Friday, December 31, 2010

All is Quiet on New Year's Eve

One of the quietest XL Center crowds I've ever seen or heard. In fairness, not much to cheer about: 28-28 at the half, UConn shooting 39 percent from the floor, doesn't seem very energized.!/DaveBorges

Shabazz Napier's corner 3-pointer that tied the game at 26 put the only jolt through the crowd all night. UConn went fullcourt, man-to-man for last few minutes of half, but didn't produce any turnovers.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Lot of Bulls

If there were any worries about how UConn would react to its 15-point loss at Pittsburgh in Monday night’s Big East opener, they were quickly allayed the following day at practice.

A couple of minutes before the 2 p.m. practice was slated to start, Calhoun was waiting in the wings ready to blow his whistle and get things going. But he didn’t have to, as Alex Oriakhi gathered the big guys together and Kemba Walker gathered the guards.

“I just watched it,” Calhoun recalled, “and they put the two groups together and started practice. That’s a great sign for us.”

After a rather light practice with little contact but lots of shooting, Calhoun gathered the team and explained some of the reasons why they had lost to the Panthers. In fact Calhoun, who hates losing as much as anybody in the sports world, even felt the loss might teach the young, fourth-ranked Huskies a valuable lesson.

“If we had to open with anybody – not because of how good Pitt is, because they’re very good – but between the environment, and the fact that they’re going to grind you, it’s a very tough one,” the coach acknowleged.

The key now is to progress, and the first step comes in a New Year’s Eve bout with South Florida at the XL Center.

Losing to the No. 6 team in the country at a rowdy, sold-out arena is one thing. Losing to the Bulls tonight might not make such a pleasant day of practice on Saturday.

The Bulls, a traditional Big East doormat, are one of just two of the conference’s teams with a losing overall record (6-8) right now. They’ve lost to James Madison and Florida Atlantic, among others, and dropped their Big East opener on Tuesday at Seton Hall, 64-55.

But USF boasts a good front line – “probably one of the strongest frontcourts in the league,” according to Calhoun – led by Augustus Gilchrist. A 6-foot-10 sophomore, Gilchrist was recently suspended for three games due to “philosophical differences” with coach Stan Heath. But he has scored 12 points in each of his two games since returning last week. Last year, Gilchrist burned the Huskies with 17 inside points in a 75-68 USF win in Tampa.

“He’s as talented, if not more talented, than any big guy – including the kid (Rick) Jackson at Syracuse,” Calhoun said. “None of us know who said what (between Gilchrist and Heath). I always take the coach’s side, certainly … but you don’t know the circumstances surrounding anybody’s situation. But when he steps on the court, he makes you nervous, because he’s really good.”

The Huskies learned, the hard way, of what a difference a vocal home crowd can make Monday night at the Petersen Events Center. With two tough road games on the slate for next week – Notre Dame on Tuesday and Texas on Saturday – UConn knows it needs to take care of business at home tonight. And a rowdy crowd behind it will certainly help.

“We need to get our people here for games,” Calhoun said, certainly aware the Huskies have yet to sell out a game this season. “Obviously, a lot of people care about our basketball program. We’ve got to find a way to make sure they get into the building. The building’s atmosphere is important … I don’t think a dead gym ever hurts a road team. I think it does affect a home team. We need our fans to show up as much as they possibly can. I understand all the other things, but we only have limited home games. Every home game becomes critical.”

Including tonight, as the Huskies try to put the Pitt loss behind them and keep improving from game to game.

“I hope we learn from (the Pitt loss) and we bounce back,” said Oriakhi. “Maybe that loss was good for us, but I’m just ready to get out there and get on the court again. They’ve got a strong frontcourt, but we have a strong frontcourt, as well. It’s going to be a battle.”

Added freshman Jeremy Lamb: “We’re mad we lost, but we don’t want to dwell on it. We just want to learn from our mistakes and get it right for the next game.”

***P.S.: Calhoun has scratched his plans of possibly flying a red-eye out to Glendale for Saturday's Fiesta Bowl. Not worth rushing out of the XL Center, not to mention the threat of some sort of weather issues.

When: Tonight, 6 p.m.
Where: XL Center, Hartford
Records: South Florida 6-8 overall, 0-1 Big East; UConn 10-1, 0-1
Radio: WTIC 1080
Keep an eye on
‰Shoot it! Freshman Jeremy Lamb is averaging a little over seven shots per game. Jim Calhoun would like it to be more like 10 per game. “Sometimes, I play too passive,” Lamb admitted. “I pass up shots that I can make, so, yeah, I think I’ve got to be a little more aggressive, help Kemba out.”
‰Giffey’s been iffy. Frosh Niels Giffey has scored just four points in the last three games and is struggling with the release point of his shot. Like Lamb, he’s been expected to help take some of the scoring load off Walker.
‰Slow Bulls. USF likes to slow down the tempo and play more of a halfcourt game, something the Huskies don’t particularly care to do. Calhoun hopes UConn can speed the game up a bit.
Probable starters
South Florida
Name Ht. Yr. Pos. PPG
Augustus Gilchrist 6-10 Jr. F 10.9
Jawanza Poland 6-4 Soph. G 10.8
Jarrid Famous 6-11 Sr. F 9.5
Hugh Robertson 6-6 Jr. G 8.5
Ron Anderson 6-6 Jr. G 8.7
Name Ht. Yr. Pos. PPG
Kemba Walker 6-1 Jr. G 26.9
Jeremy Lamb 6-5 Fr. G/F 8.0
Roscoe Smith 6-8 Fr. F 6.9
Alex Oriakhi 6-9 Soph. F 11.0
Charles Okwandu 7-0 Sr. C 2.2
Off the bench
South Florida: Toaryln Fitzpatrick, 6-8 Soph. F, 4.1; Shaun Noriega, 6-4 Soph. G, 4.0; Mike Burwell, 6-6 Soph. G, 3.3.
UConn: Shabazz Napier, 6-0 Fr. G, 8.5; Niels Giffey, 6-7 Fr. G/F, 4.7; Tyler Olander, 6-9 Fr. F, 2.3.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Oriakhi Knows He Must Play Better

A little late here, I realize, but here's what Alex Oriakhi had to say about his disappointing, 8-point, 1-rebound night in Monday's loss at Pittsburgh:

And here's some of what Jim Calhoun had to say about the loss -- specifically the lack of an inside game from Oriakhi and Charles Okwandu.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Petered Out

A few observations off UConn's 78-63 loss to Pitt at The Pete, before my car gets locked in the garage next door:

***Don't put too, too much stock in this loss. A young UConn team couldn't have had a worse opening-game opponent: a big, physical, veteran team in one of the more hostile homecourt environments in the country.

The Huskies were still within striking distance with less than four minutes to go, but didn't have any answers other than Kemba Walker. And he was fatigued at the end after a Herculean effort (31 points ... on 27 shots).

