The Connecticut Huskies are off to the Elite Eight of the 2023 NCAA Tournament. They left no doubt in their Sweet 16 matchup against No. 8 Arkansas, crushing the Razorbacks 88-65 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The Huskies have been one of the most impressive teams in the tournament, winning each game by at least 15 points.
UConn's reward for this impressive performance is a date with No. 3 Gonzaga. The Bulldogs played an absolute thriller in their Sweet 16 contest against No. 2 UCLA, pulling out a 79-76 victory. Drew Timme dominated with a performance for the ages and Julian Strawther hit the game-winning three to send the Bulldogs to the Elite Eight.
There is so much talent on the floor, so much history in both programs and so many compelling storylines. When looking back, this may become the game of the entire tournament. Ahead of this exciting matchup, we're making some bold predictions for the Huskies.
Without further ado, let's get into the list.
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3. Jordan Hawkins makes at least five three-pointers
There are two players who have led the way for UConn in this run. The first is freshman forward Adama Sanogo, a dominating presence down low who can post up seemingly at will. The second is sophomore guard Jordan Hawkins, a strong shooter and potential first-round NBA Draft pick.
While Sanogo was the star of the Huskies' first two games, Hawkins stole the show on Thursday. The sophomore played 28 minutes and scored a game-high 24 points on 6-13 shooting, including 3-9 from deep. Hawkins had only scored in the second half of the Huskies' tournament games, but against the Razorbacks, he was at his best the entire time.
Hawkins seems to be improving as the tournament goes along, which bodes well for UConn. If the trend continues, then he could be in line for a monster performance against Gonzaga. He hasn't hit five three-pointers in the tournament yet, but there's a good chance he can in this game. The Bulldogs also aren't great at three-point defense, ranking 249th in the country at 34.8% allowed.
2. UConn holds Drew Timme under 20 points
Senior forward Drew Timme is certainly ending his time with the Bulldogs with a bang in this tournament. He started with a 21-point performance against No. 14 Grand Canyon, then followed it up with 28 points against No. 6 TCU. However, those pale in comparison to his performance against UCLA, as he had 36 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs to a thrilling victory.
If the Huskies want to win this game, they must clamp down on Timme. They have only allowed one 20-point performance all tournament, which came from Arkansas' Anthony Black in the Sweet 16. Timme will be their toughest test yet, but they are a strong defensive team and can do it with the right scheme.
1. UConn wins by 10+, advances to first Final Four since 2014
With both teams being so strong, this game is about as close as they get in terms of spread. Currently, UConn is a 2.5-point favorite over Gonzaga, but the spread has been moving and should continue to up until tipoff. Regardless of the spread, though, the Huskies could break this game open if they're on.
Here's the thing, UConn has been absolutely dominant in this tournament and hasn't really looked vulnerable at all. Meanwhile Gonzaga has been living completely on the edge, winning its last two games by a combined six points. Even the Bulldogs' first-round victory over Grand Canyon didn't come easy, as the Lopes kept it very close for the first half.
Yes, Gonzaga will be the best team UConn has faced yet, but the Bulldogs can't afford to keep playing games this tight. If they do it against this Huskies team riding at full strength, it will burn them. The Huskies look like a team destined for a Final Four one, and they'll make it a reality on Saturday.