Sunday, March 1, 2015

Loss to UConn drops SMU a bit on my AP Top 25 ballot

A couple of changes to my ballot this week. Providence (grisly loss to Villanova) and VCU (two losses) are out. I've added Dayton, which vanquished VCU, as well as Tulsa. Yep, giving the AAC a little love, which Larry Brown doesn't think it gets enough of. The Golden Hurricane are, after all, ahead of Brown's Mustangs atop the league standings.

Meanwhile, SMU's loss to UConn drops the 'Stangs a couple of spots. While it's hardly a terrible loss, I had to drop SMU below Arkansas, which, after all, beat the Mustangs at Moody Coliseum earlier this season.

1. Kentucky
2. Duke
3. Virginia
4. Wisconsin
5. Villanova
6. Arizona
7. Gonzaga
8. Kansas
9. Wichita State
10. Northern Iowa
11. Maryland
12. Utah
13. Notre Dame
14. Louisville
15. Baylor
16. Oklahoma
17. Iowa State
18. Arkansas
19. SMU
20. Dayton
21. West Virginia
22. Butler
23. North Carolina
24. Murray State
25. Tulsa

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Larry Brown on UConn: "They're good ... I think they're deep and talented."

Larry Brown's postgame presser was worth the price of admission alone. Respectful of his opponent, respectful of the NCAA tournament selection process (even with a few sardonic jabs), respectful of reporters. A class act.

Here's some of what he said:

(on why Yanick Moreira, who dominated with 12 points inside in the first half, played so little down the stretch)

“We were trying to catch up, and I had a hard time playing Markus (Kennedy) on (Daniel) Hamilton. And Markus was going pretty good in the second half. They went small, that made it difficult.”

“We had a dunk go out of bounds, and it seemed like things turned. Yanick did do a lot of good things. I’ve got four good big guys, and I think it’s a little easier for Ben Moore or Cannen (Cunningham) to guard on the perimeter. I kind of like Markus on the post, he got 18. That’s something that you look back on and maybe I did the wrong thing.”

(on whether UConn is worthy of an at-large tourney bid)

“I don’t know if anybody knows what conference we’re in. I don’t even know what the criteria is, to be honest with you. I never said anything last year, about us not going in, because I didn’t want to be not appreciative of some other team that got in. But when I saw Louisville had a four-seed, Connecticut, Cincinnati, Memphis getting seven and eight seeds, I knew we didn’t have a chance. Then I looked, we were 4-6 against top-20 teams. I don’t know what a BPI or an RPI, or who the hell does that stuff. We beat Wyoming with (Larry) Nance, and they beat San Diego State. We beat them at Wyoming. Then he gets hurt, so Wyoming goes down. We lost Yanick last year for a good portion of the second half ... I just hope we have somebody in the room that realizes there are some quality teams in this conference. This is a quality win for Connecticut. I don’t know how they’ll look at it. They might just think we’re just SMU like SMU was years ago.”

“They’re good. You got Boatright, you got a shot blocker, you’ve got a freshman who’s as good as any freshman around. If (Rodney) Purvis,  (Omar) Calhoun can play, their bigs can come in and take fouls. I think they’re deep and talented, and they’ve got a great young coach who does things the right way.”

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Kevin Ollie, Rodney Purvis, Ryan Boatright talk SMU

A few quotes from after UConn's practice today, in advance of Saturday's bout with SMU:

RODNEY PURVIS:

(on SMU)

“They’ve got speed, they’ve got size, they’ve got balance -- guards and inside. They have all the qualities of a good team. They all share the ball and play well together.”

“We got off to a really good start last game, and then our energy just dropped down. It felt like we were just fighting for our lives, as soon as we lost the lead. We’re home this time, their crowd was crazy there, the whole gym was packed. Hopefully, our gym will be packed-out tomorrow and we’ll come out with a whole lot more energy than what we did and play a well-balanced game.”

