Friday, January 31, 2014

Kevin Ollie: Houston Ruined My New Year's, We Ruined Their Chinese New Year's

Here's my column on Shabazz Napier going back to Charlestown High Friday night to get his number retired. His high school coach, Bridgeport product Steve Cassidy, tells us Napier's clutch, game-winning shot gene first germinated when he was a sophomore. And this column was in no way intended to resemble the one we did in December about Napier's clutchness dating back to his prep school days, either.

And here are a few notes and quotes from Gampel after UConn's dominating, 80-43 win over Houston.

Kevin Ollie:

"They ruined my New Year's, now we just ruined their Chinese New Year's."

We can pretty much stop right there, right? Pretty much the quote of the year right there. But we'll keep going:

(on shutting down TaShawn Thomas to four harmless points)

"They were clamping him from behind, forcing him to get it to the other side. And when he tried to get the ball again, we forced him to go left. We had four guys waiting for him. That's the kind of defense we want."

(on Phil Nolan, who had 10 points -- all in the first half -- and a team-high-tying seven rebounds):

"I think the dunk got him going in the beginning. That's what good point guards do -- Ryan (Boatright) was punching it, you get the big guys in it early, you get 'em a dunk, their whole world changes. Their energy goes up ... you take care of your bigs, especially when they're running like that, and the bigs will take care of you."

(on DeAndre Daniels sitting out)

"It was a little bit of both. DeAndre's a competitor, everybody saw that at The RAC when he came back in. He wanted to play. I listened to James Doran, he's a great athletic trainer. He was trying to get him right, but he just wasn't to the point where we thought he could be effective. We went with Niels (Giffey), give him another week to sit out, because we don't want it to linger. It's a high ankle sprain, so it was just precautionary ... Hopefully, he's ready for Cincinnati. If he's not ready, we've got enough in that locker room, no matter who's out."

"We've got a week off, and now we're going down to the best team in the American Conference, Cincinnati."

By the way, apparently Chinese New Year is on Friday.

Phil Nolan:

Shabazz Napier on needing Daniels back:

"It's super-important. DeAndre's the 'X' factor, he's the best player on our team. When he plays the way he's supposed to play, he makes it easier for everybody."

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

DeAndre Daniels "Probable"; Shabazz Napier to be Feted Friday Night

Wasn't able to get to practice today. Been under the weather since yesterday. Bit of a stomach bug. My daughter got hit with it Saturday night, now it's my turn. Wife and son appear to be next, just a matter of when.

Anyway, Kevin Ollie told the beat writers at practice that DeAndre Daniels is "probable" for UConn's next game. Apparently, he may have met its Feb. 6 game at Cincinnati, not Thursday's 9 p.m. bout with Houston. Ollie said that Daniels will be evaluated at Thursday afternoon's shootaround, at which time the decision will be made whether he can go. He hasn't practiced this week.

Omar Calhoun did practice today, apparently, and is good to go Thursday night.

*** After Thursday's game, UConn has a week off from game action. In fact, the Houston game is the Huskies' only game during a 12-day stretch.

The break will give UConn a chance to catch a breather from its grueling schedule, which usually sees a game every three or four days in league action. For Shabazz Napier, it'll give him a chance to head up to his high school alma mater, Charlestown High, where he will have his number retired on Friday night.

Of course, it won't be the actual number (35) Napier wore for three seasons at Charlestown. He wore No. 13 and 15 there, according to coach Edson Cardoso, but No. 13 is already retired. So, they decided to mix the two numbers and came up with No. 35.

Napier played three years at Charlestown, then two years at Lawrence Academy (though he returned to Charlestown late in the 2010 academic year to graduate from the school).

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Michigan Makes Big Jump in My AP Top 25 This Week

The big winners in my AP Top 25 this week are Michigan, Texas and Creighton.

