The UConn basketball program has had the most dominant run to the Final Four out of any of the teams that will be there, and there is one player who is an x-factor for the Huskies against the Miami basketball program. That player is Andre Jackson.
UConn basketball beat Iona, St. Mary’s, Arkansas and Gonzaga on its road to the Final Four, with all of those wins coming by at least 15 points. Miami basketball beat Drake, Indiana, Houston and Texas on their way to the Final Four. The wins against Indiana and Houston were dominant, but it took comebacks to beat Drake and Texas.
If you have watch UConn throughout the NCAA Tournament, you know that Adama Sanogo and Jordan Hawkins are the two who score the most for the Huskies.
Adama Sanogo has been absolutely dominant in the NCAA Tournament, especially in the first two rounds against Iona and St. Mary’s. He was still very good against Arkansas and Gonzaga, despite fasting for Ramadan. Jordan Hawkins got the Most Outstanding Player award for the West regional after scoring 24 against Arkansas and 20 against Gonzaga. However, the most important player for UConn is not even in the top five on the team when it comes to points per game.
The x-factor for UConn on Saturday when it takes on Miami is junior Andre Jackson. If you have followed the Huskies all year, you know that when Jackson is on, the Huskies are at their best.
Despite not being a point guard, Andre Jackson splits the ball handling duties with Tristen Newton. Jackson is a strong passer. He averages 4.7 assists per game this year, according to sports reference. Lately, he has been setting up his teammates with good looks from three, especially Hawkins.
During UConn’s January swoon, teams were sagging off of Jackson, daring him to shoot the three. Understandably so, as he shoots about 28% from behind the arc. At the time, Jackson took the bait, and it messed with his confidence. Since then, Dan Hurley and his staff found a solution. When teams play this type of defense against Jackson, UConn has been running dribble-handoffs that include Jackson immediately setting a screen for a shooter like Jordan Hawkins, Newton or Alex Karaban.
It might not be obvious because Jackson does not score a lot, but he is important for UConn on offense. He is also strong cutting to the basket. If Sanogo is doubled in the post, he often finds a wide open cutting Jackson for an easy bucket.
When it comes to the matchup with Miami specifically, Jackson’s defense is going to be vital. The Hurricanes are a dangerous offensive team. They are the fifth-ranked offense according to Kenpom’s adjusted efficiency. Jackson is a fantastic athlete who can defend multiple positions. Miami has plenty of weapons with Isaiah Wong, Nijel Pack, Jordan Miller and Norchad Omier. Sanogo and Donovan Clingan will be on Norchad Omier, but Jackson will most-likely be tasked with guarding one of the other three. No matter who Dan Hurley assigns Jackson to, he needs to make an impact on defense and get UConn out in transition, where it has been very strong.
Lastly, Jackson’s rebounding is going to be a key. UConn is a physical team, and has the size advantage overall. Jackson using his athletic ability to grab rebounds, especially on the offensive end, would be huge. One of the keys for UConn will be attempting to get Omier into foul trouble. Jackson’s rebounding ability along with Omier going up against Adama Sanogo and Clingan all game could help contribute to that.
In UConn’s last loss, which game against Marquette in the Big East Tournament by the score of 70-68, Jackson got into foul trouble, played just 15 minutes and scored two points.
The Huskies come into this weekend as the favorites to win the whole thing, and if they do so, expect Andre Jackson’s fingerprints to be all over it.