(on close calls vs. other ranked teams like Duke, Texas)

“I think we’re close enough. Those games were early in the year, we were a new team. I think that had a lot to do with it, not having our backs against the wall, things like that. I feel like we’re a far better team right now. We’re just looking forward to (Sunday)."

(on discrepancies between his first-half, second-half splits)

“I watch film all the time, and I just don’t understand it myself. I don’t get it.”

(the opposite of Niels Giffey, who would do almost all his scoring in the first half?)

“Niels could afford to do that. We had a really, really good team last year.”

(on Nic Moore)

“If he was 6-3, 6-4, he’d probably be in the NBA right now.”

(on his grandmother, Hildred Bownes, who was diagnosed with cancer about three weeks ago and is now in hospice care in Greenville, N.C.)

“She’s doing a little bit better, going through the radiation and things like that.”

RYAN BOATRIGHT:

“(Would be big) to beat them and let them know we’re not scared of them, and just to get that confidence that we can beat them. Because we’re gonna have to face them in the conference tournament to win it. We’re probably gonna be in separate brackets, or even if we’re in the same, we’re gonna have to see them. It’s definitely an important game tomorrow.”

(on teammates not being as reliant on him as earlier in season)

“I think they’re playing with a little more confidence. I think they’re taking the shots that the defense is giving to them, and they’re knocking them down better than they were before. I think they’re playing with more confidence, not necessarily relying on me. I’m definitely looking for them. I just think they’re making their shots now.”

(is it starting to sink in that his college career is almost over?)

“I was thinking about it the last few days. Senior Day is around the corner, so it’ll be my last game at Gampel. It’s a long time coming, man. I’ve been through a lot up here, had a great career. It’s crazy that it’s coming to an end. It went so fast. Hopefully, it’s not the end of my season. Hopefully, we can get into that postseason.”

KEVIN OLLIE:

“Glad to be home. It was a tough trip, but it’s always better when you win. I’m glad we got the win. Our guys played very, very hard the second half. We really played lockdown defense, allowed us to get out and run and execute on offense.”

(what UConn must do better this time vs. SMU)

“I mean, it’s the same thing. We’ve got to be real disciplined. We’ve got to take care of the basketball, got to rebound. Nothing’s changed. They had 20 points off our turnovers, we didn’t get back in transition, we didn’t allow it to be a game. Hopefully, we can take care of those mistakes. That’s something we can control.”

(on Nic Moore)

“He’s right there at the top of the list.”

“Whatever you think a point guard is, he does it. He’s mentally tough. When they need a bucket, he goes and gets it. When they need a stop, he goes and gets it. He’s a winner. They look at him for leadership, and he comes through every time.”

“We need a win. If it was South Florida, SMU, if was -- who’s No. 1? -- Kentucky. If it was Kentucky, we need a win. Whoever we face -- if a YMCA team came up to play at the XL, we’d need a win. We need to win these next three. You can’t win three if you don’t win the first one. We’re gonna try to win the first one.”

*** Rakim Lubin (concussion) didn't practice on Saturday. Even if he's cleared for Sunday, it's unlikely he'd see anything but emergency playing time.

*** Sam Cassell, Jr. (leg) is off crutches and will get another MRI on his stress fracture in a couple of weeks.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Rodney Purvis, Kevin Ollie on UConn's road win

Just a couple of videos from Wednesday night's 60-49 win over East Carolina as we try to beat the ice storm back to the hotel.

UConn was sluggish in the first half, particularly on defense. But after getting a short but stern verbal lashing from Kevin Ollie at halftime, then getting Amida Brimah back on the floor after missing 14 1/2 minutes of the first half with foul trouble, the Huskies dominated the final 20 minutes.

Rodney Purvis on the ECU crowd getting on him:



And here's Kevin Ollie (sorta) explaining his rather colorful halftime speech:



Incidentally, UConn bused all the way back up to Raleigh in Wednesday night's ice storm after the game. Normally a 1 1/2-hour trip, it took them about 3 1/2 hours. They boarded their charter, but ultimately thought better of it and wound up checking into a hotel at about 2:45 a.m.

