DePaul (12-18) vs. Connecticut (18-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, March 6, 12:00 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Madison Square Garden (19,763) -- New York, New York Television: ESPN2. Home Record: DU 7-9, UConn 13-4. Away Record: DU 3-8, UConn 3-7. Neutral Record: DU 2-1, UConn 2-1. Conference Record: DU 3-15, UConn 8-10. Series Record: Connecticut leads, 7-1.
GAME NOTES: The ninth-seeded Connecticut Huskies and the DePaul Blue Demons will open up the 33rd annual Big East Tournament when the two meet at Madison Square Garden in the first round.
The defending National Champion Huskies are in desperate need of a win to keep their NCAA-at large bid hopes alive. Coach Jim Calhoun returned to the sideline for the regular-season finale against Pittsburgh after recovering from back surgery performed earlier this week. Calhoun is expected to make the trip to the Big Apple with his team which is squarely on the bubble.
UConn finished ninth in the Big East with an 8-10 league record, which included an 80-54 dominant victory over DePaul on Feb. 15. The Blue Demons finished last in the league standings after they accumulated a 3-15 record in league play. Coach Oliver Purnell's squad finally snapped a nine-game losing streak in its season finale with an 86-58 victory over the Seton Hall Pirates. DePaul lost a few close game during its losing streak, but it was completely outplayed by UConn in their lone matchup of the season.
Jeremy Lamb led four different Huskies in double figures in the first matchup with DePaul as he netted 18 points. The sophomore guard is one of the top offensive threats in the nation as his well-rounded game has been problematic for opposing teams. Lamb leads the team with 17.6 ppg on 47.5 percent shooting from the floor. His backcourt mate, Shabazz Napier, is second on the team with 12.4 ppg and also hands out a team-high 5.9 assists per game. Freshmen Ryan Boatright and Andre Drummond are both big-time contributors for UConn as well. Boatright is a speedy guard with the ability to fill it up. Drummond's size has NBA scouts enamored as his 6-10, 270 pound frame clogs up the middle while he leads the team in rebounding and shot blocking.
UConn will have stop a Blue Demons team that is going off of its best game of the year. DePaul had four players score in double-figures in its win over Seton Hall on Saturday. Leading the pack was Jamee Crockett with 21 points off the bench, while Jeremiah Kelly netted 15 points and 10 assists. Cleveland Melvin added 14 points and nine rebounds, while Brandon Young chipped in 10 points. Melvin has been the leader throughout the year for DePaul, as his averages of 17.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game are the best on the team. Brandon Young is second with 14.8 points and leading the team with 4.9 assists per contest. Young struggled in the first matchup with UConn, going 1-of-9 from the floor in the lopsided defeat.
The winner of this opening bout will face the eighth-seeded West Virginia Mountaineers in the second round on Wednesday.
DePaul will need Melvin and Young to both play very well if it is going to have any chance at spoiling UConn's shot at an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies' position of needing a few wins just to qualify for the NCAA Tournament after a season long of underachieving seems a little too familiar. UConn's 2011 run through the Big East Tournament, which it then followed with an unpredictable National Title run was very unlikely last season, the odds of lighting striking twice are extremely minuscule. However, UConn should be able to advance past the last placed DePaul Blue Demons behind Lamb and Napier's leadership.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Connecticut 70, DePaul 58
03/06 10:35:17 ET