The Wolverines jump 12 spots, from 16 to 4, after a tremendous week in which they beat No. 3 Michigan State (on the road) and No. 10 Iowa. Couple that with another road win last week at (then) No. 3 Wisconsin, and that's a brilliant three-game stretch for the Wolverines, who are 7-0 in the Big Ten. John Beilein can coach a little, eh?

I also welcome back Creighton and, for the first time, welcome Rick Barnes' Texas Longhorns. I knocked the Blue Jays out last week after they got blitzed at Providence, but welcome them right back after they destroyed No. 4 Villanova on the road on Monday, 96-68. (By the way, that loss to PC isn't so bad. The Friars are, as of right now, an NCAA tournament team, even without Brandon Austin and Kris Dunn).

Texas, meanwhile, gets the nod after winning at No. 24 Baylor and at home against No. 22 Kansas State this week. This after beating No. 16 Iowa State last week, giving it three straight wins over ranked teams. The Longhorns will look to make it four straight when they host No. 8 Kansas on Saturday.

So, with two new teams, I had to knock two out. Kansas State was easy, after a two-loss week. The other was trickier (keep in mind, I didn't have Baylor ranked). I wound up booting Ohio State, whom I had ranked No. 17 last week. The Buckeyes lost at Nebraska on Monday, their fourth straight loss. And while they bounced back with a perfunctory home win over Illinois on Thursday, I have a tough time ranking any team that's lost four of its last five games.

Elsewhere, I kept UConn at No. 23 after wins over Temple and Rutgers. I'm starting to like my SMU at No. 25 all the more, though I was one of only two voters to vote for the Mustangs last week. And I righted a wrong by moving San Diego State up a few notches and moving Kansas over Oklahoma State, whom the Jayhawks beat two weeks ago.

1.       Arizona
2.       Syracuse
3.       Florida
4.       Michigan
5.       Wichita State
6.       San Diego State
7.       Michigan State
8.       Kansas
9.       Oklahoma State
10.   Villanova
11.   Cincinnati
12.   Louisville
13.   Kentucky
14.   Wisconsin
15.   Saint Louis
16.   Iowa
17.   Pittsburgh
18.   Duke
19.   Iowa State
20.   Creighton
21.   Texas
22.   UMass
23.   UConn
24.   Memphis
25.   SMU

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Notes 'n Quotes for One Final Time from the RAC

Some quick quotes from Piscataway after UConn's 82-71 victory Saturday night. The Huskies beat the Scarlet Knights for the umpteenth time, but it's Rutgers that's the big winner in the conference realignment game. Or haven't you heard?

Kevin Ollie:

“Bazz was pretty amazing that second half.”

“It may be the last time we play in the RAC. It was good to come out with a win.”

(on DeAndre Daniels' high ankle sprain)

“Anybody who’s played basketball or any sport, knows that’s very, very painful. But he just gutted it out, that’s what it’s all about. That’s the toughness we need to see. Not only our coaching staff, but our players need to see that.”

Ollie said Omar Calhoun tweaked his ankle in the Temple game, decided at shootaround he had no lateral movement, wouldn't play Saturday. Ollie hopes both Calhoun and Daniels are good for Thursday against Houston.

“It was Black Out night. We had our Blue Out night, that wasn’t very successful, so let’s go spoil someone else’s night.”

(on Shabazz Napier)

“He drives me crazy sometimes, but that’s the guy that I’m going to count on. I’m going to put the ball in his hands. I know he’s going to make a couple of mistakes here and there, but I know he’s going to be there for me and be rock-solid when I need him the most. That second half was up there with a lot of great second halves that our great players have played. You put the ball in his hand, he just makes play after play after play.”


“I wasn’t making any shots. I don’t make shots, I’ve got to figure out how to get myself going. I got to the free-throw line a lot. As a shooter, when you get to the free throw line, you learn how to get your confidence back up. You see the ball going through the hoop, that was the biggest thing for me in the second half.”

