SMU-UConn Preview

ESPN'S SATURDAY SHOWCASE HEADS TO "BIG D" FOR UCONN AT SMU IN THE AAC

Before the season started, it looked like the game between the defending National Champion Connecticut Huskies and the rapidly improving SMU Mustangs might be the showcase game of the year in the American Athletic Conference. ESPN sure thought that, and locked the matchup in for GameDay coverage over Valentine's Weekend.

Well, love may not be in the air for UCONN given their surprising fade this season! They're heading into "Big D" without any "O!" The offense has fallen off the map. And, the Huskies may have already fallen out of serious bracket consideration for the 2015 Big Dance. The defending champs probably won't get a chance to defend!

CURRENT AAC STANDINGS (with Joe Lunardi's Bracketology)
SMU 11-2 (projected #7 seed)
Tulsa 10-2 (projected #11 seed)
Temple 9-3 (projected #11 seed)
Cincinnati 8-4 (projected #7 seed)
Connecticut 7-4 (not even on the bubble!)

Tulsa and Temple are currently on the right side of the bubble. But, there's no guarantee that they'll continue to play well enough to hold those spots. The AAC could fall all the way down to just two entries given what we see above. Connecticut really has to lift its game. Lunardi doesn't currently have them even in the "next eight" who might sneak in. A huge prime time TV win would certainly help get things moving in the right direction.

A week ago tonight, SMU outclassed Tulsa on the road in a statement victory. Can they do the same against reeling UCONN? Let's see what JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats have to say about this rare high profile TV showcase for the AAC...

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency
Connecticut: 104.4 per 100 possessions (#114 in the nation)
SMU: 109.3 per 100 possessions (#47 in the nation)

First, we should note that Ken Pomeroy's computer ratings site (where you can find offensive and defensive efficiency numbers for all board teams) currently don't have Tulsa or Temple safely in the Dance. Cincinnati's a bubble team in his numbers. So, we're looking at a conference that could have anywhere from 1-4 teams in the brackets next month. SMU is virtually assured to be the one. Will they be the one and only? Connecticut's offense is HORRIBLE this year by major conference standards. They really only score when they're getting cheap points that are set up by their defense...or if they're facing really hapless competition. By Dance standards, SMU is a disappointment barely cracking the top 50. Once you get down to tournament caliber teams...offenses in that range are likely to have serious droughts vs. quality defenses.

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
Connecticut: 93.0 per 100 possessions (#30 in the nation)
SMU: 93.6 per 100 possessions (#37 in the nation)

We have a pair of quality defenses here to be sure...though not necessarily juggernauts. The only reason Connecticut is still in the league race is because they can shut people down. Slight edge to the Huskies in this category...but not nearly enough to make up for their woes on offense.

Pace Ranking
Connecticut: #264
SMU: #252

Both teams play slower than average, but not glacial. Given the margin of error in that section of data, they're basically the same team. Saturday night's meeting will be slow, particularly if Connecticut treats it like a must-win game to save their season. Think about the Under in that regard.

Against the Spread
Connecticut: 8-12
SMU: 10-9-3

Bettors knew very quickly that UCONN had lost several steps from last season. But, they're still just 40% against the spread even after that adjustment. Note that the Huskies just covered their last two games...meaning they were 6-12 ATS before that. They were actually 0-7 ATS right before getting the money vs. Tulane and Tulsa. SMU is priced like conference champs, making it hard to earn money for backers.

The Saturday schedule is HUGE of course. So, it's far from certain that UCONN/SMU will show up on the final slate for NETWORK clients. They only get the best! Perhaps it will show up in a TV parlay. Other games under consideration for that would clearly be Ohio State/Michigan State (previewed yesterday in the NOTEBOOK), North Carolina at Pittsburgh, Baylor at Kansas, NC State at Louisville, Duke at Syracuse, and Villanova at Butler.

You can purchase Saturday's BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. Be sure you take care of business before the early games start! If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 Saturday morning.

We'll spend a day in the NBA Sunday, using the All-Star Break to take stock of the league. Then it's back to college basketball key game previews...

Sunday: NBA State of the League at the All-Star Break
Monday: College Basketball Preview...Kansas at West Virginia in the Big 12
Tuesday: College Basketball Preview... LSU at Texas A&M in the SEC
Wednesday: College Basketball Preview...North Carolina at Duke in the ACC
Thursday: College Basketball Preview...Temple at SMU in the AAC
Friday: Early Look...Iowa State at Texas or W. Virginia at Okie State in the Big 12
Saturday: College Basketball GameDay...UCLA at Arizona in the Pac 12

So many important games...it feels like March has already arrived! There's a playoff atmosphere in every game we cover because so much is at stake in the days leading up to the Dance. Look for key handicapping stats here in the NOTEBOOK...and link up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!

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