Tonight's game in Cincinnati has everything that the AAC is looking for.
No. 7 Cincinnati hosts No. 22 UConn and the two best players in the conference (apologies to Russ Smith) in Sean Kilpatrick and Shabazz Napier.
Kilpatrick leads the Bearcats with 19.4 points a game while Napier is making his case as one of the best guards in the country leading UConn in three categories, points (17.9) , assists (5.7) and rebounds (6.0) from the point guard slot.
Kilpatrick and Napier are right now the leading contenders for Player of the Year. Here's Mick Cronin on that as told to colleague at the Journal Inquirer in Neill Ostrout:
“To win a league or to compete for a league title you have to have a couple all-league players,” Cronin said. “We have Sean Kilpatrick and Justin Jackson. If the voting were done today I think one would be player of the year in the league and the other defensive player of the year. But we’ve got a long way to go and Shabazz Napier will have something to say about that.”The Huskies are No. 32 in the RPI, and with half the conference (Temple, Rutgers, Houston, UCF, USF) well into the 100s in the RPI, wins against NCAA caliber teams in Cincinnati (13th) Memphis (31), Louisville (33) and SMU (43 are necessary for the Huskies' hopes. UCon projects right now as a 5-7 seed if they NCAA bracket came down today.
The Huskies, coming off a 80-43 win over Houston a week ago, and sorely could use a win over a top 10 team on the road. Cincinnati is 21-2, 10-0 in conference and if the Huskies have any designs on a high NCAA seed, the AAC title and other accolades, a win tonight is what's needed.
The Huskies (17-4, 5-3) could have DeAndre Daniels available for tonight's game with the junior forward recovering from an ankle injury. Daniels practiced on Wednesday and Ollie told reporters Wednesday that he is 85 percent there. Daniels missed last Thursday's game with the ankle and has been out of game action for 11 days.
The Huskies have won 6 of 7 since losing two in Texas around the New Year and are starting to peak at the right time. UConn's done it on the defensive end lately, holding Rutgers and then Houston to 32 and 27 percent shooting. If the Huskies do that, and continue to rebound like it has, they will be hard to beat with plenty of scoring provided by Napier, Ryan Boatright and Daniels. UConn holds team to less than 40 percent from the floor, when it rebounds those misses the Huskies are a Top 20 caliber team. Uconn's holding teams to 38.6 percent shooting this season.
"Just phenomenal," Kevin Ollie said of the defensive effort after the Houston win. " It starts with Boatright. It's also about rebounding. We are a better team, defensively, rebounding and we can stay better as a team. I love our rebounding effort.We are 11-0 when we out rebound our opponents. That's common dominator."UConn has wins over Florida, Maryland, Boston College, Memphis, Indiana and Washington this season. What's really missing is beating that top 10 team on the road. If UConn can do that, they will position themselves nicely going into the AAC's second half.
Game Day linksNo. 22 UConn Can Make A Statement Against No. 7 Cincinnati (Hartford Courant)