"Kemba decided he had to take on too much of the burden," Jim Calhoun said. "I would prefer that he give the ball up … (but) he certainly kept us within fighting distance."

"They made me work for every basket," Walker said. "It was a tough night for me. Every point I had was tough."

*** Now, if the Huskies lost to South Florida at home on New Year's Eve, I'd start to worry.

***Alex Oriakhi – plagued by early foul trouble – grabbed his lone rebound of the night with less than five minutes to play and met the wrath of Calhoun.

"I'm not sure if he was better sitting or when he was playing," Calhoun snapped.

Said Oriakhi, who missed the final 14 minutes of the opening half after picking up his second foul: "I thought I played bad, I could have definitely played better. Hopefully I can just learn and get better from it."

***Don't blame the Huskies' youth, insisted frosh Shabazz Napier.

"It has nothing to do with youth," he insisted. "It has something to do with us as a basketball team. We didn't come out to play … we just made mental mistakes, and that goes for everybody – more for myself. I felt like I could have played a better defensive game."

*** UConn did boast a 36-33 rebounding advantage over the Panthers, who entered the game outrebounding their opponents by more than 16 per game. But the bulk of that was thanks to swingmen like Jeremy Lamb and Roscoe Smith, who had eight boards apiece. Oriakhi and 7-footer Charles Okwandu (who wound up fouling out) combined for just five.

"Which is always good to have in a game like this," Calhoun said, sarcastically.

*** Calhoun wasn't being a wise guy, however, when he complimented the officiating crew of Jim Burr, Ed Corbett and Jeff Clark, who called a combined 49 fouls on the night.

"That's the best game, far and away, I've ever had officiated here in Pittsburgh," said Calhoun, who a day before equated playing the Panthers with playing the Pittsburgh Steelers. "You can laugh if you want, normally I don't say that about officials. It was the fairest game for both teams. Both teams are physical … right off the bat, they jumped on both teams, said this is going to be a fairly officiated game, whether it's at Pittsburgh or UConn. It was a terrifically officiated game.

"There was a bad call here, a bad call there," he added. "I certainly had some bad calls on the bench, and our players had plenty of bad plays."

*** The sellout of 12,725 was the sixth-largest in the history of The Pete.

*** Last time I'll bring this up: you can follow me on Twitter at!/DaveBorges

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Memory (Not Jerome) Lane

The last time UConn played at The Pete (two seasons ago), fans were handed out these towels.

Fish or (Technical) Fouls

Ah, Pittsburgh. Used to be a great baseball town, we hear. This statue of Bill Mazerowski touching home plate after his famous walk-off homer in the 1960 World Series (avert your eyes, Yankee fans) is one of the hallmark moments in Pittsburgh sports history. (Of course, the statue sits outside PNC Field, where the Pirates currently play. The homer was hit at Forbes Field, which no longer exists).

But Pittsburgh is all about football nowadays. "This is Steeler Country," read signs in just a few backyards I drove by today. Roethlisberger and Polamalu jerseys adorn just about every other guy (and girl) you see around town.

It's maybe even more of a hockey town now. The Penguins have been big ever since the days of Lemieux and Jagr, straight through to today and Sidney Crosby. The Winter Classic will be held at Heinz Field on New Year's Day, as crews continue to prepare for it. Snow and/or cold weather isn't what's worrying the event's organizers. It's the threat of rain on Saturday that could put a big damper on the event.

Basketball? Never thought of Pittsburgh as a big hoops town. Heck, their most famous pro product are the Fish (who did, of course, save the city). But college basketball certainly has a nice following in these parts, thanks to the success of the Pitt Panthers over the years.

Up against Monday Night Football (Saints-Falcons) tonight, I wonder what Pittsburgh-area viewers will prefer to watch. For that matter, I wonder what most sports fans will choose. Actually, I know the answer, and it's not college hoops.

I'll never understand the landslide popularity the NFL enjoys in this country. I get that gambling and fantasy league tracking has a good part to do with it. ESPN's non-stop NFL adoration plays a huge role, too.

But I know which game I'd choose to watch tonight -- and it has nothing to do with the fact that I'm covering it.

Jim Calhoun made a very salient point yesterday when explaining why he doesn't like playing two days after Christmas. He wants the game to get as much exposure as possible, and putting it up against Monday Night Football and in college bowl season isn't a great idea.

Of course, the NFL will still be rambling on for another six weeks or so, and the college bowls don't end 'til about February either, it seems. But he's got a point: a marquee game like this should stand on its own, not have to fight with the NFL and the American sports viewing public's slavish devotion to it.

Especially here in Pittsburgh.

***P.S.: Officiating crew of Jim Burr (!), Ed Corbett (!!) and Jeff Clark tonight. What are the odds Calhoun picks up his first 'T' of the season tonight?


Cleveland in Chicago

Cleveland Melvin, who de-committed from UConn in the fall of 2009 and wound up at DePaul, has been named the Big East's rookie of the week after scoring 23 points in a win over Florida Atlantic.

Not trying to rub it in at all to UConn fans. The Huskies appear to have done just fine with their freshman class. Just pointing it out.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Monday Night ... Football?

Jim Calhoun, as only he could, set the stage to what promises to be another physical, memorable showdown between UConn and Pitt tomorrow night at the Petersen Events Center.

"When you play at Pitt, it's come to mean you're visiting the Steelers," Calhoun quipped. "At least the officials seem to think that."

And away we go ...

The Huskies made it out of Bradley on their charter early this afternoon, touched down in Pittsburgh at about 3:15 p.m. and were at the Petersen Events Center for practice by 4 p.m. Calhoun and Kemba Walker (as well as Pitt's Jamie Dixon and Gary McGhee) met with the media and talked about the idea of playing such a huge game with potentially big implications just two days after Christmas.

(A reminder to follow me on Twitter:!/DaveBorges)

Calhoun doesn't like it -- a point he made as far back as on Big East media day in October.

"I don't like seeing (one) of our teams playing the team that is, right now, as good as anybody else in our league – maybe the best," he said. "Let's give us a chance to get through the holiday season and go."

He continued: "The day after Christmas, you're traveling to play the best team in the league. And I'm not just saying that about us, I'm talking about some of the other games in our league. I personally don't like it, (but) the league's not going to change because I don't like it.

"When it comes down to the end and people are looking for high seeds in the Big East tournament, I wouldn't want to see a game here, two days after Christmas, cost somebody. I think everybody should have that time period."

So why are the Huskies playing at Pitt on Monday (8:30 p.m. espn2)?

"We play Texas and Tennessee, that takes away two dates the Big East can use for us," Calhoun noted. "Conversely, I counter that by saying, we might be doing a little something for the league by playing those two schools. I think their power ratings might be among the top 15 in the country. I think our Maui games probably help."

Dixon isn't thrilled with the timing of the game, either.

