As the Huskies, and their fans, await the NCAA selection, the major “bracketologists” are coming in with widely varying sites and opponents. Most have UConn as a No. 5 seed, though USA today has them as a No. 6. So it’s going to be a No. 11 or 12 seed opposite the Huskies when they are called tonight, probably a mid-major, possibly a middle-of-the-pack team from a power conference. It could be a team that has gotten little national attention, or someone more familiar.
It could be none of these, or it could be …
Toledo: The Rockets, like UConn, were part of the 2K Classic in November, and made a splash by winning a road game at Boston College. They went on to beat Stony Brook, Detroit and Florida Atlantic in that event, and finished the season with a 27-6 record. They averaged 79.8 points per game, and had four in double figures (Julius Brown, Rian Pearson, Justin Drummond and J.D. Witherspoon).
Stephen F. Austin: The Lumberjacks of the Southland Conference are 31-2, after beating Sam Houston in the conference tournament. They were unbeaten in the conference, and did not let the pressure that comes with that derail them in the tournament, a sign of a good team and they’ve gotten some rankings respect despite a mid-60s RPI. Desmond Haymond and Jacob Parker each average 14 points per game.
North Dakota State: The Bison went 25-6 and were both regular season and tournament champions of the Summit League. Venturing out of conference, they went to Purcell Pavilion and beat Notre Dame on Dec. 11. Nearly all their players are from Minnesota, Wisconsin or the Dakotas. Taylor Braun, a 6-foot-7 swingman, averaged 18 points per game. Their RPI is in he mid-30s.
Harvard: UConn is well acquainted with coach Tommy Amaker’s Crimson, winners of the Ivy League. Harvard and UConn have played, in Gampel or XL, the last several years. The Huskies were smarting from two losses in Texas when they came home and beat Harvard, 61-56, on Jan. 8, but Wesley Saunders, the Crimson’s top scorer with 14.0, did not play in that game. In the 40s in RPI, Harvard would be a dangerous No. 11 or 12 seed – just ask New Mexico.
BYU: One scenario has the Cougars (23-11) in the play-in round before meeting the Huskies. They lost to Gonzaga twice, most recently in the WCC Tournament final, but beat the Zags at home. BYU also lost to Oregon, Iowa State and UMass during the season; they played a decent schedule, keeping their RPI in the 30s. Tyler Haws averages 23.4 points per game, so if UConn does play BYU, Kevin Ollie will be calling Haws “the ace of spades.”
Tennessee: The Vols, also a possible play-in team, were 21-12, 11-7 in the SEC, knocked out by Florida in the tournament, though a competitive 56-49 game that was. They beat Virginia back in December, helping keep their RPI in the 40s. Jordan McRae averages 18.6 ppg, and Jarnell Stokes 14.7. Stokes, as a freshman, had a big game when the Vols beat UConn in Knoxville two years ago.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes are 20-12, 9-9 in the Big Ten, which will be the most represented conference in the tournament. Northwestern knocked them out of the league tournament. They’ve lost six of their last seven, in fact, to become a bubble team, in the 50s in RPI. Senior Roy Devyn Marble averages 17.3 points per game.
Xavier: From the “new” Big East, the Musketeers were 21-12, 10-8 in the conference. They had a big win over Creighton late in the season, but were eliminated by them at The Garden. They beat Cincinnati early in the season, good for some cred in these parts, and beat St. John’s twice, the RPI in the mid-40s. Semaj Christon averages 17.1 points per game.