Monday, March 5, 2012

Blaney: 'I'd Be Disappointed if We're Not in the NCAA Already'

Depending on who you listen to, UConn is either solidly in the NCAA tournament already, win or lose to DePaul tomorrow, or in need of two, maybe three wins in this week's Big East tourney to punch its ticket. Or somewhere in between.

George Blaney sides with the former.

“I would be really, really disappointed if we’re not in the NCAA already," he said at practice Monday. "I don’t see how we’re not. But I would always rather not leave it up to anybody in a committee room. I’d like to have it done where there isn’t any question.”

Jim Calhoun pointed out: “We had some good wins this year, no doubt. Looking back on it, Florida State was a very good win. We beat some good people. When you play the No. 2 schedule in the country – give us the No. 20 schedule. So now we’ve got, what, 23 wins?”
Of course, Blaney and Calhoun are a bit biased. Let's put it this way: if the Huskies lose to 16th seed DePaul (12-18, 3-15 Big East) on Tuesday, they will be sweating it out on Selection Sunday. Big time.

Calhoun missed practice Sunday but was back on Monday, looking and feeling pretty good. He said that on Sunday, after making his return to the sidelines the day before just four days after back surgerh, he felt "tired. But that’s to be expected. Going through the process, that’s the way it’ll be. But I’m trying to time everything right so that I’ll be there tomorrow at noon.”

But he noted that his own fatigue isn't that big a deal for UConn moving forward.

“Me, personally. It’s not important, really. I thought Jeremy (Lamb) played very fatigued in the second half (Sunday). It’s more important if Jeremy’s fatigued.”

Then he quipped: “Somebody said, ‘It’ll be great to have you there. I said, no, it’d be better if Kemba was there.”

Calhoun said that for about two weeks prior to surgery, he was extremely limited physically -- walking with a cane for a time -- so it's really been about three weeks without doing much.
"(Sunday) I walked couple of miles, probably did a little too much. But more importantly, (I'm just) trying to recapture my body a little bit. Once we get to gametime, I’ll be fine.”

Could he handle three, four (or dare we say, five) games in five days again?

“I’d love it. Give me a chance.”

Andre Drummond said of his coach: “That’s the toughest person I’ve met in my whole life, by far. Besides my mother, he’s up there.”

*** Calhoun said he watched a lot of basketball during his monthlong medical leave -- with the volume turned off.
“I didn’t hear a lot of basketball. A lot of people saying, ‘I’m sorry about what I said on TV.’ Doesn’t make any difference.”

*** Shabazz Napier sat down a few seats away from Calhoun during Monday's media availability and asked the coach, "Did you see what Rondo did yesterday?"

Calhoun nodded, but quickly added: “He had two against us. When we played him in the NCAA tournament (in 2006)."

*** As always, Napier was as blunt as ever when assessing his team.

“I see a lot of greatness, a lot of players destined for a lot of extraordinary things," he said. "But one thing I don’t see is leadership. And, 100-percent chemistry. But that Pittsburgh game, that’s what it was – leadership from the coach, 100-percent chemistry from everybody. That’s what I wanted to see, and that’s what I saw in that game. I hope we’ll take that win and keep moving forward for the DePaul game.”

*** Although he grew up in Mount Vernon, N.Y., moved to Middletown about 10 years ago and has toured the country in AAU ball, Drummond has never played a game in Madison Square Gardn. Been to a few Knicks games, but never played there. Obviously, he's excited for Tuesday.

Is he a Knicks fan?

“Eh, I wouldn’t say that. I’m not really a fan of any team, I just watch basketball.”

Drummond was also asked how he felt about earning Big East all-rookie honors.

“It’s just another step for me to work hard to get to first team Big East," he replied. "I’m just going to use that as a stepping stone to work hard, each and every day, to get National Player of the Year or something bigger than that.”

Sometimes, listening to the big guy talk, it really does sound like he might be back for at least another season at UConn. You never know.

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