The UCONN Huskies seem to be almost a lock to appear in their first NCAA Tournament since 2016. Dan Hurley, UCONN’s head coach, has done a terrific job rebuilding the historic program. In the 2020-21 postseason, the Huskies look to make a run in March. The Huskies rebound, defend and have great guards.
UCONN possesses Kenpom’s 29th defense in the land. The Huskies only allow 65.2 points per game and are 27th in allowing only 22.4 field goals per game. Also, UCONN is great at forcing turnovers and limiting ball movement as their opponents average 0.823 assists per turnover. Primarily fueled by perimeter defense and shot-blocking, the Huskies can be a terror.
The Huskies hold three-point shooters to 31.6% behind the arc. They are 24th in allowing only 5.8 made threes a game, and only allow 18.4 points from behind the three point line as well.
UCONN’s defense is strongest in defending the rim. The Huskies rank seventh with 5.3 blocks per game. Also, 9.9% of field goals are tenaciously swatted by Husky rim defenders. Isaiah Whaley is the driving force behind UCONN’s blocking stats, he is 12th in the nation with 2.7 blocks per game.
The Huskies are 57th in 37.6 rebounds per game. Furthermore, UCONN consistently gets second chances on the offensive end via great offensive rebounding. They are 14th with 11.2 offensive rebounds per game. Even more impressive, the Huskies are fifth with an offensive rebounding percentage of 35.9%.
Husky opponents see their defensive rebounding decrease harshly due to UCONN’s offensive rebounding. UCONN only allows twenty defensive rebounds per game. Also, Husky opponents have a small defensive rebound percentage of 65.1%.
The heartbeat of the 2020-21 UCONN team is the outstanding shooting guard James Bouknight. Bouknight touts a conference-high 20.2 points per game. In turn, this earned the UCONN guard 1st team All-Big East honors. The lengthy 6-foot-5 guard also has an efficient shooting percentage of 47.2%. In addition, Bouknight can be pesky on the defensive end averaging 1.3 steals per game. The lethal guard will make opponents pay if fouled by shooting 80.3% from the free throw line. By creating space off dribble, Bouknight can be almost impossible to stop.
James Bouknight 1-on-1 space creation: smooth back-to-back crossovers into rhythm PU2. Bouknight: 17-44 off-dribble FGA (49 eFG%) this season, per Synergy pic.twitter.com/4kjZ4v8Atd
— Brian Geisinger (@bgeis_bird) March 4, 2021
Perhaps the most dangerous trait of Bouknight’s game is his ability to catch fire quickly. Bouknight’s most impressive game was against the Creighton Blue Jays on December 20th of 2020. The 6-foot-5 guard erupted for 40 points shooting 54.2%. Past title-winning UCONN times were led by outstanding guards that took over games. Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier were virtually unstoppable for past Husky teams. Bouknight has the potential to replicate Walker and Napier’s legendary postseasons.
UCONN is mostly projected as a nine seed right now. As always, this can easily change with the upcoming Big East Tournament. If UCONN was to stay in the 7-9 seed range, they may pull off some massive upsets. In the past, successful Husky teams in March were also lowly seeded.
Balance is key in the NCAA Tournament. UCONN bodes well with the 25th offense and 29th defense in Kenpom. However, matchups need to be unveiled before determining how far UCONN could go. The Huskies have the potential to make a sweet sixteen or elite eight. Bouknight complimented with a great shot blocker and offensive rebounding creates the perfect storm.
All stats courtesy of ESPN, Kenpom and Team Rankings.