Call of Duty?
Northeastern's Huskies are no pushover. They went 20-12 this season, 14-4 in a competitive Colonial Athletic Association. They played four teams that are in this year's NCAA tournament, beating two of them (Utah State and CAA champion Old Dominion). And they're a senior-led team, four of whom played UConn tough two years ago in a 69-60 loss at Gampel, including Matt Janning, who poured in 29 points that night.
"We have our work cut out for us," said Jim Calhoun. "They're good. They're capable of beating us. If we give a C, C-plus game, they'll beat us."
Or, to put it another way: "Hypothetically, if we were in the (NCAA) tournament and we were a two-seed, we'd be playing a Northeastern-type team," Calhoun said.
Will the threat of suffering an ignominious home defeat to the team Calhoun began his coaching career with be enough to motivate a Husky team that has looked alarmingly lethargic in recent weeks?
"We have no choice, at this point," said sophomore point guard Kemba Walker. "What's happened was in the past, we've got to look at the future right now. Our future is Northeastern and the NIT, so we've got to make the best of it and play basketball."
But when asked what benefit UConn can get from playing in the NIT, Walker took a long pause, before finally saying: "I don't know. It's games, you've got to take advantage of it. Some teams already (ended) their season. We're fortunate to make the NIT. Things happen for a reason, I guess."
***Expect some of the younger kids to get more run tomorrow night. Donnell Beverly is out with a deep bone bruise in his right knee, so frosh Darius Smith -- who Calhoun said has looked good for the past 1 1/2 weeks -- will be the backup point guard.
If UConn wins tomorrow, it will play the winner of Wednesday night's Virginia Tech-Quinnipiac first-round game. If the Bobcats are able to pull off the upset down in Blacksburg, Va., Calhoun would go against his former longtime assistant, Tom Moore – at a site to be determined.
"We will play anyplace you want us to – East Catholic High School, anyplace, just for both of us to be living in the second round," he said.
***Now, to the juicy stuff. Calhoun was asked about his recent announcement that he has agreed in principle to a new four-year contract extension – something he more or less already announced back around Christmas.
"It's gone back-and-forth 1,000 times. A lot of issues going on in-state, with tuitions and all that. And Jeff (Hathaway), in the past 1 ½ months, roughly … when I said that, I wasn't trying to be a wise-ass … I haven't talked to him …The reason we announced something we already knew is that we were getting killed on the recruiting trails. So nothing drastic has changed, I'm just waiting to get a copy back of the signed contract."
When asked how "cut-throat" other coaches have been on the recruiting trail, Calhoun made a thinly-veiled reference to John Calipari.
"There's a certain coach out there who's big-time now who said Louie Carnesecca was dying of cancer. That's a rather tough one. His name is as big as anyone right now (that was) when he was a graduate assistant someplace. Is it cut-throat? Yes, but it's a cut-throat business.
"Do I like it? No. Do we do it? I hope that no one on our staff has ever done that. We might tell you the advantages of running, we might tell you the advantage of winning, we might tell you the advantage of going to a program, by inference, they may have one (player in the NBA) and we have 14. Sure. We'll say, 'check the other schools that you're involved with,' and they may have two players in the NBA."
Calhoun ended, with a smile: "I've always tried to control the world, and I never have. But my quest will never end."
***Did the Huskies watch the rest of the Big East tournament, or the NCAA Selection Show? Nope, according to Gavin Edwards, Jerome Dyson and Walker.
"I've been playing video games since I've been back," said Dyson. I went out and bought a couple of new ones."
'Call of Duty' and 'Super Mario Wii,' to be exact.
***Northeastern's roster spans the glove – Australia, Cape Verde, Bulgaria, France, Canada – but there is a bit of local flavor. Southbury's Brian McDonald, a Pomperaug High graduate, is a senior walk-on for NU.
***The way Calhoun sees it, UConn would definitely have been in the Big Dance had it won 19 games.
"But we needed to get those 19 wins, we didn't get them, so we're in another tournament that, this year, probably has more significance because there's more good teams."