The Terps are back in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 10 seed in the East Region, where they will take on the UConn Huskies from the Big East. UConn has provided plenty of March magic in recent NCAA Tournaments, so to learn more about the Huskies, we got in touch with Jorge Eckardt of The Daily Campus.
Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
Aside from star James Bouknight, who should Maryland fans watch out for on UConn on Saturday?
Aside from Bouknight, Maryland fans need to keep an eye out for Adama Sanogo. The freshman big had maybe his best game of the season in UConn’s loss to Creighton and has really improved throughout the season. He likes to score when he gets the ball in the post and has the finishing ability to do so. That’s not to mention that he will likely be the tallest player on the court at tip-off, so he really has the chance to dominate the game if he can stay out of foul trouble — but that’s a big if.
Speaking of Bouknight, he’s been dealing with injuries throughout the year while RJ Cole suffered a concussion last week. What’s the status of those two players?
Bouknight should be good to go, there hasn’t been any news to the contrary. His first stint out was more of a freak-injury after a Marquette player landed on his arm while he was diving for a loose ball, and then during the Big East Tournament it was cramping. As long as UConn keeps him hydrated, he should see a full workload. As for Cole, while it’s still not set in stone, it’s looking promising that he’ll be able to play.
[We got a release from UConn Athletics earlier today that said “UConn junior guard R.J. Cole is in the final phase of concussion protocol, which will include his first full contact practice today (Thursday). He will be evaluated afterward to help determine is status for Saturday’s NCAA Tournament game.”]
Isiah Whaley was named the Big East DPOY. Who do you believe he expected to guard in the Terps undersized starting lineup on Saturday?
If Whaley and Sanogo are on the court together, like they often are at least to start the game, then it’ll be interesting to see how they configure the defense with the significant height advantage. I don’t think they’ll just stick Whaley on any one player, but he is definitely more mobile than Sanogo so he’ll probably defend more of the four. Still, he’s one of the best shot blockers in the country, so he’s going to be in the paint a lot.
If UConn wins on Saturday, what do you believe will be the main reason as to why?
If I have to pick one reason why UConn will win, it’ll be because of rebounding. Whaley, Sanogo and Josh Carlton are all good rebounders. Tyrese Martin, a 6-foot-6 guard, is also a great rebounder, especially for his height. Even Bouknight (and Cole to a lesser extent) can rebound well. In UConn’s loss to Creighton, the Huskies got outrebounded by 17, their largest rebounding deficit in the Hurley era. UConn will do everything they can to make sure that doesn’t happen again. In this case, they already have the height advantage, so it’s probably going to be really tough for the Terps to keep up on the glass.