4. UConn (25-8, 13-7/Big East)- On their best day, the Huskies can play with anyone in the nation, as they proved during an undefeated non-conference run that saw them start out 14-0 and knock off Alabama en route to a Phil Knight Invitational title. UConn rose to as high as No. 2 in the country, but then came crashing back down to Earth immediately after, losing five of six to start the new year. UConn has since regained its confidence, and enters the Big Dance winners of 9 of its last 11 games.

The Huskies can beat you in a number of ways, especially if projected first-round NBA Draft pick and instant-offense creator Jordan Hawkins (16.1 ppg, 36.8% 3-pt) gets going. UConn has several shooters ( Alex Karaban, Joey Calcaterra) who can get hot from deep and beat you, and all of that surrounds powerful big man and leading scorer Adama Sanogo in the paint (16.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg). Andre Jackson is a defensive force and pre-2021 Ben Simmons-like playmaker, and guards like Tristen Newton, who posted two triple-doubles this season, can make plays, too.

If this team is on from 3-point range, they’re tough to beat. If not, they can be ousted early. UConn has lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in each of the past two seasons and is hungry for some March success.

The first-round matchup with Iona will be a fascinating one, as Rick Pitino certainly knows the Huskies and the Big East. It will be captivating to watch him take his MAAC champions up against these Huskies. This is almost for certain: a lot of points should be scored, and the game will be fast-paced.

13. Iona (27-7, 17-3/MAAC)-There are a lot of things you can say about Rick Pitino, but one of them has to be this: the man is a serial winner. For the second time in his three years at Iona, Pitino has his team in the NCAA Tournament. The Gaels will enter the Big Dance on a 14-game winning streak after proving once again to be the class of the MAAC.

Iona is a stingy defensive team, allowing just 65 points per game. They frustrate opponents with their trademark press, an Iona staple since Tim Cluess was at the helm. The Gaels also share the basketball well, averaging 15 assists per and have six players who average at least seven points per game. Sophomore Walter Clayton Jr. leads the team in scoring at 16.9 per, and junior guard Daniss Jenkins and forward Nelly Junior Joseph each put up 15 ppg.

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Source:: The Mercury News


NCAA Tournament Predictions: 4. UConn vs. 13. Iona

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