The Huskies took off from Raleigh at about 10:30 a.m. on Thursday and landed at Bradley around noon.


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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

UConn re-routed on trip to East Carolina

This miserable winter of our discontent continued on Tuesday, as snowy/icy weather closed the airport at Greenville, North Carolina and has forced UConn to fly into Raleigh instead.

Greenville is about a two-hour drive from Raleigh -- or three hours in these miserable conditions, as I learned this afternoon. Of course, it was my original intent to fly into Raleigh and drive. The Huskies are taking a bus from Raleigh to Greenville tonight, thought I thought it would be more wise to stay in Raleigh overnight and make the trip in the morning.

Or they could have stayed over at Rodney Purvis's house. (Incidentally, Purvis once told me it hardly ever snows in Raleigh. Not this year, Rodney).

"They don't get much of this here," Purvis told UConn SID Phil Chardis. "Any little bit of snow shuts the whole city down. Nobody was in school (Tuesday) ... all my friends have been home, waiting for me to get here. When I heard about the weather, I expected this."

He's excited about playing a game back in his home state, however.

"This is my first time back home and getting the chance to play in front of my friends and family. I think i have about 40 or 50 people coming. They are all rallying up to come and suport me. So i get a chance to play in frobt of them again, so it will be fun. I think it will just give me more energy. I will be excited to be out there. I won't be flat or anything. I think it will help me out a lot and I'm looking forward to it."


Bottom line: this is the last thing UConn needs as it tries to improve its road woes. The Huskies are 3-6 on the road this season, 2-5 in conference play. East Carolina, meanwhile, is 11-3 overall at home and is looking for its fifth straight win at Minges Coliseum.

A long night of planes and buses for the Huskies won't help change either of those trends on Wednesday night. But Kevin Ollie realizes the team has to get past it.

"The trip can't be a distraction," he told Chardis while on the bus ride from Raleigh to Greenville. "We've got to play the game ... we get to the hotel and get back to what we need to do to prepare for ECU. No matter what we're going through now, it can't affect us on the court and focusing in for 40 minutes of playing UConn basketball."

Ollie realizes it's now crunch time for the Huskies, and hopes his team recognizes it, as well.

"If they don't," he said, "then they don't need to be playing right now."




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Monday, February 23, 2015

Kevin Ollie will be on the Seth Davis Show on Thursday

Kevin Ollie will be a guest on the Seth Davis Show on Thursday on CampusInsiders.com. It will be a sit-down interview with Davis that will be posted to the site on Thursday.

Ollie discusses several things, including the interest the NBA showed in him after he won the national championship:



Sunday, February 22, 2015

Not much change to this week's AP Top 25 ballot

Teams that were in my Top 25 last week went a combined 39-8, including a perfect 14-0 among my top seven. So, not much room for movement in this week's poll, though I did manage to eject Ohio State and Oklahoma State and add Providence and Murray State.

First, a couple of other things. Hard to believe, but Daniel Hamilton was once considered a selfish player. The same Daniel Hamilton who dished out nine assists on Sunday, went for every rebound with ferocity and dominated the final minutes of a game without hitting a shot.

That Daniel Hamilton.

What an impressive player. If he hadn't already, Hamilton has no doubt secured AAC rookie of the year honors. Kid's got a terrific future. I mean, if you're a big man, do you not want to play alongside a kid who is always looking to make the pass -- and usually makes a good one?

Second, I'd like to thank all the people that came to Sunday's book signing(s). Great meeting all of you, and hope you enjoy the book.

And now, my Top 25 ballot this week:

1. Kentucky
2. Wisconsin
3. Duke
4. Virginia
5. Gonzaga
6. Villanova
7. Arizona
8. Kansas
9. Northern Iowa
10. Iowa State
11. Notre Dame
12. Utah
13. Wichita State
14. Louisville
15. Maryland
16. SMU
17. Arkansas
18. West Virginia
19. North Carolina
20. Oklahoma
21. VCU
22. Baylor
23. Providence
24. Butler
25. Murray State

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