Jim Calhoun always has his team ready for the Big East Tournament, and they'll have a big edge on the glass as well today. Lay the points on Connecticut versus West Virginia.
West Virginia made it into the second round after getting a scare from conference No. 12 seed Providence. The Mountaineers are one of the higher scoring teams in the Big East but they were held to just 20% from three-point land by the Friars.
The Huskies enter the game well rested and as a dark horse to take the conference title in ’08. Connecticut finished their season winning 13 of their last 15 including five wins in a row over the RPIs top 35 teams. On the season, UConn has a 7-5 record vs. the countries top 50 teams while the Mountaineers come in just 3-8 vs. the same competition.
Jim Calhoun has won two conference titles since 2002 and knows how to prepare his teams for the big stage at Madison Square Garden. The Huskies have scored 70 or more in seven of their last nine and seen the total go over in four straight. On March 1, Connecticut got a visit from the Mountaineers and held on for an eight-point victory after being up 13 at the break. In that game the Huskies were torched a bit by Joe Alexander who went for 32, but they kept WVU off the line while they managed to get 29 attempts from the line themselves. Jeff Adrien dominated that game with 10 boards and nine of 14 from the stripe.
Coming into the first round of the conference tourney, WVU has gone over the total in four consecutive and posted 70-plus in each of those outings. Bob Huggins’ team all but locked up a spot in the Big Dance with their win yesterday and they now have wins in seven of their last nine. The Mountaineers aren’t the deepest team in the world; they have four players that average 30-plus minutes a game and then four others who play between 11 and 17 minutes a contest. The majority of their damage is done by the Big Four who each put up over 10 points and three rebounds a game.
The best matchup in this one figures to be forwards Alexander and Adrien going at it; both of these kids were honored with selections to the All-Big East first team. Each of these kids are great rebounders and know how to score around the basket. Adrien has been waiting all year for the chance to get back to this point and redeem his poor showing from last years event. UConn bowed out early in ’07 and Jeff went a disappointing thee of 12 from the field and didn’t find himself at the line in 39 minutes. Things should be a bit different tonight, UConn has gotten been getting the line frequently over their last five contests shooting over 20 free throws in each of those outings.
West Virginia’s poor rebounding figures to be more than they can to overcome this afternoon in New York. Calhoun’s team has three players averaging over 6.5 boards per game while the Mountaineers rank 91st nationally in rebounding margin.
The line was at 3, the public is all over the favorites, but the line has moved the other direction. I’ll simply say thank you and take lay the points. The more athletic, rested, and more talented side gets the win and the cover today.
Free Pick: Connecticut -2½ (+100)
WVU: (Sagarin #20, RPI #33)
UCONN: (Sagarin #18, RPI #14)
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