"It is what it is. We don't make the schedule, the conference does," he said. "Obviously, over the years we've had incredibly close games with highly ranked teams coming together. Every game has been really a battle. Whatever date we've played it, it's lived up to its billing. I'm expecting the same this game."

Not everyone is against the timing of the game. McGhee, Pitt's 6-foot-11 senior center, welcomes it.

"I like coming right from Christmas into a big game like this," McGhee said. "I’m looking forward to it."

Calhoun could perhaps be swayed to that opinion, as well.

"If we're fortunate enough to be on the left-hand (winning) side of the column, I'll say what a great idea it was to play two days after Christmas," he joked. "I won't say that. I just think teams should have as much of a chance to get ready."

***Dixon isn't surprised by UConn's 10-0 start, even though it was picked to finish 10th in the conference by Big East coaches.

"I don't know how you can be surprised by anybody in our league that's had a history of success," he said. "You go through the league, you've got to pick somebody ninth and 10th that has won year after year and had success. Last year, we were picked in the same spot, ninth or 10th, and we finished second. It shouldn't be a surprise.

"Every year, I'd think Syracuse would be rebuilding, and I've finally given up. Same thing with Connecticut and certain teams in this conference."

***Expect a typically physical game. The Panthers are outrebounding opponents by 16.2 per game, easily tops in the conference. They're holding teams to 61.1 points per game – seventh in the league, just ahead of UConn (62.4). The Huskies' frontcourt of Alex Oriakhi, Charles Okwandu, Tyler Olander and (perhaps) Enosch Wolf will be key.

***It takes a village to stop Walker these days. That seems to be the mentality the Panthers will go in with tomorrow ight. Brad Wanamaker, Ashton Gibbs and Travon Woodall will all likely take turns guarding Walker, but in the end it's the entire Pitt team that must fill gaps and keep Walker from penetrating and getting out in the open floor, where he can either score on drives to the hoop or dish off to teammates.

"You can't guard him with just one guy," Dixon said. "All five guys on the floor have to be doing what they're supposed to do."

***Why is the game being played at 8:30 p.m.? Well, it follows the 5 p.m. Independence Bowl (Georgia Tech vs. Air Force) on espn2. Gee, there's a must-see game.

***Pitt and UConn, respectively, are the Big East's winningest programs of the 21st Century. Since the start of the 2001-02 season, the Panthers are 257-66 (.796) overall and 109-41 in league play. UConn is 235-79 (.748) and 103-47.

Over that span, Pitt has made nine NCAA tourney appearances, UConn seven. The schools have met in three of the last nine Big East championship finals. In the last nine years, both programs have appeared in five Sweet Sixteens.

Of course, UConn has a national title and a Final Four in that span (not to mention a national title just before that time period). Pitt has never reached the Final Four.

***Calhoun feels plenty of "love" from the fans at The Pete.

"It's good to get back to one of my favorite places, the Peterson Center," he quipped. "I know the fans here love me, so it's always nice to come back where you are loved."

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Pitt Stop

Greetings from balmy Pittsburgh ... well, relatively balmy, anyway, compared to what's going to hit Connecticut later today. Nut much snow here. There's maybe an inch on the ground, but it doesn't appear that it's snowed at all this morning to this point.

As of last night, UConn planned to fly out of Bradley on its charter at 1 p.m. today. Not sure if that has changed at all.

Otherwise, looking forward to a great way to kick off the Big East season tomorrow night. We'll be talking to Jim Calhoun, Kemba Walker, etc. today around 3:15 p.m.

Also, Pitt coach Jamie Dixon has been named the Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, for what it's worth.

OK, back to reading the new Keith Richards biography.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010


I always prefer to lay out my annual Big East prognostications just before the conference season begins. That gives us a couple of months to take a look at each team, get a feel for what incoming players will have an impact, which players have improved and what teams seem to be on the rise -- or on the decline.

The conference slate couldn't get off to a better start on Monday when UConn takes on Pittsburgh at the Petersen Events Center. This has become one of the Big East's best rivalries over the past several years. Who could forget two seasons ago, when DeJuan Blair flipped Hasheem Thabeet over his back (and Thabeet was called for the foul), and Pitt handed UConn two of its three regular-season losses before being bounced from the NCAA tourney in the Elite Eight while the Huskies cruised to the Final Four.

It should be another showdown on Monday. I expect the Panthers to win the game, but I think UConn will keep it close. Let's say Pitt wins, 87-81.

Even if the Huskies lose, it won't derail what should be a nice season. Obviously, a 10-0 start, with wins over Michigan State and Kentucky, and a national No. 4 ranking bode well. Are the Huskies really the fourth-best team in the country? I don't think so. They may not even be the fourth-best team in the Big East. But I like their chances of having a strong season and making a nice run in the NCAA tourney.

Why? Two reasons: Kemba Walker and Jim Calhoun.
With these two leaders, I don't see UConn losing too many games it shouldn't lose, while it'll win some games it might not be favored to win. The biggest concern is Walker getting worn down during the grind of the Big East. He's not the biggest, strongest guy in the world, obviously, and if teams continue to harass him and throw junk defenses at him and essentially force him to play 37, 38 hard minutes every night, it will take its toll.

That's why I envision UConn hitting a rut somewhere in the middle of the season -- maybe that Villanova-Tennessee-Marquette-Louisville-Syracuse stretch from Jan. 22 to Feb. 2. Maybe PC-Georgetown-Louisville-Marquette from Feb. 13-24. Somewhere in there, I see a few double-digit losses.

But I also believe that, because of Walker and Calhoun, this is a team that can make runs in tournaments -- both the Big East (finally) and the Big Dance. What makes a good tourney team, after all? Guard play, leadership and good coaching. UConn's got all three.

Anyway, here's how I see the Big East playing out this season:

1. Pittsburgh (14-4) Befitting of their city, Panthers are toughest defensive, rebounding team in conference.

2. Syracuse (13-5) The Orange's 2-3 zone is always long, but this year's overall team wing span is ridiculous.

3. Georgetown (13-5) Has anyone ever seen Chris Wright and Jamie Foxx in the same room together?

4.UConn (12-6) Junior Walker & the All-Stars? Other players besides Kemba must step up.

5. Villanova (12-6) Jay Wright says he doesn't think his team deserves to be ranked No. 8 right now. He's probably right.

6. Louisville (11-7) Rick Pitino. The KFC Yum! Center. There's gotta be a Karen Sypher joke in there somewhere.

7. Notre Dame (10-8) Tim Abromaitis is the type of player fellow Nutmegger Tyler Olander should someday hope to be.

8. West Virginia (10-8) After a great 2008 NCAA tourney, Joe Mazzulla has never really returned to form.

9. Marquette (9-9) Buzz Williams seems to get the most out of his teams.

10. St. John's (8-10) Give Steve Lavin a pretty good, deep, veteran (10 seniors) team and see the Red Storm improve this season.

11. Cincinnati (8-10) Along with Syracuse and UConn, Bearcats are currently only other current undefeated Big East team (11-0).

