The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

Schedule features several challenges away from home

- By David Borges

Games against five highmajor programs, a few of whom should be ranked in the preseason Top 25, highlight UConn’s 2021-22 nonconfere­nce schedule.

All five of those games will be away from home, however.

The Huskies will face Auburn, which will be one of the favorites this season in the SEC, in their Battle 4 Atlantis opener on Nov. 24 in the Bahamas. On Thanksgivi­ng Day, UConn will face either Michigan State or Loyola Chicago, then conclude the tournament on Nov. 26 against a yet-to-be determined foe.

UConn will travel to Morgantown, West Virginia on Dec. 8 to face Bob Huggins’ perenniall­y-tough West Virginia squad. On Dec. 11, the Huskies will play St. Bonaventur­e, likely the favorite to win this year’s Atlantic-10 Conference, as part of a doublehead­er in the Never Forget Tribute Classic at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The UConn women will face UCLA in the opening game of the doublehead­er.

For the second straight year, the Huskies open their season at home against Central Connecticu­t State (Nov 9). The rest of UConn’s non-conference home slate will be comprised by Coppin State (Nov. 13), LIUBrookly­n (Nov. 17), Binghamton (Nov. 20), Maryland-Eastern Shore (Dec. 1) and Grambling State (Dec. 4).

The site of those home games — Gampel Pavilion or XL Center — will be

announced at a later date.

It’s hardly a sizzling home schedule. Of course, UConn will also play each of its nine Big East opponents both home and away this season, meaning teams like Villanova (a likely preseason top-5 pick), St. John’s, Seton Hall, Xavier, Creighton and Providence — all potential NCAA tournament teams — will come to town once this season.

The Big East schedule isn’t likely to be released for at least a couple more weeks. The NHL has asked its home arenas to hold open some extra dates, depending on whether or not the season goes on pause due to the Winter Olympics. With several teams — St. John’s, Villanova, Seton Hall, Georgetown — that play home games in NHL arenas, it’s impossible for the league to solidify its 2021-22 schedule just yet.

Breakdown of the Huskies’ 2021-22 non-conference opponents:

Nov. 9 vs. Central Connecticu­t State: Huskies kick off their regular season against the Blue Devils at Gampel for a second straight season. This time, former UConn assistant Patrick Sellers will be roaming the sidelines as CCSU’s first-year head coach, replacing Donyell Marshall.

Nov. 13 vs. Coppin State: Huskies are 8-0 alltime against the Eagles, though struggled to beat the Juan Dixon-coached team in their last bout in December, 2017, on a snowy night at Gampel. In the matchup prior to that, Amida Brimah scored a career-high 40 points.

Nov. 17 vs. LIU-Brooklyn:

Waterbury’s Ty Flowers (17.3 ppg) led the Sharks in scoring last season and returns as a fifth-year senior with the chance to play against UConn for the first time in his career.

Nov. 20 vs. Binghamton: Freshman guard Brett Hutchison is an Orange resident who played four years at Notre Dame-West Haven before playing a postgradua­te year at Canterbury.

Nov. 24 vs. Auburn:

UConn’s opening opponent in the Battle 4 Atlantis could be favorites in the SEC with a dominating frontcourt led by soon-to-be lottery pick freshman Jabari Smith and North Carolina transfer Walker Kessler, not to mention much-improved guard Allen Flanigan.

Nov. 25 vs. Loyola or Michigan State: Second Battle 4 Atlantis bout, on Thanksgivi­ng Day, will be either against Michigan State, who will rely heavily on national top-20 recruit Max Christie this season, or Loyola Chicago, perenniall­y one of the nation’s best “mid-majors.” Ramblers lost leading scorer Cameron Krutwig but return four other starters from last year’s Sweet 16 team.

Dec. 1 vs. MarylandEa­stern Shore: HBCU program had its entire season canceled last season due to COVID-19.

Dec. 4 vs. Grambling State: The school with an athletic program known for legendary football coach Eddie Robinson will face UConn for the first time. This HBCU returns three of its top four scorers, including leading scorer Cameron Christon, from last year’s 12-12 team.

Dec. 8 at West Virginia: Huskies will meet their former (and future? LOL) Big East conference mates in a Big East-Big 12 Battle matchup on Dec. 8 in Morgantown. The Mountainee­rs lost a lot of talent (including one-time UConn commit Emmitt Matthews), but any Bob Hugginscoa­ched team is dangerous.

Dec. 11 vs. St. Bonaventur­e: Bonnies return all five starters from last year’s Atlantic 10 champions, including Putnam Science Academy products Kyle Lofton and Osun Osunniyi, while adding several talented transfers, including Pitt’s Karim Coulibaly and Wake Forest’s Quadry Adams. Game is part of a Never Forget Tribute Classic doublehead­er at Newark’s Prudential Center that also features the UConn women facing UCLA.

Other potential match-ups in the Battle 4 Atlantis:

Michigan State: Some of UConn’s most memorable battles the past 15 years have come against Tom Izzo’s Spartans, who will rely heavily on national top-20 recruit Max Christie this season.

Loyola Chicago: Perenniall­y one of the nation’s best “mid-majors,” Ramblers lost leading scorer Cameron Krutwig but return four other starters from last year’s Sweet 16 team.

Arizona State: Coached by Dan Hurley’s older brother, Bobby, this is the matchup fans (and, probably, Battle 4 Atlantis organizers) would love to see, but the Hurley family hopes to avoid at all costs. Transfer of wonderfull­y-named Remy Martin to Kansas hurts Sun Devils.

Syracuse: Another tasty potential matchup in the Bahamas, the Orange figure to shoot the ball as well as anyone this season, led by Buddy Boeheim (yep, the coach’s son), Joe Girard and Villanova transfer Cole Swider.

Baylor: Defending national champs lost a lot of key pieces, but have added point guard James Akinjo, the former UConn commit who has since played at Georgetown and Arizona.

VCU: If you don’t remember the Rams being an NCAA tournament team last season, it’s because they had to forfeit their slated first-round bout with Oregon due to failed COVID-19 protocols.

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