March Madness

2014 NCAA Tournament Preview: (7) UConn vs. (10) St. Joseph’s

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Connecticut Huskies

The Huskies are back in the tournament after being ineligible last year due to poor APR (Academic Progress Rate) scores. While this is the 32nd appearance for them in school history, it is going to be the first time we see them with Kevin Ollie as their head coach. Ollie has proven to be a quality replacement so far for Jim Calhoun, who left huge shoes for him to fill, but he’s ultimately going to be graded on how he performs in the Big Dance. In senior Shabazz Napier, Ollie not only has one of the best point guards in the country, but a former champion as well. Napier was a freshman and a vital role player during UConn’s 2011 championship run. He shares the backcourt with Ryan Boatright; together the two give the Huskies quite possibly the fastest backcourt in the country. They’re a nightmare to contain off of the dribble and they’re both adept at getting to the free throw line. They also combine to average 3.3 steals a game. As a team the Huskies average 6.1 blocks a contest, ranked 11th in the country, and allow 63 points on 39 percent shooting from the field. Their strength of schedule was ranked just inside the top 50; they picked up quality wins against Florida, Memphis (three times) and Cincinnati. The difference maker in the tournament for the Huskies will be junior forward DeAndre Daniels. He’s inconsistent, but if he’s aggressive and effective in the tournament they’ll be one of the most difficult outs.

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St. Joseph’s Hawks 24-9, 11-5

The Hawks are making their 20th NCAA Tournament appearance and their first since 2008. They earned the Atlantic-10’s automatic bid by winning three games in three days, topping Dayton, St. Bonaventure and VCU. All of their quality wins came against conference foes; they were an even 5-5 against the RPI top 50, dropping a four point decision to Creighton on November 26 and suffering a 30 point loss at the hands of Villanova on December 7 in their toughest two matchups. Their strength of schedule was ranked 75th. Senior guard Langston Galloway is one of the best players in Hawks’ history. He’s scored 1,947 points in his career and is averaging a career-best 17.4 a contest this year. He’s a lethal three point shooter, making 99 on the year at a 43 percent success rate. Offensively, though, things often run through Halil Kanacevic. The 6’8, 255 lbs. forward has great court vision and leads the team with 4.4 assists a game. He also puts up 10.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks a game. Those two give the Hawks’ the ability to make some noise in the tournament, something they haven’t done since Jameer Nelson led them to an undefeated season up until the Elite Eight, where they were eliminated by Oklahoma State by two. With a five man senior class whose impact will still be felt long after they leave, expect this Hawks team to be a very difficult out, especially if they can win the turnover battle and not hurt themselves too badly with missed free throws. They were one of the 20 worst free throw shooting teams in the country, missing 35.5 of their attempts.