(on Daniels' injury)

“I actually didn’t see it. I thought he fell on his head or something. I was glad he got back up, came back out in the second half and showed a lot of guts.”

(on Rutgers going to the Big Ten, UConn stuck in AAC)

“I mean, sometimes it has nothing to do with basketball. The big changes that happened last year had everything to do with football. That’s basically what it is. It’s not only about what team is better than who … I don’t know anything about that. I think UConn’s happy where we’re at right now. The American’s definitely a good conference. I know they wanted to get in the ACC last year, but it happens, you can’t do anything about it.”

“When I learned we were all moving around (from the Big East), I couldn’t do anything all about it. All I could say was, ‘Man, this is really breaking up.’ The Big East was one of the biggest things coming out of high school. It was like, ‘Ah, the Big East, the hardest conference to play in.’ But it’s a part of life.”


“I didn’t think it was anything serious. I knew I twisted my ankle pretty bad. Once I got back and tested it out, they taped me and they asked me if I wanted to sit out. I said, ‘Nah, I just want to fight through it and do anything I need to help my team get the win.’”

“When I was in the back for a while, it stopped hurting a little bit. It was still hurting, but it went down. It was hurting basically the whole time I was out there.”

Eddie Jordan:

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Follow our live blog of the UConn-Rutgers game tonight

Friday, January 24, 2014

There'll Be A 'Black Out' for UConn's Final League Visit to the RAC on Saturday

There will be a "Black Out" at The RAC Saturday night, when UConn visits Rutgers for the final time, at least as league rivals (unless, of course, the Huskies garner an invite to the Big Ten some time soon. And can someone please remind me how the heck Rutgers got an invite to the Big Ten?).

The RAC (it's actually called the Louis Brown Athletic Center) will be sold-out on Saturday at 7 p.m., and the school is looking for what it's calling a "Black Out on the Banks,” as fans are encouraged to wear black to the game and the first 1,000 to enter the RAC will receive a complimentary blackout t-shirt.

Even more "exciting," prior to the game, Tim Sweeney, The Amazing Race competitor and former RU and professional baseball player, will sign autographs on the lobby concourse from 5:45-6:45 p.m.

Be still my beating heart.

Anyway, Jim Calhoun always used to call The RAC "a tough place to play." Of course, Calhoun's teams went 9-2 in Piscataway, N.J. during his years at the helm, as well as 18-2 overall. Kevin Ollie is 1-0, after a win last season in Storrs.

Rutgers isn't very good (again), at 5-11 overall, 2-4 in the American and in the midst of losing four of its last five games. The Scarlet Knights are shooting .386 from the floor in AAC games and a mere .280 from 3-point range.

But expect a pretty charged-up atmosphere Saturday night, further proof that a lot of teams (even longtime league rivals) are really getting up for visits from the Huskies this season. We saw it in Houston, we saw it at SMU, we saw it in Memphis, and it looks as though we'll see it again Saturday night at The RAC.

*** With Saturday night's sellout, UConn will have played before season-high crowds for all four of its AAC
road games: SMU (a sellout, its first in years), Memphis (over 18,039, a near-sellout) and even Houston (4,035). In fact, including today's UConn-Rutgers game (but not including the other games on the docket today), the AAC will have had six sellouts this season. UConn will have played in five of them (including two at Gampel and one in Bridgeport).

*** Incidentally, Ollie never played at The RAC, as Rutgers entered the Big East a season after Ollie's graduation. He was an assistant for UConn's last game in Piscataway, a 67-60 loss on Jan. 7, 2012 that had Jim Calhoun in an infuriated mood at practice the next day.

Ollie did, however, play for Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan in 2001, when Jordan was an assistant coach for the New Jersey Nets.

*** Ryan Boatright was back in practice on Wednesday and should be good to go against the Scarlet Knights.

*** Here's a look at UConn target Donovan Mitchell, by former Register intern Zach Smart. Apparently, Mitchell's father used to be in the New York Mets' organization and now works for the team. Didn't know that.

