Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Look at UConn's Card Game

Soon after discussing his team’s resounding win over Seton Hall on Saturday afternoon, George Blaney was asked if he’d like to give a few words on Louisville, the Huskies’ next opponent.

“Ummm … no,” Blaney playfully groaned, a somewhat pained expression spread across his face.

It was as if Blaney, once again taking over UConn’s head coaching reins while Jim Calhoun is on indefinite medical leave, wanted to bask in the glow of UConn’s nice victory a few more moments before having to worry about all the problems Louisville will present Monday night.

He finally relented.

“Louisville, to me, always presents much more of a problem at home,” Blaney said. “Pressure works better at home than it does on the road, so we’re going to have to absorb pressure, be able to not allow people to go behind us as we did a couple of times (Saturday).”

Indeed, the Cardinals love to press and run under Rick Pitino, and also largely employ a 2-3 matchup zone. UConn will counter with the three-guard starting lineup it unveiled against Seton Hall, along with Tyler Olander -- its best passing big man -- at the four.

Louisville has won four straight, though not exactly against the iron of the league (at Pitt and Seton Hall, home against Villanova and Rutgers). It averages 9.5 steals per game, second in the Big East and sixth in the nation, and holds opponents to just 37-percent shooting, third nationally.

One thing the Cards aren't, however, is deep. They basically play seven players. No fewere than eight players have missed games due to injury this season, and three key ones (Wayne Blackshear, Rakeem Buckles and Mike Marra) have been lost for the entire season.

*** UConn is 6-6 all-time against Louisville. The Huskies had dropped four straight to the Cards before their 69-66 win in the Big East tournament championship game last March.

*** Pitino is 10-11 all-time against UConn: 0-6 while at Boston University, 4-0 while at Providence and 6-5 at Louisville.

*** Pitino is also 15-8 all-time against Jim Calhoun: 6-3 while Pitino was at BU and Calhoun at Northeastern; 1-0 while Pitino was at PC and Calhoun at Northeastern; 2-0 while Pitino was at PC and Calhoun at UConn; and 6-5 at Louisville.

It's worth mentioning this because, although Calhoun won't be on the sidelines on Monday, the game (and, indeed, all UConn's games while Calhoun is on medical leave) go on Calhoun's record. The three games Calhoun missed while on NCAA suspension this season did not go on his record, instead going to Blaney.

*** Monday night will mark just the third time the two teams have faced each other with neither one ranked. The other two times: Feb. 1, 2010 (an 82-69 Louisville victory) and Jan. 28, 2008 (a 69-67 UConn win in Hartford).

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