12. Providence (8-10) After an offseason even worse than UConn's, frosh-laden Friars aren't nearly as bad as many predicted.

13. Rutgers (6-12) Mike Rice may turn this program around. Just not yet.

14. Seton Hall (5-13) So much depends on when Jeremy Hazell returns from wrist surgery. Probably not 'til mid-January, at the earliest.

15. South Florida (3-15) Gus Gilchrist, suspended due to "philosophical difference" with Stan Heath, returns to lineup in time to crucify Huskies (again) on New Year's Eve?em>

16. DePaul (2-16) Cleveland Melvin, who de-committed from UConn last fall, averaging 9.3 points and 3.3 boards for Blue Demons.

First Team
Kemba Walker, UConn
Austin Freeman, Georgetown
Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh
Corey Fisher, Villanova
Kris Joseph, Syracuse
Rick Jackson, Syracuse

Second Team
Corey Stokes, Villanova
Jimmy Butler, Marquette
Casey Mitchell, West Virginia
Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame
Peyton Siva, Louisville

Third Team
Darius Johnson-Odom, Marquette
Marshon Brooks, Providence
Ben Hansbrough, Notre Dame
Chris Wright, Georgetown
Brad Wanamaker, Pittsburgh

Honorable Mention
Scoop Jardine, Syracuse
Alex Oriakhi, UConn
Dwight Hardy, St. John's


PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Kemba Walker, UConn: He probably won't end up leading league in scoring (PC's Marshon Brooks is my bet), but has there been a player more valuable to a program in recent years?

COACH OF THE YEAR: Jim Calhoun, UConn: No homer bias here. After being picked to finish 10th in conference, a top-five finish should cement Calhoun's first COY since 1997-98.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Vander Blue, Marquette: Tough one to call. Fab Melo has been anything but Fab for Syracuse. We'll go Blue, who's averaging 10.3 points and 1.73 steals thus far.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Rick Jackson, Syracuse: Shabaz Napier will win this award some day.

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: Casey Mitchell, West Virginia: Averaged 3.7 ppg last year; netting 17.8 ppg this year (fourth in Big East).

SIXTH MAN AWARD: Dominic Cheek, Villanova: But really, your guess is as good as mine on this one.

A few awards that won't be handed out at the Big East tournament:

THE 'PLAYER WHO SHOULD BE BETTER THAN HE IS' AWARD: Yancy Gates, Cincinnati: His heart hasn't matched his body size (6-9, 265 pounds) ... at least not yet. (Runner-up: Gary McGhee, Pittsburgh).

THE JEFF ADRIEN AWARD: Rick Jackson, Syracuse: Already has eight double-doubles this season.

THE 'WHAT DID I GET MYSELF INTO?' AWARD: Oliver Purnell, DePaul: Always seemed to underachieve at Clemson. He'll have a lot less talent to work with here.

THE 'UZI' AWARD: Marshon Brooks, Providence: With Jeremy Hazell sidelined for the foreseeable future, Brooks -- who never met a shot he doesn't like -- gets this one.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Oriakhi on Big East

Alex Oriakhi says the Huskies are ready for the Big East season, which begins Monday in Pittsburgh.


It's Not 89-0 ... But 10-0 Will Do

The UConn men couldn't be happier with their 10-0 start to the season. Certainly, Jim Calhoun couldn't be.

The Huskies put a nice little bow on their impressive first two months of the season with Wednesday's 81-52 flogging of Harvard. Calhoun couldn't hide his happiness with UConn's defensive effort.

"I wasn't sure if I was going to get a Christmas present or coal under the Christmas tree," he said. "I got a Christmas present."

Calhoun went on to say that, if the Huskies continue to play this well defensively (holding Harvard to 4-for-31 on 3-pointers and 18-for-60 from the floor overall), "we can play anybody well."

He said this was the first time since beating Kentucky that UConn played "Maui-type defense," praised the performances of Charles Okwandu, Tyler Olander (seven points, seven boards and "his best game in the uniform ... he can do those things, and I think he's feeling a little more confident") and, of course, Kemba Walker (game-high 20 points).

He insisted he wasn't shocked by the 10-0 start and acknowledged the tough road ahead. And that was it. In what had to be his quickest press conference in years (at least without any yelling or F-bombs), Calhoun wrapped it up by wishing everyone a happy holiday, acknowledging his beloved grandchildren in the room, and was done quicker than Santa Claus up the chimney.

"It's a great time for us, the Calhouns," he said.

This disposition could all change on Monday, of course, when the young Huskies get thrown to the wolves in their Big East opener at Pitt. But for now, they've really brought a smile to Calhoun's face.

Are they ready for the Big East?

"I definitely think we're ready," said sophomore forward Alex Oriakhi. "Coach is going to get us ready, if we're not. I definitely think it's going to be a challenge that we're ready for."

"We're there, mentally," Oriakhi continued. "We're going to have some hard practices that are going to get us ready. The freshmen, this is going to be their first Big East game. They're probably not going to know what to expect, but that's what the veterans are going to step in and let them know."

Walker said the latter might be difficult.

"Words can't even explain what's going to happen (in Pittsburgh)," he said. "I can't tell them. They've got to be mentally tough, that's it."

Olander is one of those freshmen who have to be ready.

"This is the real season now," he said. "These are the games that really, really matter. They're all big games … From where we were projected to be to where we're at now, I think it's showing the country that we can play. We've got this target on our back now, with the No. 4 ranking going into Big East play."

How about Enosch Wolf, who had three points and four boards in 13 minutes in just his second game since joining the team?

"I think so," he said. "It depends. Coach will decide how much he'll play me. It's getting better, day-to-day, especially in practice."

Summed up Walker: "We're a good team, chemistry-wise. I'm looking forward to the Big East."

***UConn will have a one-hour practice this morning then have the next 1 ½ days off before returning for practice in the afternoon on Christmas Day.

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Doin' the Dougie

So you thought there were celebrities in the house at Tuesday night's women's game? Well, we've got Doug Wiggins in the second row behind press row tonight.

Wiggins is averaging 12.8 points per game for 9-2 Mountain State, an NAIA program located in West Virginia.

As for this game: went to a men's game and a women's game broke out. UConn leads 48-21. Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier have nine points apiece. UConn shooting 55 percent from the floor, including 5-for-8 on 3's.

Harvard missed its first 12 shots and is shooting just 23 percent (7-for-30) overall and 1-for-15 (!) from Trey Land. Crimson have 11 turnovers.

Another gentle reminder: please feel free to follow me on Twitter:!/DaveBorges

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It's Pronounced Eee-nish and gihf-Eye ...

... and it's pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd.

It's been a while since UConn has had a pair of European players on its team -- and, well, the Huskies have never had two Germans on the same roster.

With that in mind, UConn men's basketball SID Kyle Muncy felt compelled to send out a pronunciation guide to the media. For the record:

Enosch Wolf is (eee-nish)

Niels Giffey (kneelzz gihf-EYE)

I've been butchering both names, but then all I have to do is write them. Wonder if the head coach got a similar e-mail?

