No. 2/2 Connecticut Huskies (25-2, 13-2 Big East)
Barring any more unforeseen inquiries about his income, the biggest question facing UConn head coach Jim Calhoun will be how much of an impact the loss of junior Jerome Dyson, who is done for the season after suffering a torn meniscus against Syracuse, will affect his team going forward.
Dyson was averaging over 13 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists per game from the starting off-guard position, and his leadership was missed down the stretch in a 76-68 loss to Pittsburgh last week. Senior Craig Austrie has been starting in Dyson's place.
The Huskies' most reliable scorer on the season has been senior Jeff Adrien. The 6-7 forward has truly been the heart and soul of a team that has had its desire questioned at times this year. Adrien can slash and score with his back to the basket and is averaging 13.8 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. He has only two 20-point performances on the season, but is he ever consistent. Adrien leads all active Big East players with 33 career double-doubles.
Their other stalwart has been senior point guard A.J. Price, who is averaging 12.3 points 4.4 assists to go along with a respectable 3.3 rebounds per game.
Then there's Hasheem Thabeet. The 7-3 junior is averaging over 10 points and 13 rebounds per game to go along with a team leading 4.4 blocks. This season, Thabeet recorded a triple double – with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks in a January 31st win over Providence – and a 20-20 game – with 25 points and 20 boards against Seton Hall on Valentine's Day. However, he was shut down by DeJuan Blair in the recent loss to Pitt , collecting only 5 points and 4 rebounds in that contest.
The Huskies have one of the best starting lineups in the country, but with Austrie now thrust into a starter's role, their bench is quite thin, with freshman Kemba Walker as the top performer at 8.7 points per game.
They are also not a great free-throw shooting team – making a collective 68.8 percent of their charity shots. Austrie is the best free-throw shooter among their starters, hitting 76 percent from the line.
But none of those deficiencies amount to a serious chink in what has been largely impenetrable armor for the Huskies this season. Losing Dyson hurts, but this team will, and should, remain a serious national title contender.
The bottom line for Wednesday is that Marquette's 17-game winning streak at the Bradley Center will suffer its most serious test of the season. Remarkably, history is on Marquette's side here. In 2006, the No.2-ranked Huskies were upset 94-79 in Milwaukee in the Golden Eagles' first-ever Big East conference game.
You know this week's game is a big deal when Dick Vitale is making a visit to the Bradley Center. Vitale is calling the game for ESPN and will also be on campus earlier in the day for a book signing.
And with Marquette and UConn squaring off with a shot at the Big East regular season title hanging in the balance, it's going to be awesome, baby.
UCONN PROBABLE STARTERS:
G – Price – SR, 6-2/181
G – Austrie – SR, 6-3/176
F – Adrien – SR, 6-7/243
F – Stanley Robinson – JR, 6-9/210
C – Thabeet – JR, 7-3/263
UCONN KEY RESERVES:
G – Walker – FR, 6-1/172
F – Gavin Edwards – JR, 6-9, 234
HEAD COACH: Jim Calhoun (23rd season)