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Preview: Oklahoma State vs. UConn Huskies

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-Kansas State vs Oklahoma State Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma State men’s basketball team arrived in Maui, Hawaii last Friday as they prepare to embark upon their journey through the annual Maui Invitational.

The tournament’s host, Maui Jim, hooked the guys up with sunglasses and they showed off their dancing skills (or whatever they are) in a hula dance-off.

I’m glad the team is enjoying their time in Hawaii, it’s pretty awesome that these guys get to have that experience. But, after three less than elite opponents to start the season, I’m ready for some basketball and to see what this team can do against tougher competition.

OSU starts off the Maui Invitational against the UConn Huskies and will either be taking on North Carolina or tournament host Chaminade in their second game. The rest of the field consists of Georgetown, Oregon, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Here are the quick hits for tonight's match-up against the University of Connecticut Huskies:

Huskies (1-2, 0-0 American) vs. Cowboys (3-0, 0-0 Big 12)

Time: 8 p.m. CST

Location: Lahaina Civic Center, Maui, HI

TV: ESPNU

Radio: Cowboy Radio Network / Tunein / Sirius 108 (UConn Radio)

Stream: WatchESPN.com (requires provider login)

Live Stats: okstate.statbroadcast.com

The Cowboys have been scoring at will on weaker opponents, averaging 107 points per game in their first three games against Campbell, Central Arkansas and New Orleans. OSU is coming off a dominating performance against the UNO Privateers where they really seemed to be putting things together on both ends of the floor. Check out our recap here.

The Opponent

Well, things haven’t been going great for the UConn Huskies to start this season. The AP poll had them ranked #18 heading into their first game and the Huskies have not shown many signs of being a Top 25 caliber team.

UConn has been a major contender in men’s (and women’s) college basketball for a long time. Even after losing their long-time and legendary coach Jim Calhoun in 2012, the Huskies have still been a top tier program, winning the national title just a couple of seasons ago.

UConn hadn’t lost its first two games since the 1968-69 season. But, that streak ended this year as the Huskies dropped their first contest to Wagner 67-58 and then lost to Northeastern 64-61. They are coming off a win against Loyola Marymount, but it wasn’t easy and the Huskies don’t seem to be improving off of their abysmal start.

The Huskies problems stem from both sides of the ball. On offense, missed free throws, rebounding, and poor shooting from the outside have been some of the key areas of concern. In their two losses, both Wagner and Northeastern out-rebounded UConn. The Huskies are shooting a horrid 27% from behind the arc, good for 305th in the nation. Things haven’t been much better from the charity stripe where the Huskies as a team are shooting 60.8%, which also ranks them in the 300s in the country.

The Huskies have talent, despite their early season woes. UConn is the reigning American Athletic Conference champions and most experts had them projected to finish near the top of the conference again this season. Hopefully the Cowboys don’t take the Huskies lightly, because they will be a far tougher opponent then anything OSU has seen so far this season. OSU is currently a 3-point favorite over the Huskies tonight.

3 Big Things

1. Rebound.

As I mentioned above, Connecticut has not been great on the boards this season. Oklahoma State has won the rebounding battle in all three of their contests. If the Cowboys can control the boards, they will be in a good position to win this game.

2. Pace and tempo.

Coach Underwood praised his team after the Cowboys win over the UNO Privateers. He really liked the teams pace and tempo compared to the first two games. The Pokes had 22 assists and 10 turnovers. I want to see the Cowboys keep the same pace and tempo they had against their lesser opponents, and take it to the struggling Huskies.

3. Take care of a weaker UConn team.

As we have already said, the Huskies were much less than spectacular in their first three games of the season. Losing to Wagner and Northeastern, as well as barely squeaking out a win against Loyola Marymount has to have some alarms going off in Storrs, CT. The Cowboys need to jump out to an early lead and crush the Huskies more than they already are. Let them hang around, and we are setting ourselves up for disappointment.