after moving over to Lawrence, especially prominent in the big games. Against Kentucky, he had a monster effort, with 27 points and 21 rebounds, and against Tennessee he had 17 points and 20 caroms.
Connecticut would certainly like to get the ball into the hands of Cam Spencer, who is hitting 48% from downtown. Spencer is playing for his third different school, having previously been at Loyola (MD) and Rutgers. Could this become a game that is decided on long-range shooting?
In the NCAA basketball betting odds that have been established on this game by the people at BetOnline, Kansas is favored at home:
Kansas Jayhawks -3.5 (-105)
Connecticut Huskies +3.5 (-115)
Over 148.5 points -110
Under 148.5 points -110
The guy who is going to try to meet the challenge down low for UConn is sophomore Donovan Clingan. And all indications are that he can be a headache. Clingan hails from Bristol, CT, which means he doesn't have to travel all that far if ESPN wants to interview him (LOL) and he is taking more of a role as a scorer than he did last year, when the Huskies had enough veterans around him.
He was a super sub during the championship season, averaging 7.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in just 13 minutes a game. Right now he is one of the nation's most ferocious players on the defensive boards, ranking eighth in offensive rebounding percentage, and spearheading the overall effort of UConn, which pulls down 42.1% of all available misses, which is sixth best nationwide.
Clingan had 29 points last time out against New Hampshire. But if you look at the roster of opponents the Huskies have faced, the top two teams by far - Indiana and Texas - have each held him to only seven points. So perhaps the presence of Dickinson is a something that neutralizes him to some extent. And it helps the Jayhawks compete, as the numbers show UConn very strong on both ends of the floor off the glass.
Another thing that has to be mentioned is that Kansas is going to have Dickinson out there quite a bit longer. In each of the last five games he has played 30 minutes or more.
We do admire Kansas' ability to face some adversity and come back. Against Kentucky in the United Center they were down by 14 points in the second half and methodically worked their way back into it, finally overtaking John Calipari's team, which, as we just saw the other night, possesses a lot of firepower.
KU will have to shoot well. And they aren't bad at all from beyond the arc (38%). They exhibit great ball movement. And they are unbdoubtedly battle-tested. They have the ability to carry this number.
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