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Edwards in Armor

From Korea, to the Ukraine ... now to Springfield for ex-UConn forward Gavin Edwards.

Edwards has been added to the roster of the Springfield Armor, an NBA development league team.

Edwards most recently played with the Anyang KT&G Kites of the Korean Basketball League, averaging 5.1 points and 2.4 rebounds in seven games. He then moved on to Khimik-OPZ Yuzny of the Ukrainian Basketball Super League, averaging 5.3 points and 2.3 boards in three contests.

This past summer, Edwards played for the Phoenix Suns in the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League, averaging 3.6 points and 2.2 rebounds in five games.

“Gavin is an athletic and versatile front court player and we’re excited to have him here in Springfield,” Armor head coach Dee Brown said.

Edwards will join the Armor for weekend road games in Fort Wayne on Saturday (7:30 p.m.) and Maine on Sunday (5 p.m.). Both games can be seen live on

Edwards will also prepare to face former UConn teammate Jeff Adrien and the Erie BayHawks on Fri. Dec. 31st (7 p.m.) and Sun. Jan. 2nd (5 p.m.) at the MassMutual Center

To make room for Edwards, the Armor waived Jamar Brown due to injury.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Harvard Game

No Jeremy Lin to go dunking and scoring 30 points on UConn this time around. He's now a Golden State Warrior, where he was a (brief) teammate of ol' pal Jeff Adrien.

Still, Harvard is no team to sleep on. The Crimson whipped Colorado by 16 and played Michigan tough before losing by three. They're coached by Tommy Amaker and led by 6-8 junior forward Keith Wright, who averages 15.7 points and 8.8 boards and “is a terrific player,” according to Jim Calhoun. “Guys think he’s a pro prospect. He can play.”

The Crimson was picked to finish second in the Ivy League, and four of their starters were also key members of last year’s team, which gave the Huskies all they could handle in an eventual 79-73 UConn win.

So if you thought tomorrow night was just one more pesky weak sister to take care of before the Huskies' real schedule begins, think again.

“They’re a very good basketball team,” said Calhoun. “Harvard presents, not necessarily a tune-up, but a step into reality (against) a team that can play. They’re a top-100 team, they move the basketball. They’re closer to maybe a Notre Dame-type team – not individual players, but a team that spreads the floor and spaces you, gets four out and one in, moves the basketball and can shoot the basketball.”

Calhoun included the Crimson when he noted that UConn’s next 21 games – 18 Big East contests plus non-conference bouts next month with No. 18 Texas and No. 19 Tennessee – will all be difficult. Nearly half of those games (10) will be played against teams currently ranked in the top 25.

In truth, Harvard may represent more of a challenge than Big East opponents like DePaul and South Florida.

***After tomorrow, UConn will have a couple of days off before practicing on Christmas Day eve, then flying out to Pittsburgh on Sunday.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Chuck Talk

Charles Okwandu talks about the best game of his UConn career Monday night against Coppin State:


No More Nigerian Nightmare?

Never mind his where-did-that-come-from?, 10-point, 5-rebound effort against Notre Dame last January: Charles Okwandu played "the best game I've seen him play in a Husky uniform" tonight, according to Jim Calhoun. "I don't care who he was playing against. He was there, physically."

Yes, it was just Coppin State, which didn't play a single player over 6-foot-8. Still, it was hard not to find a lot to like about Okwandu's effort on Monday: 9 points, 7 boards, 5 blocks ... even 2 assists and a steal!

Coincidence that the 7-foot Nigerian backed up his best week of practice, in Calhoun's view, with his best game as a Husky surrounding the arrival of fellow 7-footer Enosch Wolf? I think not.

"If that is the case, that's good," said Kemba Walker. "It was a great way to respond on his end."

Added Calhoun: "Does he feel the presence of Enosch? Yes, he does. And I think that's good."

The Huskies will certainly need good inside play from Okwandu, Wolf and Tyler Olander once Big East play starts next Monday in Pittsburgh. While it's hard to expect similar results consistently, it's worth praising Okwandu's effort while it lasts.

Okwandu entered the game with more fouls (7) than points (5) on the season. But after a heart-to-heart talk with Calhoun, followed by a good week of practice, Okwandu did a little of everything on Monday: a hook shot, powerful two-handed dunks, even a nifty interior pass to Wolf for the latter's first college basket.

"After the last game, I talked to Coach (and told him) that I wasn't enjoying playing," Okwandu said. "He made a promise that, if I kept working hard after practice, he's going to give me minutes. I started doing it, and it worked out for me."

As for Wolf, he finished with four points and a rebound in three minutes of action.

"It's difficult to judge him," Calhoun said, "but he knows how to play basketball. He was in the right spots."

Wolf entered the game with 45 seconds left in the first half and missed his first two shots, both at close range. But after re-entering the game with 9 minutes, 24 seconds left, he quickly scored an inside hoop on a nice pass from Okwandu.

"That's the thing I enjoyed most tonight, seeing him make his first basket," Okwandu said. "That's something I enjoyed."

Good to see that, if Okwandu does feel pushed by Wolf's presence, at least there are apparently no petty jealousies.

Wolf scored on a nifty reverse layup a short while later. Less than two minutes after that, he was out of the game for good.

A few other notes about UConn's 76-64 win:

***The Huskies outrebounded the Eagles, 58-29. They tore down 27 offensive boards.

***UConn shot just 3-for-16 (19 percent) on 3-pointers. Conversely, Coppin State shot 41 percent (11-for-27) and had whittled a 25-point deficit down to 10 with less than six minutes to play.

***UConn turned the ball over 15 times.

***Kevin Freeman was in the crowd and spoke to the Huskies after the game.

***Calhoun on Jeremy Lamb: "I think Jeremy, defensively, is awful right now. And getting awfully good on rebounding, and getting awfully good offensively. He's making an effort."

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Ledo Shuffle

The Huskies got an unofficial visit last week from Ricardo Ledo, the top-rated Class of 2012 small forward out of South Kent Prep.

UConn may get a visit next week from Jules Tavares out of the New Bedford, Mass. area. Tavares was recently at Wilbraham & Monson but is now at New Bedford High.

The Huskies are also hopeful for a visit for their New Year's Eve game against South Florida from Kaleb Tarczewski, a 7-foot Class of 2012 center out of St. Mark's. UConn is very high on Tarczewski and hopes the New Hampshire native decides to stay close to home. Apparently, Kansas is making a big push for Tarczewski, as well.

Oh, and another reminder that I'm now on Twitter. As Jim Morrison once said: "Tell all the people that you see/Follow me ..."

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A Wolf in Huskies' Clothing

Here's Enosch Wolf, who is eligible to make his UConn debut tonight against Coppin State. He may or may not play, per Jim Calhoun -- though if the game is the kind of UConn blowout I expect it to be, I'm guessing we'll see Wolf log at least a few minutes despite just one practice with the team.

