Conference play in the brand new American Athletic Conference picks right back up Saturday with University of Connecticut continuing its Texas road trip. Just four days removed from a loss in its conference debut to the University of Houston, UConn looks to rebound with a tough test against Southern Methodist. Las Vegas isn’t projecting a Huskies win. The Mustangs a currently trading at slight, 1.5-point favorites on their home floor.
Connecticut enters this game in a semi desperate state after losing its first conference game as a team that is expected to challenge for an American Athletic Conference championship. The Cougars executed a relatively flawless game plan to beat UConn earlier this week when they essentially shut down everyone on the Huskies outside of the prolific back court of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. The two combined for 46 but didn’t get enough efficient help from anywhere else to overcomes Houston’s 50 percent three-point shooting.
SMU likely comes into this game looking to do much the same to UConn. The Mustangs also appear to be a tougher opponent for the Huskies as a 10-3 squad that comes in just as desperate as UConn after an initial loss to Cincinnati in the conference. SMU has surprised some this year despite being projected to be one of the more improved teams entering the American Athletic. Nic Moore is one of the most lethal scorers you have never heard of and challenges Chaz Williams for the best little man in the country. The 5’9″ sophomore scores over 13 a game but its the efficiency he scores with that makes him so valuable. Moore shoots over 53 percent from three and nearly 83 percent from the line in addition to almost 52 percent from the floor overall. He faces a potentially frustrating matchup if Kevin Ollie decides to unleash the longer Napier on him. Napier would likely really bother Moore with his length and athleticism to match the shifty scorer. Moore’s ability to put the ball in the basket as efficiently as he has all season is key to an SMU win.
SMU’s record is nice but there is a distinct line that identifies the teams the Mustangs beat and those that they have lost to. While the Mustangs have taken care of any weaker team they’ve faced this season, they haven’t been able to win either of their three toughest games: Arkansas, Virginia and Cincinnati. UConn definitely falls into this tier of teams coming into this matchup as the 17th team in the country. SMU is young and they are relatively unproven. I’ll stick to my guns here until SMU beats a big-name program. The Huskies on the road.
Free Pick: UConn +1.5