FIVE GAMES TO WATCH

The News-Times (Sunday) - - Uconn Men’s Basketball 2018-19 Preview - — David Borges

There are no Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence teams in this year’s pre­sea­son As­so­ci­ated Press Top 25 poll. Only Cincin­nati (No. 34 over­all) and UCF (No. 35) gar­nered votes.

With that in mind, most of UConn’s big games will be on its non-con­fer­ence slate. The Huskies will face at least three teams ranked in the pre­sea­son Top 25, and pos­si­bly four, if they get Ore­gon in the sec­ond game of the 2K Clas­sic at Madi­son Square Gar­den. And that’s not even in­clud­ing Ari­zona, a peren­nial pow­er­house that could be down a bit this sea­son af­ter a wave of departures to the NBA last spring. UConn hosts the Wild­cats on Dec. 2 at the XL Cen­ter.

Here are 5 games to watch this sea­son for UConn:

Syra­cuse, Thursday, Nov. 15, 7 p.m. at Madi­son Square Gar­den:

The Huskies will face their old Big East neme­sis for the fourth con­sec­u­tive sea­son, this time in a 2K Clas­sic bout at the World’s Most Fa­mous Arena. The Or­ange have won two of the first three non-con­fer­ence meet­ings, in­clud­ing last sea­son — 72-63 at the Gar­den in the Jimmy V Clas­sic. Syra­cuse, which owns a 56-38 over­all edge in the ri­valry, will be heavy fa­vorites this sea­son. The Or­ange are ranked No. 16 in the pre­sea­son AP Top 25, and it says here they could be even bet­ter than that. Com­ing off a sur­prise run to the Sweet 16, Syra­cuse is burst­ing with tal­ent, led by All-Amer­ica can­di­date Tyus Bat­tle, tal­ented bigs Oshae Bris­sett and 7-footer Pas­cal Chukwu (a Fair­field Prep grad), point guard Frank Howard and some im­pres­sive fresh­men (in­clud­ing former UConn re­cruit­ing tar­get Jalen Carey and Hall of Fame coach Jim Boe­heim’s son, Buddy). The Or­ange are Fi­nal Four-good.

Florida State, Satur­day, Dec. 8, 6:30 p.m. at Pru­den­tial Cen­ter, Ne­wark, N.J.:

The Semi­noles are fresh off a trip to the Elite 8 and bring back their top two scor­ers: power for­ward Phil Cofer and 6-foot-7 wing Ter­rance Mann, a former UConn re­cruit­ing tar­get. They’re ranked right be­hind Syra­cuse at No. 17 in the pre­sea­son AP poll. This game is the night­cap of a Never For­get Trib­ute Clas­sic dou­ble­header, rais­ing money for children of vic­tims of the Sept. 11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks. It will also be a home­com­ing of sorts for UConn coach Dan Hur­ley, who hails from nearby Jersey City and played at Se­ton Hall.

Vil­lanova, Satur­day, Dec. 22, 12:30 p.m. at Madi­son Square Gar­den:

An­other bout with a former Big East ri­val at the Gar­den, this time against the de­fend­ing na­tional cham­pi­ons. This is the sec­ond of a three­game se­ries be­tween the two schools; ’Nova rolled to an 81-61 win in Hart­ford last sea­son. The ninth-ranked Wild­cats lost their top four scor­ers to the NBA draft, but fig­ure to be strong again be­hind solid re­turnees Eric Paschall and Phil Booth, along with new­com­ers Jahvon Quin­erly, a McDon­ald’s All-Amer­i­can, and shoot­ers Cole Swider and Al­bany trans­fer Joe Cremo. Vil­lanova boasts a 34-31 over­all ad­van­tage in the ri­valry.

UCF, Satur­day, Jan. 5, noon at XL Cen­ter:

Led by per­haps the league’s best trio of play­ers — pre­sea­son Amer­i­can Con­fer­ence player of the year B.J. Tyson, 7-foot-6 cen­ter Tacko Fall and Aubrey Dawkins, the tal­ented son of coach Johnny Dawkins — the Knights were picked to win the con­fer­ence in the pre­sea­son coaches’ poll. A lot of that de­pends on health, of course — Tyson and Fall played just one game to­gether last year due to in­juries, and Dawkins missed the en­tire sea­son. Any­way, it’s al­ways fun to watch Tacko, one of the tallest hu­man be­ings on the planet.

Cincin­nati, Sun­day, Feb. 24, 2 p.m. at XL Cen­ter:

Since the AAC be­gan six sea­sons ago, the clos­est UConn has had to a ri­val has been with fel­low Big East refugee Cincin­nati. The Bearcats have been the league’s most con­sis­tently good team and are work­ing on eight straight ap­pear­ances in the NCAA tour­na­ment — where they al­ways seems to dis­ap­point. Cincy lost three of its top play­ers — in­clud­ing AAC player of the year Gary Clark and NBA draft pick Ja­cob Evans — from last year’s league champ, but should still be strong be­hind burly guard Jar­ron Cum­ber­land and East Hart­ford’s Cane Broome, a former Sa­cred Heart Univer­sity star. Cincin­nati has won its last five and seven of its last eight meet­ings with UConn — the lone loss cour­tesy of Jalen Adams’ 75-foot prayer in the 2016 AAC tour­na­ment.

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