Connecticut Huskies at Cincinnati Bearcats

Connecticut Huskies Preview

The UConn Huskies begin their final season of American Athletic Conference play — they move back to the Big East next season — after posting a 9-3 nonconference record that included wins over Florida and Miami. Second-year coach Dan Hurley, stressing defense and his desire to have a top-50 team on that end of the floor, is seeing the pieces come together.

The Huskies are allowing just 38.5 percent shooting — 29.1 percent from 3-point range — and have elite rim protection in 6-foot-9 freshman Akok Akok (3.1 blocks per game). Five players are averaging at least 9.3 points, led by senior guard Christian Vital (14.3).

Cincinnati Bearcats Preview

The Cincinnati Bearcats last missed the NCAA Tournament in 2010, but they have some work to do if they want to be dancing this coming March. They have lost to Bowling Green and Colgate — as well as more understandable setbacks against Ohio State, Xavier and Iowa — as they enter American Athletic Conference play at 7-5.

Cincinnati has lost three of four games and needs senior guard Jarron Cumberland to play like the AAC Player of the Year that he was last season when he averaged 18.8 points per game. He’s at 13.3 this season and shooting just 27.3 percent from deep, even with the faster tempo of first-year coach John Brannen. The Bearcats have seven consecutive victories over UConn.