The main questions going forward: What can Wolf contribute to the Huskies this season? Can he help out Alex Oriakhi on the front line, grab some rebounds and be somewhat of an inside presence? And, most importantly ... will I ever stop making "Wolf" puns in the titles of my blog posts regarding the kid? (Actually, did you know that wolves and huskies are actually very closely related and look very similar?).

See you later tonight ...

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

My Top 25

I'm sorry, Big East.

Sorry I doubted you. Before this college basketball season began, I thought the nation's pre-eminent conference had taken a dip in stature. I actually thought the Big 10, maybe even the Big 12, could be more competitive conferences this season.

I sit corrected. The Big East may not have as much star power as in years past, but it takes a back seat to no other conference this season. Its teams are a combined 133-33, and it's the only league with three unbeaten teams (Syracuse, Cincinnati and UConn).

More to the point, it's got depth. Or put it this way: UConn is the fourth-ranked team in the nation as I write this Sunday night, yet there's a chance the Huskies aren't even the fourth-best team in the conference.

The Big 10? Ohio State is very good, but Michigan State has disappointed with three losses (including to UConn) and a narrow escape against Oakland. Illinois just lost to Illinois-Chicago and Purdue isn't as good as it would have been with Robbie Hummell.

The Big 12? Kansas State scored 44 points in a loss to Florida last week and choked in its statement game with Duke. Baylor just lost to a struggling Gonzaga squad, Kansas (even with Josh Selby) nearly lost to USC and, after last year, Texas has to prove itself a lot more before I vote for them in my Top 25.

Who else? The SEC? Yeah, nice job, Tennessee, losing to Oakland (there they are again!) and Charlotte last week. I had a good mind to not vote for the Vols this week, but they did have some good wins earlier in the season.

The ACC? It's Duke and sort out the rest. Consider this: as things stand right now, Duke doesn't have another game against a Top 25 team on its schedule this season. UConn has 10, and plenty other Big East teams have a similar number.

Anyway, here's the top 25 I submitted to the AP Sunday night:

1. Duke
2. Ohio State
3. Kansas
4. Syracuse
5. UConn
6. Pittsburgh
7. Missouri
8. Villanova
9. San Diego State
10. Kansas State
11. Kentucky
12. Illinois
13. Michigan State
14. Brigham Young
15. Memphis
16. Georgetown
17. Tennessee
18. Purdue
19. Minnesota
20. Baylor
21. Florida
22. Texas A&M
23. Louisville
24. Notre Dame
25. Central Florida

Heeeere's Enosch!

Enosch Wolf talks to reporters after his first UConn practice on Sunday:

And here's Jim Calhoun talking about what kind of impact Wolf can have on the team this season.

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How Will the Wolf Survive?

Jim Calhoun has been known to overhype an incoming player or two over the years. Or does the name Ater Majok ring a bell?

So the fact that Calhoun isn't overtly tossing hosannas Enosch Wolf's way might raise a red flag as to how effective the 7-foot-1, 260-pound German might be. More likely, the coach simply views Wolf as a big body who brings UConn some extra depth as the challenges of Big East play loom just a week away. Grab a few rebounds, block a few shots, and whatever added production Wolf brings will be a bonus.

"Last year, late, our defense wasn't as good as it should have been because of high minutes," Calhoun pointed out. "Beyond Kemba (Walker), no one has high minutes on our team. Down the stretch, we may have fresher bodies to execute defense."

For his part, Wolf is taking things in stride. He's not sure if he'll play tomorrow night against Coppin State – Calhoun said it's possible, depending on how the game goes – but believes he can fill a need on this year's team.

"Maybe I can get some assists here and there, some scoring," Wolf said. "But I think the main thing is the rebounds. Rebound the ball and block shots, and we'll go from there."

Wolf looked a half-step slow in practice Sunday. He scored a nice bucket in traffic at one point, but also took a couple of ill-advised fallaway jumpers and didn't appear to be a force on the boards.

"I think it's going to take a while," he said. "I have to make up a lot of athleticism. They're in better shape."

Indeed, the UConn coaching staff was disappointed when it saw Wolf, who had committed to the program in July, looking a bit heavy and out-of-shape back in late September. But he has apparently shed about 15 pounds since then, and looked lithe enough on Sunday.

"(He can) bring passing ability, soft hands, his knowledge of the game," Calhoun said. "It takes a considerable time, normally, to integrate that into a team. But it appears that he has a high IQ, basketball-wise."


Wolf gives Coppin State some bulletin board material:

"I hope I can get some minutes, just to get used to it before the very hard schedule starts," he said.

Coppin State isn't part of the hard schedule, eh? Well, no denying that. The 4-3 Eagles have lost to Toson and Morgan State and barely beat, in overtime, the UMBC team UConn wiped the floor with a few weeks ago.

But Coppin State certainly knows a thing or two about hard schedules. After UConn, the Eagles play at Wisconsin, at Kentucky and at Texas in its next three games. Ouch.

"I'd rather get them at the end of that," Calhoun said with a smile.

***Wolf isn't worried about dealing with his, shall we say, rather animated coach on the sidelines during games.

"I had a coach in Germany who was very similar to him," he said. "I appreciate that more than a calm guy. If he's what everybody tells me, I know where I'm at. I think I can handle it and will appreciate it."

***While there's no record of it in Ohio State's media guide, Wolf's father apparently once played for the Buckeyes. Both Calhoun and Andre LaFleur have said as much.

***CALHOUN HYPERBOLE ALERT!!!!: According to the coach, Charles Okwandu has "had the best week" of practice. "I sat down with him, talked with him about him making me happy and him happy. He wants to play, he just needs to be more aggressive."

***Calhoun had some wonderful things to say about the UConn women's team and coach Geno Auriemma, calling them the greatest program and coach in women's hoops history. He stressed women's basketball, of course. Clearly, he doesn't hold the Lady Huskies' streak in the same regard as the UCLA men's 88-game streak ... nor should he, IMHO.

"The 18-0 by the Patriots has nothing to do with the 56 games by Oklahoma and Bud Wilkerson," he noted.

***Calhoun spoke about Walt Dropo, the former UConn basketball (as well as Boston Red Sox) standout who passed away Friday at 87.

"They didn't have people like him back in the day," the coach said. "'The Moose from Moosup,' he was a big, strong, physical guy … (American League) Rookie of the Year (in 1950), great basketball player, there wasn't anything the guy couldn't do. He had a terrific life, great accomplishments."

Calhoun, who lives in Pomfret, noted that the entire Dropo family – including his brothers George and Milt – held tremendous esteem in eastern Connecticut.

"People up there had a reverence of what the Dropos did and all the things they did for various families," Calhoun said. "It's kind of the passing of an era."

