IU/UCONN Preview

The Indiana Hoosiers will travel to Hartford, CT on Saturday to take on the defending national champion UCONN Huskies. Indiana is coming off a tough home loss to North Carolina, and faces an even tougher challenge in Connecticut.

The Hoosiers enter the game 2-1, while the Huskies are 2-0, however played several exhibition games in London during the Thanksgiving weekend. UCONN will be the second straight ranked team that Indiana has played, as the Huskies are currently ranked sixth in the nation. IU will continue that streak with upcoming games against #20 Notre Dame and #8 Kentucky.

After winning the national championship last year, UCONN lost some key cogs for its team in Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, and Taliek Brown, all starters in 2003-2004. Connecticut however will not be rebuilding this year, instead they have just reloaded the guns and are ready to go. UConn has some of the best freshmen in 2004-2005 with Rudy Gay being the best. AJ Price will also see a lot of playing time at point guard as a true freshman, something that will cause the Huskies some trouble as he will be learning on the job.

UCONN also returns a good deal of talent from last years team, including former IU recruit Charlie Villanueva, who will be starting for the Huskies. Villanueva played sparingly in 2003-2004, as he was backing up the nation's best player. He still managed to average 8.9 points per game and over 5 rebounds. Josh Boone will return as another big man down low expected to start. Boone will become a leader on the team, and could be one of their best players. Rashad Anderson will return in the 3 spot, and will be the oldest starter on team as a junior. Ed Nelson, former ACC player of the year will be eligible for the Huskies this year after transferring and will provide excellent depth for UCONN. Marcus Williams is a sophomore who will help add to the guard strength. He did not see much time backing up Ben Gordon, but will see plenty of time in 2004-05. Denham Brown is another big man down low who will play significant minutes, however he was injured in the Huskies win on Tuesday, and is questionable for the game.

The strength of this team is their frontcourt, and UCONN could play 3 big men at a time. The biggest weakness of the team is the lack of a true point guard. Williams and Price will fill in the role, however neither is truly experienced in college basketball. There will also be some leadership problems for the young team, as they lose their leaders in Okafor and Brown. Villanueva is not the leagues strongest defender, but if he does struggle, Ed Nelson is a very tough player who can play with any big man in the country.

The Hoosiers will need to take advantage of UCONN's lack of experience at the guard position and force turnovers. Indiana is not deep enough to compete in the post against UCONN, so they will have to look more for 10 foot jumpers and backdoor cuts than post up moves for interior points. Indiana will have to move the ball around effectively, because they are smaller at every position. It will be hard to force up shots, so IU will have to move to get open looks.

Defensively, IU may have to resort to playing a 2-3 zone to defend the interior. The Huskies have four players averaging double figures, and all of them are forwards. The key for Indiana will be denying the pass to the interior. The Huskies shoot 47.4% as a team. This will be the first time Indiana plays in Hartford. The Hoosiers have won the last two games between the two, and the series is even at 2. UCONN will be a very tough test for Indiana, as their strong point is Indiana's weak point. IU will have to play to their other strengths, such as their guards shooting ability to stay with the Huskies. This will be the first time that the Hoosiers have played on the road this year, and will be their toughest test yet.

It should be a good matchup come Saturday, and gametime is set for 12:00. This is the first of five times that Indiana will play on CBS this year. If you can't find a TV, Don Fischer will be doing play by play on the state-wide Indiana radio network.

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