The UConn Huskies continue to roll as the no. 1 team in the AP Top 25 poll for over two weeks, most recently beating St. Johns at Madison Square Garden on Saturday by 13. It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Huskies have proven they are worthy of that no. 1 ranking by finding different ways to win during their 10-game winning streak.
UConn entered the matchup with the Red Storm without starter Alex Karaban, who was unavailable after injuring his right ankle in the Huskies win over Providence on Wednesday. The Huskies returned to form on Saturday after a rough shooting night against the Friars, led by Cam Spencer’s 23 points and Stephon Castle’s 21.
Injuries and Foul Trouble Testing UConn
The best team in the country looked like the best team in the country today — WITHOUT Alex Karaban.
There are NO debates.
And then EVERYONE else. https://t.co/6KnmLTmi9N
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) February 3, 2024
Donovan Clingan, UConn’s best defender? Couldn’t stay out of foul trouble.
Alex Karaban, arguably their MVP? didn’t play.
UConn won by 13 on the road. Absolute wagon.
— Big East Bar Room 🎙 (@BigEastBarroom) February 3, 2024
In both of the Huskies last two games, Donovan Clingan has been limited due to foul trouble. Most of the fouls are Clingan biting on pump fakes or being slightly out of position, setting him up to have to watch large portions of the game from the bench. Clingan played just 16 minutes Saturday, after playing only 15 minutes against Providence.
With March right around the corner, Clingan’s foul trouble woes are a real concern. Yes, UConn has the talent to overcome these issues against most opponents. In a single-elimination tournament against what will likely be stronger competition, having to play long stretches without their most talented big man could catch up to the Huskies and will be something to monitor as we head into tournament play.
Defense (and Coaching) Wins Championships
Even without Clingan, UConn has shown the ability to adjust mid-game and tighten up their defense when needed to put teams away.
Thinking about how UConn has the #3 rated offense and #14 rated defense according to Kenpom.
— Penfield (@BpenfieldJ) February 4, 2024
— Mr. Smith 👑 (@BadChoiceMilk) February 4, 2024
Who else wants to go grab a rebound after watching that? That was a 6-out-of-10 on the Dan Hurley timeout speech meter, but he was exactly right. Hurley’s team would lock in and go on to win the rebounding battle 38-23 despite the absence of Karaban and the limited minutes from Clingan. That ability to push the right buttons and get his team to respond game after game will be key as the pressure mounts later in the season.
UConn on the Verge of Back-to-Back Titles
Anything can happen in March, and repeating as National Champions is no easy task. This UConn roster also differs from the programs who were able to most-recently win consecutive national titles.
2007 Florida brought back five starters. 1992 Duke brought back the four starters who were their four best players
Long way to go to pull off the repeat obviously but for UConn to be rolling like this after losing their 3 best players from last year is incredible
— Mark Titus (@clubtrillion) February 3, 2024
No team has repeated since those 2007 Florida Gators, and this UConn team is poised to be in the mix once again in March. This Husky team reloaded and definitely has the talent to win it all again in 2024, but there is a reason more teams have not been able to accomplish that feat. Not only does it take a talented roster, but it also definitely requires a little bit of luck.