People don’t always pay attention to early-season basketball at the collegiate level, because honestly, most of it isn’t as impactful as conference play.
The teams Texas has hosted at the Moody in the 2023-24 season sort of speak to that – Delaware State doesn’t exactly move the needle for casual fans of the college game.
Thank God for pre-conference tournaments. The Maui Classic starts this week with a crazy loaded slate of games, and the finale of the Empire Classic, between a 2023 Elite Eight team in Texas, and the defending national champions in Connecticut, happens tonight.
This isn’t gonna be an easy one.
Considering they’re defending a national title, you would expect some kind of drop-off – but with this Huskies team, they haven’t really shown any signs of slowing down.
They’re anchored by 7-3 center Donovan Clingan, who is generally considered a consensus top-10 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft.
The size is obvious. What isn’t is his skill level – he has really nice touch around the rim, and weighing 265 pounds, he’s not a guy with a wiry frame that will struggle with physicality.
While he’s not the only player on the team getting serious lottery attention, he is the only one on the team that will be active for tonight’s game as freshman sensation Stephon Castle required surgery recently that will sideline him for 6-8 weeks.
Offensively, guard Tristen Newton is the guy to watch, averaging 17.3 points per game through four. Forward Alex Karaban and guard Cam Spencer are the other guys to watch outside of the three I just mentioned.
Despite being a defensive-minded coach at heart, Dan Hurley’s offense has been potent so far this year. He runs a version of a motion offense, which is fairy typical in college, but with the guards he’s had to work with, they’ve been more than effective.
Newton and Spencer run the guard spots with Castle’s departure, but they are obviously extremely capable players to run the offense effectively.
A lot of the offense is just getting the ball to Clingan in the post. The size allows him to “seal off” the defender once he gets the ball inside, and with this size, it’s an obvious bucket.
Kadin Shedrick is going to have his hands full on defense, so who will have to step up on the offensive side?
This is gonna be a toughie, guys, I’ll be honest with you.This program is defending a national title for a reason – they are the premier brand in college basketball if you ask me.
Kansas, UNC, Duke, Kentucky are all members of course. But UConn has now won five titles since 1999.
They run with swagger, they play fundamental ball that doesn’t limit their athletes, and overall, they just know how to win in big games.
Tyrese Hunter will more than likely be the guy guarding Newton, which is a good thing, as ‘Rese is an elite perimeter defender (especially for a guy at his size). Mitchell will draw Karaban, and it will be up to Kadin Shedrick to deal with Clingan.
The way Texas can win this game is (A) shoot better than UConn from deep, (B) try to get Clingan in foul trouble by forcing the ball to Shedrick, and (C) rebound.
Louisville stayed in and nearly won the game yesterday by out-rebounding Texas (through the first 30 or so minutes, before Huntley-Hatfield and Evans fouled out).
If the ‘Horns want a shot at this one, they’re gonna have to body up bigger players and forcefully clean the glass. The Huskies are physical as hell, so Texas better be expecting a dogfight.
While I don’t expect Texas to win, I do expect them to play much better than they did yesterday against UL.
UConn is not a team that will let Texas hang around, so the ‘Horns need to keep themselves in the game by not turning the ball over (one of the highlights of yesterday was UT’s ball control) and not giving up second-chance points.
I think Texas hangs close and loses by around 8-10, which honestly, this early in the season, would not be a discouraging result at all.