Texas Basketball: 3 bold predictions for Empire Classic final vs. UConn

Dillon Mitchell, Texas basketball. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Dillon Mitchell, Texas basketball. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /
1 of 3

No. 15 Texas basketball and head coach Rodney Terry have a big-time non-conference showdown in the Empire Classic final at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Nov. 20 against the No. 5 ranked UConn Huskies. Texas will battle the defending National Champion UConn and head coach Dan Hurley in the first ranked matchup of the season for both teams.

Texas reached the finals of the Empire Classic by defeating the Louisville Cardinals thanks to a last-second bucket from senior guard Max Abmas, giving the Longhorns an 81-80 victory on Nov. 19. The win over Louisville moves Texas’ record to 4-0 (0-0 Big 12) heading into the matchup against UConn.

No. 15 Texas basketball is looking for the big upset of No. 5 UConn in Empire Classic final

Meanwhile, UConn (4-0, 0-0 Big East) had a bit more convincing of a win than the Longhorns in its semifinal game of the Empire Classic on Nov. 19. UConn handily defeated the Indiana Hoosiers in its semifinal game, 77-57.

This top-20 matchup against UConn is a great early-season test for Terry and the Longhorns after facing four unranked opponents in the last couple of weeks.

Texas tips off against UConn at Madison Square Garden in New York City in the final game in the Empire Classic on Nov. 20 at 6 p.m. CT on ESPNU.

Here are three bold predictions for the Empire Classic final at MSG on Nov. 20 between Texas and UConn.

Dillon Mitchell registers a game-high in rebounds

Sophomore forward Dillon Mitchell has elevated his impact on the glass early this season for the Longhorns. Mitchell leads the team this season in rebounds per game (8.5) and total rebounding percentage (16.5). He has also more than doubled his rebounds per game year-over-year and increased his overall rebounding percentage.

Mitchell has continued to make a living making big plays for the Longhorns around the rim and on the boards early this season. While he has expanded his offensive game, taking more mid-range jump shots and distributing the ball for more dimes from inside the post, Mitchell is still primarily impacting the game from the paint.

Texas needs Mitchell to have a big game on both ends of the floor if it wants a chance at pulling the upset against UConn on this night. Mitchell and redshirt junior center Kadin Shedrick will match up for the Longhorns against a solid frontcourt duo for the Huskies in sophomore center and seven-footer Donovan Clingan and redshirt sophomore forward Alex Karaban.

Clingan is a 7-foot-2 giant who leads the nation in offensive rebounding percentage and leads the Big East in block percentage this season. Karaban is also a solid rebounder, but he doesn’t have as much length as Clingan at 6-foot-8.

What makes this such a bold prediction is the fact that UConn is one of the best rebounding teams in the major conferences this season. UConn ranks top 10 in the nation in total rebounding percentage (62.8) and offensive rebounding percentage (46.9).

There is a path for Mitchell to have a solid rebounding night if Texas’ other bigs can rise to the occasion against such a talented and lengthy UConn frontcourt. With Shedrick occupying Clingan’s attention down low, Mitchell could have a shot at a big night on the glass if he can win those tough paint battles against Karaban at the four.