Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Calhoun Talks Big East, Harvard

Jim Calhoun was talking about Harvard before practice on Wednesday, lauding the unbeaten, 25th-ranked Crimson for their Battle 4 Atlantis tournament title.

"They beat a good Florida State team and then came back and beat Florida Central ... or, Central Florida. I should get used to that.”

Indeed, he should. UCF -- along with San Diego State and Boise State (for football only), and SMU and Houston will all be joining the Big East in 2013. And Calhoun is happy about that.

“It's clearly good for us," Calhoun said. "We need to get some quality teams that show they can get into bowls.”

From a basketball aspect, he doesn’t think any of those teams will replace Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia. But he understands football drives the bus.

“Boise, frankly, is better than any of those three (Syracusee, Pitt or WVU),” he said.

Calhoun would like to see Temple join the conference in both sports – something that still could happen.

“I think Temple’s natural – I know Jay Wright doesn’t feel that way – but they’ll only help Big East basketball in Philadelphia,” he said.

*** Back to Harvard. This is hardly one of those December non-conference pushover teams -- the kind the Huskies have defeated 101 straight times, dating back to 1973. The Crimson are ranked (No. 25 ... I had them at No. 23) for the first time in the program's long history. They're 8-0, their best start since 1984-85, with those wins over Florida State and Florida Central ... er, rather, Central Florida on their resume.

They're good, and the Huskies know it.

“They’re a really good basketball team,” said Tyler Olander. “They run their stuff really well, they play hard, they value the basketball. They don’t turn it over much, they play really smart.”

Calhoun compares the Crimson to last year’s Butler squad – which, of course, UConn defeated in the national championship game.

“They can play fast – maybe a little faster than Butler – they can play slow,” Calhoun noted. “They’re very good in the last five minutes, they shoot better, they make foul shots and they’re a very confident group.”

In short, the Huskies (7-1) need to be on their ‘A’ game tonight.

“This team is good enough to beat us,” Calhoun said. “Do we have to play the best we’ve ever played? Certainly not. We’ve got to play well, though.”

*** Andre Drummond says he has a “surprise” in store for tonight, regarding the protective face mask he’s been wearing all season. Drummond fractured his nose in practice on Oct. 28 and was told when fitted for the mask a few days later that he’d need to wear it for about six weeks.

Drummond has been begging Calhoun and trainer James Doran to be able to shed the mask for a while now.

"It's killing me, man," he said. "I think I'll feel more comfortable without it on, because I'll be able to see a lot more with my peripheral vision."

*** Though Harvard doesn't start anyone taller than 6-8, Calhoun plans to go with his bigger starting lineup, meaning Drummond and Alex Oriakhi should remain in the starting 5.

*** Speaking of big men, Michael Bradley (ankle) practiced with the team on Wednesday but didn’t participate in any contact drills. He should be able to start practicing at full speed next week.

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