***Kevin Ollie wasn't at practice today. He was out on the road, recruiting.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

I'm all a-Twitter

I've entered the 2010's and joined Twitter. Please feel free to follow me at:!/DaveBorges

Things will start getting busy again on Sunday, when the Huskies have an open practice in the morning for the media. It'll be our first glance at Enosch Wolf with his new teammates. We'll see if the big fella can help the Huskies' front line, which is pretty much begins and ends with Alex Oriakhi these days.

Wolf hasn't exactly set the world on fire at Wilbraham & Monson Academy, but if he can give UConn 8-10 minutes a night, grab some rebounds, bang some people around and score a basket here and there ... well, that's better than what the Huskies are getting from their other 7-footer right now.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wolf in the Fold

Enosch Wolf has been added to the Huskies' roster and is eligible to begin practicing with the team on Sunday and playing on Monday against Coppin State. He'll wear uniform No. 1.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Poll Dancing

Raining enough for ya out there? At least you don't have to shovel it.

My top 25 this week has a few teams shifting positions in the upper half. I've got Syracuse jumping up seven spots, from 12 to 5 -- and not because they brushed their teeth with Colgate on Saturday (46-8 halftime lead? Went to a men's game and a women's game broke out ...) It was the Orange's 72-58 beatdown of Michigan State that impressed me the most. Boy, Syracuse is looooong and athletic. The Orange will be a very tough matchup for UConn on Feb. 2 in Hartford.

Now, you could make the argument that beating Michigan State isn't the feat it once seemed to be. You could say the same about UConn's win over Sparty in Maui a couple of weeks ago. MSU is now 7-3. Granted, those three losses came against top 10 teams (No. 1 Duke is the other). That's all well and good. But struggling to beat Oakland the other night by a point? That's Oakland, Mich. That's not good.

Had the Spartans lost, they'd be out of my top 25 altogether. But they won, and you can't really fault a team for winning (too much), so I've still got 'em in there. At 15. I guess that means that one basket was worth at least 10 spots in my poll. Bottom line: we've seen Tom Izzo's teams struggle early in the past, but they always seem to get it together come March. There's enough talent in East Lansing to assume they'll do the same this year.

Elsewhere: UConn hangs in at No. 6. Pitt falls from 3 to 8, after their home loss to Tennessee. The Huskies will likely be the higher-ranked team for that Dec. 27 showdown at The Pete. Will they be the favorite? Doubt it.

Conversely, I've grudgingly bumped Bruce Pearl's Vols up 13 spots, from 20 to 7. Can't argue with their on-court success, though Pearl's off-court transgressions are distasteful.

Only one team (7-3 Washington) gets the boot this week. I've replaced them with the team that just beat them, Texas A&M. The 9-1 Aggies haven't allowed an opponent to score more than 67 points in a game this season, including Washington, the nation's highest-scoring (95.5) team.

Here's what I submitted to the AP on Sunday night:

1. Duke 10-0
2. Ohio State 8-0
3. Kansas 9-0
4. Kansas State 9-1
5. Syracuse 10-0
6. UConn 8-0
7. Tennessee 7-0
8. Pittsburgh 10-1
9. Illinois 10-1
10. Missouri 8-1
11. Brigham Young 10-0
12. Villanova 8-1
13. San Diego State 10-0
14. Kentucky 7-2
15. Michigan State 7-3
16. Memphis 7-1
17. Baylor 6-0
18. Georgetown 9-1
19. Louisville 8-0
20. Purdue 9-1
21. Minnesota 9-1
22. UNLV 9-1
23. Texas A&M 9-1
24. Florida 7-2
25. Notre Dame 9-1

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Just a few things from a rather mundane, 78-54 whalloping of FDU tonight:

*** UConn hoisted up 32 3-pointers tonight, the most they've tried from distance since tossing up 35 in the famous six-overtime loss to Syracuse in the 2009 Big East tourney. The Huskies hit 10 tonight (and only seven against the Orange).

*** Jim Calhoun (sort of) explained his confrontation with Charles Okwandu, detailed in previous blog entries: "He kept saying the guy grabbed his arm, that's why he couldn't get the ball … He was saying that he could never get there. Those arguments – if you call it an argument, I guess … Charles just said he got fouled. I took exception to that. It was me taking exception to the fact that he (should have) dunked him and the basketball in the hoop. It would take care of a lot of things. I don't know why we're not powering the ball … If I was upset with him, he wouldn't have played in the second half. I'm not upset with Charles. Charles has a lot more that he's not giving to us. He doesn't truly understand, because he's a kid without a great deal of confidence. I haven't had many concentration with players. Usually it's one-way."

*** Andre Drummond was behind the UConn bench -- again. It looked like he was wearing a UConn jacket, but I couldn't tell for sure.

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Chuckie's Back

Never left, actually. Didn't go home, despite his coach's request.

"Go Home"

That's not a message for Farleigh Dickinson, it's Jim Calhoun's message to Charles Okwandu.

As UConn filed off the court towards the locker room for halftime, Calhoun had some words for Big Chuck (0 points, 1 rebound, 0-2 free throws in four minutes). Okwandu stopped in his tracks and appeared to talk back to Calhoun.

Calhoun's response -- if I read his lips correctly -- was "Go home."

It'll be interesting to see if Okwandu is back out there in the second half.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Art Quimby Passes Away

The UConn program received some sad news on Tuesday: Art Quimby, UConn's all-time leading rebounder, has passed away. Quimby played at UConn from 1951-55 and snared 1,716 rebounds over his career for a 21.5 per game average. His 24.4 boards per game in 1955 remains the all-time record for a senior.

"They are numbers that are inconceivable today and still make him among the best rebounders in the history of the college game," Jim Calhoun said. "I was fortunate to get to know Art Quimby in my time here at Connecticut, and not only was he a great player, but he was an even better person and ambassador for the state of Connecticut and Connecticut basketball."

Quimby was named to UConn's all-century team in 2001 and to the UConn Huskies of Honor in 2007.

***This may qualify as the world's worst segue, but the Huskies will also welcome an addition to their program over the next 8-10 days.

Enosch Wolf, a 7-foot German product, should start practicing with the Huskies some time between Dec. 16-19 and be available to play in the Dec. 20 game against Coppin State. While Wolf has put on some additional pounds over the past few months and is still trying to get back into shape, his size alone should help a UConn front line that's already second in the nation in blocked shots.

"There will be a lot of adjustments for him to make," Calhoun said. "My expectations are, let's see what he does in practice and we'll go from there – just like everybody else, except I hope and expect his learning curve to be better. He's played a lot of basketball. The kid I saw play is a very smart basketball player, and he is big."

***Calhoun has apparently caught Fiesta Bowl fever.

After the Huskies' New Year's Eve bout with South Florida in Hartford, Calhoun is hoping to jet out to Arizona early on New Year's Day to catch the Husky football team's showdown with Oklahoma. The 25th-year head basketball coach is so excited about the gridders' success, he's even referring to the team as "we."

