UConn fans might scoff at the notion that their Big East Tournament champion team could possibly fall to a school out of the Patriot League, even one as notorious for NCAA Tournament upsets as Bucknell. This Bison team should not be taken lightly though, regardless of what conference you play in, a 25-win season and a 13-1 conference record is nothing to laugh at - especially at this point in the year.
On paper this may look like a relatively easy win for Jim Calhoun's Huskies given their far superior talent and athleticism, but upon further inspection it becomes readily apparent that Bucknell is more than capable of adding another notch on it's Giant Killer belt.
Follow along after the jump to see why.
The first thing to consider here is putting UConn's season into perspective. Yes, they just pulled off a monumentalfeat in winning five games in five days (which has never been done before) to claim the Big East Tournament crown. Beyond that though, this has been a remarkably inconsistent team. The Huskies finished with a .500 record in conference play - yes the Big East is strong - and 9th overall. How many teams that finished 9th in their conference earn a three-seed come March? Not many. This is definitely a team that got hot at the right time of year and the Selection Committee was swayed. Understandable, but yes, I think UConn is a tad overrated in their current seeding.
Furthermore, as much as the coaches will work against it, as much as they will preach over and over in the next 48-72 hours, there will be some degree of let down when they take the court against the Bison. After four straight games against nationally ranked programs, it's understandable that certain individuals might not be as energized about facing a small school from Pennsylvania that doesn't receive national recognition outside of the occasional NCAA Tournament game.
Of course, the most important factors take place on the court.
Bothteams play at an identical pace, so this won't be a case of one team trying to slow down a fast breaking monster. With that said, there are several holes in the Connecticut game that can be exploited by the Bison if they are hitting the right notes. Bucknell is one of the top three-point shooting teams in the country, connecting on over 40% of their attempts from beyond the arc. It just so happens that Connecticut ranks 120th in three-point field goal percentage against in Division 1. It's a tried and tested method in NCAA Tournament upsets, the three-pointer is the great equalizer in college basketball and if the Bison heat up from the outside, all of a sudden Connecticut is in trouble.
Another factor to consider is Connecticut has an efficient offense overall, but relies on hitting the offensive glass to get a lot of points. Overall, this is not a very good shooting basketball team. Bucknell - though undersized - is among the national leaders in preventing second chance opportunities. The Bison don't need to shut UConn down entirely on the glass, but containing the Husky big men from running wild on the boards will go a long way to making this a game.
One final thing to consider is the excellent job Bucknell does protecting the ball on offense and the surprisingly poor job UConn does at forcing turnovers. According to Ken Pomery, the Huskies rank 291st in the country in turnovers forced while the Bison are in the top 30 in turnover possession. Bucknell also does a very efficient job of scoring out of the pick and roll set, which happens to be the play-type that Connecticut has had the most trouble defending this season.
Is Bucknell a lock to win this game? Absolutely not. The Huskies have a very talented team and one of the best players in the country in KembaWalker. With that said, the Bison are experienced, smart and can shoot well enough that if UConn doesn't take this game very seriously, they could be going home sooner than expected.