Defending champ UConn in danger of missing NCAA tourney

Since the NCAA tournament expanded to a field of 64 in 1985, only four teams have ever failed to earn a bid the year after winning the national title.

UConn is now in danger of becoming the fifth.

Despite fielding a team more talented than the one that won five Big East tourney games in five days and stifled Butler in the national title game last spring, these Huskies hardly bear any resemblance to last year's. They lost for the fifth time in six games on Monday night, falling to 5-6 in Big East play with an 80-59 meltdown at Louisville.

UConn was just 9-9 in the Big East last season before beginning its improbable postseason run, but the Kemba Walker-led Huskies never delivered as lifeless a performance as this year's squad did in Monday's second half. They trailed Louisville by only five at halftime but got outscored 36-12 over the next 14 minutes, appearing to quit amid a hail of dunks and three-pointers from the Cardinals.

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The lack of effort Monday calls into effort whether UConn can recover in time to make an NCAA tournament push.

Quality wins over Florida State, Harvard, Notre Dame ensure the Huskies would make the field of 68 if the season ended today, but a difficult upcoming schedule suggests it's no guarantee they do a month from now. UConn still has two games against Syracuse and home games against Marquette and surging Pittsburgh, meaning that even getting to 9-9 in the Big East will be challenging.

Until Monday, UConn had at least been able to count on its defense to keep it competitive, but the Huskies' ragged offense remains a season-long issue. Never has a team so talented had more trouble reaching 50 points than UConn, which failed to do so in its previous two losses to Notre Dame and Georgetown and was on pace to fall short again Monday before Louisville pulled its starters.

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Of greatest concern for the Huskies is the indifference of talented center Andre Drummond (0 points, 0-for-6 shooting on Monday) and the backcourt's inability to sink a jump shot. In its last four games, UConn is shooting an appalling 10-for-60 from three-point range, far too many attempts for a team with a frontline with the size and talent theirs possesses.

UConn coach Jim Calhoun missed his second straight game Monday while on indefinite medical leave due to lingering back pain.

Most likely he watched at home on TV. If he was smart, he flipped the channel to a more competitive game midway through the second half.

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