"Twenty-five years ago, I would have never expected this," Calhoun said on Tuesday. "I didn't expect it when we first joined the Big East. With schools like Pittsburgh and West Virginia, I thought it would be very, very difficult to do that. And we did it."

***What to expect from FDU tomorrow night? Zone, baby, zone. The 3-3 Knights, who gave NC State a run for its money (77-67) but barely beat Central Connecticut (48-46), seem to employ nothing but zone defense: 2-3 matchup, 1-2-2, straight 2-3.

If nothing else, it'll be a chance for the Huskies to see how their offense can operate against a zone.

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

If 6 Was 9

Thanks to losses by Michigan State and Missouri, UConn jumps up two spots, from No. 8 to 6, in my top 25 poll this week.

I've dropped Sparty from No. 4 to 7 following their 84-79 loss to Duke. While it's not fair to punish a team too much from losing a close game to the consensus No. 1 team in the country, you can make a strong argument that I should have had MSU ranked behind UConn already, based on the Huskies' head-to-head win in Maui.

As for Mizzou, it drops from No. 7 to 9 after its 111-102, overtime loss to Georgetown. Again, can't penalize the Tigers too much ... but certainly can reward the Hoyas, who prove they can play any type of style. They're up from No. 20 to 14 in my poll.

Also showing some love to San Diego State (from No. 17 to 13) and Illinois (11 to 8) while punishing Kentucky (10 to 16) and Florida (15 to 25).

Only one team (Richmond) exits my top 25, making room for Notre Dame.

Here's what I've submitted to the AP tonight (don't have to wait for tonight's Texas game. I don't have the Longhorns ranked. They duped me badly last year, and they're going to have to prove themselves a little more to me this time around):

1. Duke
2. Ohio State
3. Pittsburgh
4. Kansas
5. Kansas State
6. UConn
7. Michigan State
8. Illinois
9. Missouri
10. Villanova
11. Brigham Young
12. Syracuse
13. San Diego State
14. Georgetown
15. Memphis
16. Kentucky
17. Baylor
18. UNLV
19. Washington
20. Tennessee
21. Purdue
22. Louisville
23. Minnesota
24. Notre Dame
25. Florida

Oh, and remember UMBC? They made Sporcle today in a good quiz for college sports fans. (I got 66 of 68 and I'm pretty proud of it.)

"And if all the hippies, cut their hair/I don't care ..."

Friday, December 3, 2010

Triple-Double for K.W.

Is there anything Kemba Walker can't do?

With 7:28 left to play, Walker hit Niels Giffey for a 3-pointer. It was Walker's 10th assist of the game and it made him just the eighth player in UConn history to notch a triple-double.

Walker finishes with 24 points, a career-high 13 rebounds and 10 assists. His 24 points are the most scored in a triple-double effort by a Husky. His previous career-best rebounding effort was 11, in the famous six-overtime loss to Syracuse in the 2009 Big East tournament. It took him 53 minutes to do his damage in that game but just 30 tonight.

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Walker Scores 1000th; En Route to Triple-Double?

Kemba Walker swished the second of two free throws just 20 seconds into tonight's game to notch the 1,000th point of his career. He's the 45th player in Husky history to do so.

Perhaps more impressively, Walker is well on his way to a triple-double with 12 points, nine rebounds (!) and five assists here at the break.

Here are the only triple-doubles in UConn history:

Hasheem Thabeet 1/31/09 vs. Providence 15p, 11r, 10b
Marcus Williams 2/21/06 vs. Notre Dame 18p, 10r, 13a
Ben Gordon 12/20/03 vs. Iona 17p, 16r, 11a
Emeka Okafor 12/6/03 vs. Army 18p, 15r, 10b
Caron Butler 12/26/00 vs. URI 14p, 12r, 11a
Doron Sheffer 12/30/95 vs. Hartford 10p, 10r, 11a
Donyell Marshall 1/17/94 vs. Hartford 23p, 11r, 10b

Only seven. I don't know, I figured there would be more, but it shows they're tough to get and truly special. Let's see if Kemba can notch one. His biggest obstacle may be playing time, if the Huskies open up their current 44-32 lead.

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In the 'In Case You Cared' Dept.: Tomorrow's battle for Ocean State bragging rights between URI and PC will be broadcast on SNY in the Hartford/New Haven area (as well as in the New York area). It's a 4 p.m. start.

Just letting you know, if you want to scout a future Big East opponent or an old Yankee Conference foe.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Leaks and Valleys

Want further proof that UConn needs a new practice facility? During practice at Guyer Gym on Wednesday (the women must have been in Gampel), the roof was leaking, according to Jim Calhoun.

"We had to move around a little bit," he deadpanned. "It kind of helped us."

Indeed, Calhoun noted after watching film of Tuesday's unimpressive win over UNH that the Huskies were uncharacteristically slow. Even Kemba Walker. While UConn's travel schedule from Hawaii may have contributed to that, Calhoun wants his team to be more consistent.

“If it’s just effort, I’ll take that right now," he said. "Our effort has been so great through 32 practices. We need to have that full, all-out effort in every game we play. That will lead to more fast breaks and, more importantly, better defense.

“We’ve got to have a better effort. I don’t think anybody’s lackadaisical … but they can’t go by the name on the front of the jersey. They’ve got to go by playing basketball to the best of their abilities.”

The Huskies might be able to get by without their 'A' game tomorrow night, however. UMBC is 0-6, including a loss to Howie Dickenman's Central Connecticut State a couple of weeks ago. The Retrievers have also lost to Penn, Duquesne, Loyola (Md.), VMI and future UConn opponent Coppin State.

***Calhoun critiqued the performances of a few of his freshmen against UNH: "We need more consistency from Niels (Giffey). Defensively, for the first time, he didn't have a particularly good game. Jeremy Lamb, what I thought before we started, I feel today: yesterday in practice, he was unstoppable. Shabazz (Napier) has been terrific on defense, but he wasn't as good against UNH. He went for the steal too many times ... Shabazz could start, but I think he's more effective for the team off the bench."

***Always good to give props to a local boy (OK, local man ... he'll be 25 in January). UMBC is led by Travis King, a New Haven native who is a graduate student at the school after graduating from George Washington University last spring.

King, a 6-foot-2 guard, leads the Retrievers in scoring at 15 points per game and is shooting 58 percent from the floor – including an impressive 55 percent (17-for-31) on 3-pointers. He and junior Chris De La Rosa (14 ppg) are “two terrific guards,” according to Calhoun.

King is a former Hyde Leadership standout who earned Register second team all-state honors after averaging 18.4 points, five steals, four rebounds and 6.7 assists as a senior. He played three seasons at GWU, averaging 4.9 points per game over his career. He missed all but one minute of the 2007-08 season after fracturing his right knee cap in November and earned a medical hardship waiver.

King earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from GWU last year and is pursuing his master’s in the same discipline at UMBC.

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