The UConn Huskies take on Rick Pitino’s Iona Gaels in a battle of scorching-hot Northeast squads in the West Region’s 4 vs. 13 opening round matchup.
UConn Huskies (25-8)
Coach Bobby Hurley and his team took an undefeated record into Big East play, picking up non-conference wins over the likes of Alabama, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, and Florida in consecutive contests. The Huskies are a guard-dominant team in many aspects, but big man Adama Sanogo is a force inside while also being able to stretch the floor on offense.
UConn sits at +4000 odds to cut down the nets in Houston later this month. The Huskies finished the season strong with momentum heading into the big dance. They share the ball exceptionally well while often dominating on the glass.
The Gaels finished the year riding a 14-game winning streak after steamrolling the MAAC. Iona played a soft out of conference schedule, with their best wins coming on neutral floors against Vermont and Princeton. They defend the three ball at a top-10 rate nationally and they don’t turn the ball over often, making them a live underdog in this matchup.
Iona is led by a three-headed monster in Walter Clayton Jr., Deniss Jenkins, and Nelly Junior Joseph—all of whom average over 15.0 PPG. Notably, the Gaels protect the rim like few other teams, ranking top five in blocks per game.
This 4 vs. 13 matchup should be a highly competitive contest, with Iona keeping the game close until the final buzzer. We like the Gaels to cover the +9.5 point spread, but ultimately to lose the game in the end.