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Two of the top backcourts in the Big East will square off Saturday afternoon when UConn visits No. 17 Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey called his junior duo of Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant the best backcourt in the country.
“I don’t feel there’s any backcourt better than them,” Brey said. “They’re as good as any of them out there the way they’ve been playing. I think they’ve been a little under the radar for a lot of reasons. Their efficiency right now with what they’ve been doing on the offensive end is flat out off the charts.
“The reason that I say that so confidently about them is the improved defenders that they’ve become. Their bodies are stronger. They’ve gotten older and stronger. They were both leaner guys when they got here, and their ability to guard strong guards in our league, and we have a lot of strong ones, and we’ve got two of them coming in here on Saturday.”
Let’s compare the two backcourts from a statistical standpoint.
Atkins and Grant combine to average 23.9 points, 12.6 assists and 4.6 rebounds while leading the Fighting Irish to a 14-1 overall record.
UConn junior Shabazz Napier and sophomore Ryan Boatright combine to average 33.6 points, 8.5 assists and 7.3 rebounds while guiding the Huskies to an 11-3 start.
In just the last four games, they’ve averaged 38.3 points, 10.3 assists and 9.8 rebounds.
As you’d expect, UConn associate head coach Glen Miller had no trouble picking his best guard combination.
“We think they’re up there with the best backcourt in the country, without a doubt,” Miller said of UConn’s duo. “I can see why coach Brey said his backcourt is one of the best.
“We wouldn’t trade our backcourt for anybody’s backcourt in the country. They’re the key to our success. Were continuing to evolve and improve as a team. Now Shabazz and Ryan are learning each and every day to manage the game and make their team better.”
It will be interesting to watch them battle on Saturday.
“It’s a great match-up,” Brey said.
Today’s American Athletic Conference Championship semifinal doubleheader is underway here at the XL Center in Hartford. A crowd in the 12,000-13,000 range is expected for the UConn-Tulsa game. Tip-off time is 5 p.m.