Here’s your stat of the day: Kevin Ollie is still undefeated in the NCAA Tournament.
No. 9 UConn got past No. 8 Colorado on Thursday afternoon, winning 74-67 and setting up a showdown between the Huskies and No. 1 overall seed Kansas.
UConn roared back from a double-digit deficit on Thursday. It looked really good for about a 15-minute spurt in that game. Ollie’s crew looked like a Top 25 team, which it hasn’t resembled most of the year, but that’s what we thought it would be back in the preseason.
And this is March. UConn’s had just a little success in this month, you know? So can the Huskies actually push Kansas, should both teams meet on Saturday in Des Moines? Certainly. Here’s three reasons why.
1. UConn is the best team from the foul line in the NCAA Tournament. We saw how valuable Connecticut’s free throw shooting was on Thursday. The Huskies were remarkable from the line, going 22 of 23. Those points mattered big, especially late, when Colorado closed the gap and UConn had a couple of hideous turnovers.
The Huskies shoot 79 percent from the charity stripe. That means a heck of a lot in March.
2. UConn has a better backcourt than Kansas. Hey, Frank Mason and Devonte Graham are good. I love the styles of each of those players. But at its best, UConn’s attack of Jalen Adams, Rodney Purvis and Sterling Gibbs is the better deployment. The Huskies got 40 points out of those guys against Colorado. If the turnovers are held in check, and if Purvis and Gibbs continue to work on the same page, then yeah, that’s an edge for UConn in that game.
3. UConn — which tends to do well in March — will be playing with house money. It’s always interesting to see a proud program land an 8 or 9 seed, move on to the second round and play without abandon. You know Ollie will have his guys motivated. Kansas has a history of early letdowns in the tournament. That doesn’t mean the Jayhawks are destined to falter, but remember, UConn’s defense ranks top 15 in the country. (Kansas is top five.) It should be an interesting matchup at the very least.
Can UConn beat Kansas? Yes, it’s possible. It wouldn’t be the most shocking outcome of this tournament if it happened. Bottom line: Any time you get two top-15 programs facing off in the Big Dance, it’s good for college basketball. So long as KU gets past Peay, we’ll be treated to such an event on Saturday.