UConn heads into a tough three-game stretch — Notre Dame, Louisville, Pittsburgh — on the heels of a 99-78 rout of DePaul.
After an overtime loss to Marquette to open Big East play, the Huskies are 1-1 in the league. Here’s a look at the recent exploits of their next three opponents:
Notre Dame – Ranked 17th and one of five Big East teams without a league loss, the Irish present some matchup problems. Jack Cooley, a 6-foot-9, 245-pound bruiser, is a difficult guard for the undersized Huskies. Odds are Enosch Wolf and Tyler Olander will get the Cooley assignment. Perhaps Wolf’s length can bother him a bit.
Thus far, Cooley has put up career-highs in nearly every category, pacing the Irish with 15.2 points and 11.2 rebounds (fifth in the country). Notre Dame complements Cooley with the experienced backcourt of Eric Atkins, Jerian Grant and Scott Martin (who somehow is still in college).
Louisville — Shot-blocking center Gorgui Dieng has returned from a broke left wrist, but sophomore forward Chane Behanan is out of the lineup with a high ankle sprain. Behanan, a load on the low-block, suffered the injury during Monday’s practice. It very well could keep him out when the No. 3 Cardinals visit the XL Center on Jan. 14.
Freshman Montrezl Harrell received increased minutes in Behanan’s place and delivered with a career-best 14 points in Wednesday’s 73-58 victory over Seton Hall. Even without Behanan, the Cardinals are as complete a team — inside and out — that UConn will face this season.
Pittsburgh – Riddle me this: How do you lose to Rutgers and hammer Georgetown, 73-45, three days later? In the Big East, it seems anything is possible.
This Pitt team, which shoots an astounding 50. 6 percent from the field, is tough to figure out. The Panthers are 13-3, but their cream-puff non-conference schedule included Oakland (which went to overtime), Fordham, Mount St. Mary’s, Delaware, Delaware St. and Bethune Cookman.
Pitt’s balanced offensive attack is led by junior forward Talib Zanna, who scores 13.2 points per game in 23.6 minutes.