Saint Joseph's (24-9) vs. Connecticut (26-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 20, 6:55 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: First Niagara Center (18,690) -- Buffalo, New York. Television: TBS. NCAA Record: Saint Joseph's 18-23, Connecticut 52-29. Series Record: Connecticut leads, 4-2.
GAME NOTES: The seventh-seeded Connecticut Huskies tangle with the 10th-seeded Saint Joseph's Hawks at the First Niagara Center in second-round action of the East Region in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
UConn is no stranger to the NCAA Tournament, with three national championships under its belt. The most recent of which came in 2011 when the Huskies won 11 straight games to end the season, culminating in a 53-41 triumph over Butler in the national title game. This year's squad enters the Big Dance with a 26-8 overall record, having gone 2-2 in its last four games.
When the regular season came to a close, Saint Joseph's was considered a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament. The Hawks didn't bother leaving their chances up to fate, however, as they cruised through the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament to claim the league title and its automatic bid. The Hawks are 24-9 overall as they return to the tourney for the first time since 2008.
The last meeting between these teams was in 1989 when UConn rolled to an 83-58 win. The Huskies lead the all-time series by a count of 4-2. The winner of this matchup will move on to the third round to face either second-seeded Villanova and 15th-seeded Milwaukee on Saturday.
Saint Joseph's knocked off Virginia Commonwealth, which also made it into the field of 68, in the A-10 championship game. The Hawks claimed a 65-61 victory behind double-doubles from both Ronald Roberts (15 points, 11 rebounds) and Halil Kanacevic (11 points, 14 rebounds). They also limited the Rams to just 36.9 percent shooting.
Phil Martelli's team doesn't have much in terms of depth, but the limited number of players that get on the court really produce at a high level. Langston Galloway (17.5 ppg) leads the way as the best pure scorer on the roster. He can be lethal from 3-point range, as he showed by going 5-of-8 from distance against VCU, but he is also capable of getting to the rim. Roberts (14.4 ppg, 7.4rpg) is the team's best scorer on the inside, while Kanacevic (10.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 4.4 apg) is extremely versatile, providing much more than rebounding on the interior. Freshman DeAndre' Bembry (12 ppg) has developed into a strong contributor.
UConn also made it to the finals of its league tournament, but lost the American Athletic Conference title to Louisville (71-61). The Huskies were more competitive in that game than the 81-48 rout they took to the Cardinals in the regular-season finale, but they could not overcome a 13-4 scoring deficit off turnovers.
Since the 2011 season, the Huskies have been searching for the 'next' Kemba Walker. Shabazz Napier (17.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 4.9 apg), who was named the AAC's Player of the Year just last week, may be that guy. The 6-foot-1 guard, who was a freshman during the 2011 national title run, contributes across the board for the Huskies, leading the team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. He is part of a talented starting backcourt, which features Ryan Boatright (11.8 ppg, 3.5 apg) and 3-point marksman Niels Giffey (8.5), who is sinking 52.5 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. DeAndre Daniels (12.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg) is the team's best option up front.
Strong guard play is essential to making a run in the NCAA Tournament. Although Galloway is one of the better guards in the A-10, he will have a tough time dealing with Napier and the loaded Huskies' backcourt.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Connecticut 71, Saint Joseph's 64
03/20 10:24:55 ET