Texas Longhorns (17-1 SU, 8-6 ATS) vs. Connecticut Huskies (12-6 SU, 7-9 ATS), 4:00 p.m. EST, Saturday, January 23, 2009, XL Center, Hartford, Conn. TV: CBS
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Texas -2.5/Connecticut +2.5
Texas’s stint as the No. 1 team in college basketball didn’t last very long, as the Longhorns lost at Kansas State on Monday, 71-62. Now, the Longhorns will try to bounce back from that loss with another tough road game, at Connecticut on Saturday afternoon.
Texas started the season with a 17-0 record but it wasn’t easy. The Longhorns have started slow in many of those games but finished strong in the second half. They have wins over Pittsburgh, USC, North Carolina, Michigan State, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa State and Texas A&M. They’ve had four road games so far, none of which were pretty. They won 77-59 at Rice, won 96-85 at Arkansas in a game that was close for most of the way, they won 90-83 at Iowa State in a game they were losing at the half and was close the whole way through, and lost 71-62 at Kansas State. The Longhorns have been losing at halftime in each of their last three games.
In the loss at Kansas State on Monday, it was a war. Texas shot 37 percent from the field and 3-for-11 on 3-pointers, while Kansas State shot 39 percent from the field and 1-for-12 on 3-pointers. The teams combined for 54 free throw attempts and 36 turnovers (18 each). The Longhorns got out-rebounded by eight and only made 9-of-22 from the free throw line. Avery Bradley, who had 11 points, was the only Texas played to score in double figures. Damion James had nine points and seven rebounds and shot just 3-for-12 from the field. Dexter Pittman had six points and seven rebounds.
UConn has had a tough season thus far and it just got worse earlier this week when its head coach Jim Calhoun announced he’s taking a leave of absence because of medical issues. With Calhoun away from the team, the Huskies were able to pick up a win at home over St. John’s on Wednesday, 75-59. But before that, they had lost three games in a row. They lost 72-69 at Georgetown, 67-57 at home to Pittsburgh, and 68-63 at Michigan. Their best wins all season long have been over Notre Dame and Seton Hall, both at home. The Huskies, who also lost to Kentucky, Duke and Cincinnati, just have not been very impressive this season.
In the win over St. John’s on Wednesday, Jerome Dyson had 21 points, six rebounds and five assists, Stanley Robinson had 18 points and nine rebounds, and Kemba Walker had 17 points, six assists and four rebounds. The Huskies shot 57 percent from the field and 6-for-14 from 3-point range.
Both of these teams are strong defensively, both holding their opponents to 37 percent shooting from the field. Texas is forcing 17.3 turnovers per game while committing 14.3. UConn is forcing 12.5 turnovers per game and committing 13.8. Both of these teams are holding opponents to less than 31 percent 3-point shooting and neither of these teams is particularly great at shooting 3-pointers (both at 34 percent), so outside shooting probably won’t be the difference in the game. Both of these teams are big and tough and like to get the ball inside, so it will come down to which team wins the battle on the boards and is able to make more shots around the basket.
Texas is 0-4 ATS in its last four games following an ATS loss, 0-4 ATS in its last four road games, and 0-5 ATS in its last five games overall. UConn is 4-0 ATS in its last four games following a SU win, 4-1 ATS in its last five home games, 4-1 ATS in its last five games following an ATS win, and 6-2 ATS in its last eight games overall.
Ryno’s Pick: These teams match up pretty well, as both teams have some physical big men and they both like to win games on defense and grinding it out on offense. Both teams also have a lot of athleticism and length. At home, this is a matchup that UConn can certainly win if the Huskies play well. But Texas is coming off its only loss of the season and, after having off for a few days, will be motivated to bounce back with a victory. UConn may keep it close for a while, but in the end the Longhorns have too much depth. Take Texas at -2.5 to cover the spread.