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Defending National Champion UConn to Cover in Opener

Defending national champion UConn is one of three ranked teams set to get the 2023-24 college basketball season going on Monday with 6:30 p.m. ET tips. When looking at the NCAA basketball predictions, UConn is listed as a 26-point favorite

This will be the first meeting between the teams. There is a connection between the programs as Tim Russo, a graduate assistant coach on the 2022-23 UConn team that won the national title, is an assistant coach at Northern Arizona. Russo is also the son of longtime New York sports radio personality Christopher “The Mad Dog” Russo.

Defending National Champion UConn to Cover in Opener
Defending National Champion UConn to Cover in Opener

UConn covered in 71% of its games a season ago and that trailed only Utah Valley among Division I men’s basketball teams during the 2022-23 season. Northern Arizona had a 62.5% winning percentage against the spread a season ago.

The college basketball betting lines have UConn as the 26-point favorite.

UConn is 7-1 outright in its last eight games as a double-digit favorite but only covered in three of those games. Northern Arizona has lost its last seven games as a double-digit underdog and is 6-1 ATS in those games.

If UConn 7-foot-2 sophomore center Donovan Clingan is good to go, as appears to be the case, there should be no injury concerns for either team heading into this matchup.

UConn was picked third behind Marquette and Creighton in the preseason Big East coaches poll. Northern Arizona was tied for eighth in the Big Sky coaches poll and came in eighth in a vote of Big Sky media members.

UConn is fifth in the national coaches’ poll and sixth in the Associated Press poll with the Huskies receiving at least one first-place vote in each of the two national polls.

When looking at the NCAA basketball futures odds, UConn is sixth with +1600 odds in the odds to win the national title. UConn (+280) is behind only Marquette in the odds to win the Big East title while Northern Arizona is tied for fifth at +1400 in the Big Sky Conference odds.

Lumberjacks Ready for the Defending Champs

Northern Arizona is coming off a 12-22 season and that included a 3-13 mark on the road.

The Lumberjacks have to replace both of their double-digit scorers from a season ago.

Leading rebounder Carson Towt and Liam Lloyd combined to start 60 of 68 games with Trent McLaughlin starting 11 times.

Pepperdine transfer Carson Basham is another player to watch.

Northern Arizona is 5-1-1 in its last seven games against the college basketball spreads.

Super Sophomores to Lead UConn

Things will look much different now for UConn that the top two scorers (Adama Sanogo and Jordan Hawkins) as well as defensive catalyst Andre Jackson have embarked on professional careers,

The Huskies do return assists leader Tristan Newton. He is also the only double-digit scorer back for the Huskies. The offense figures to run through sophomores Donovan Clingan, a 7-foot-2 home-state product who is expected to play after recovering from a foot injury, and Alex Karaban (66 3-pointers a season ago).

Cam Spencer, who averaged 13.2 and 3.1 assists last season at Rutgers, and highly touted freshman Stephon Castle lead the list of newcomers.

UConn ended the 2022-23 season by covering in each of its six games in the NCAA Tournament.

Roll With the Huskies

There might be some growing pains for this UConn team with five of the top eight scorers gone from last season’s team. However, the Huskies will be facing a Northern Arizona team coming off a 12-win season.

With the Huskies unveiling the national championship banner, emotions will be riding high in the 2023-24 season opener.

The 26-point spread does offer a challenge, but look for the Huskies to get rolling in this matchup. Keep in mind that UConn did win its 2022-23 season opener by 31 points. Northern Arizona was 11-4 against the spread as a road underdog last season with UConn going 11-5-1 ATS as the home favorite.

The good news for Northern Arizona is that the 6-10 Basham did face Gonzaga and All-American Drew Timme last season when he was at Pepperdine. He had 17 points in one of those games so perhaps he can make life difficult for Clingan and the other UConn post players. The Las Vegas college basketball odds total is set at 142. Considering that the last four games for the Lumberjacks last season went over the total, it makes sense to expect this game to head in that direction.


Northern Arizona vs UConn Betting Lines

Northern Arizona vs UConn Game Information

  • Game: Northern Arizona (12-22, 5-13 in the Big Sky in 2022-23) vs UConn (31-8, 13-7 Big East)
  • Location: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, CT
  • Date/Time: Nov. 6, 6:30 p.m. ET
  • Northern Arizona vs UConn Live Stream: TBS.com



Questions Of The Day

What is the biggest challenge that Northern Arizona will face this season?

It is hard to imagine that Northern Arizona will face a bigger challenge than opening the season on the road versus the reigning nationals champions.

Will UConn live up to expectations this season?

UConn has the second-best odds to win the Big East and is sixth in the national title odds so the bar hasn’t been set too high.

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