Connecticut is entering its final season in the American Athletic, but before its last hooray in that league before going back to its previous home, the Big East, the Huskies have a non-conference slate to worry about.
The biggest game on UConn’s out-of-conference schedule is a road date at Villanova on Jan. 18. These two programs battled it out for decades in the Big East before the league fractured in 2013. Now, right before Connecticut re-joins, they’ll play for bragging rights in a series that is soon to be annual.
One of the other major matchups for Connecticut will be at the Jimmy V Classic in Madison Square Garden on Dec. 10. The Huskies will face Indiana, the first meeting between the programs since 2013 when No. 18 UConn defeated the unranked Hoosiers, 59-58, in an early-season showdown. Both programs have young head coaches who are trying to build something at once-great programs. The opportunity to see two of the biggest names in college basketball on the same court is one any basketball fan should leap to watch.
The Huskies will participate in the Charleston Classic in Charleston, South Carolina, with a guaranteed three games to be played Nov. 21, 22 and 24. Connecticut is paired with Buffalo in the opening round of the tournament, a team that returns a chunk of talent from a loaded team last year but will be in a transition phase with sizable turnover and a new head coach. Next, UConn will get either Xavier or Towson depending on the games’ results, potentially setting up another preview against a soon-to-be Big East foe in the Musketeers. Florida, Miami (FL), Missouri State and St. Joseph’s round out the rest of the field. As part of the event, Connecticut will host St. Joe’s in an unbracketed game Nov. 13.
In case Connecticut doesn’t wind up playing Florida in the Charleston Classic, it will certainly face the Gators on Nov. 17 at home. This is the start of a home-and-home series that was announced in February. These programs have a bit of a history despite a short series of only four buzzers deep. They’ve met in the NCAA Tournament twice, first in the 1994 Sweet 16, which Florida took, 69-60 in overtime, and next in the 2014 Final Four, which UConn claimed, 63-53, en route to a national championship. In 2013, during a regular season meeting at Gampel Pavilion, Shabazz Napier stunned the Gators with his last-second heroics.
This is a quality non-conference schedule and one that will certainly challenge Connecticut. Head coach Dan Hurley is testing his team as he tries to pull the Huskies out of the doldrums and back into the national conversation. Putting names like Indiana, Florida and Villanova on the docket shows how serious he is about pitting the Connecticut name against some of the best in the country.