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Shabazz Napier Named to 2014 Oscar Robertson Trophy Watch List

Another day, another list for Shabazz Napier.

The UConn senior guard was one of 23 players named to the 2014 Oscar Robertson Trophy Midseason Watch List. Here's the press release:

ST. LOUIS (USBWA) – The U.S. Basketball Writers Association has selected 23 outstanding players for its 2014 Oscar Robertson Trophy Midseason Watch List. Members of the association's board of directors chose the players to be included on the list as contenders for the Oscar Robertson Trophy.

The award is to be presented to the national player of the year by its namesake at the Devon Energy College Basketball Awards on April 14at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. The Henry Iba Coach of the Year Award and the Integris Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Award will also be presented at the gala to be held annually the Monday following the NCAA Men's Final Four.

Creighton's Doug McDermott, a first-team USBWA All-American last season, headlines the list, while teammates from six different schools – Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Michigan State, Syracuse and Wichita State – are also lauded. Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart, the 2013 Wayman Tisdale National Freshman of the Year and a second-team USBWA All-American a season ago, is also featured. Overall, 10 conferences are represented, led by the Atlantic Coast Conference with five players and the Big 12 Conference with four.

A pair of Oscar Robertson National Players of the Week from this season are included: DeAndre Kane from Iowa State and McDermott. The watch list includes 12 seniors to go with one junior, four sophomores and six freshmen.

Following is the complete watch list:

G Keith Appling, Michigan State (6-1, 185, Sr., Detroit, Mich.)
F Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico (6-9, 250, Sr., Brisbane, Australia)
F Cleanthony Early, Wichita State (6-8, 219, Sr., Middletown, N.Y.)
C Joel Embiid, Kansas (7-0, 250, Fr., Yaounde, Cameroon)
G Tyler Ennis, Syracuse (6-2, 180, Fr., Brampton, Ont.)
F C.J. Fair, Syracuse (6-8, 215, Sr., Baltimore, Md.)
F Aaron Gordon, Arizona (6-9, 225, Fr., San Jose, Calif.)
G Gary Harris, Michigan State (6-4, 210, So., Fishers, Ind.)
F Rodney Hood, Duke (6-8, 215, So., Meridian, Miss.)
G Nick Johnson, Arizona (6-3, 200, Jr., Gilbert, Ariz.)
G DeAndre Kane, Iowa State (6-4, 200, Sr., Pittsburgh, Pa.)
F Doug McDermott, Creighton (6-8, 225, Sr., Ames, Iowa)
G Shabazz Napier, Connecticut (6-1, 180, Sr., Roxbury, Mass.)
F Jabari Parker, Duke (6-8, 235, Fr., Chicago, Ill.)
G/F Lamar Patterson, Pittsburgh (6-5, 225, Sr., Lancaster, Pa.)
F Casey Prather, Florida (6-6, 212, Sr., Jackson, Tenn.)
F Julius Randle, Kentucky (6-9, 250, Fr., Dallas, Texas)
G Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State (6-4, 220, So., Flower Mound, Texas)
G Russ Smith, Louisville (6-0, 165, Sr., Brooklyn, N.Y.)
G Xavier Thames, San Diego State (6-3, 195, Sr., Sacramento, Calif.)
G Fred Van Vleet, Wichita State (5-11, 194, So., Rockford, Ill.)
G Andrew Wiggins, Kansas (6-8, 200, Fr., Vaughan, Ont.)
G Chaz Williams, Massachusetts (5-9, 175, Sr., Brooklyn, N.Y.)

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

DeAndre Daniels, Shabazz Napier Step Up in Ryan Boatright's Absence; Terrence Samuel Trying to Keep His Head Up

Good win for UConn tonight. Yes, Temple is awful (how were the Owls picked to finish fifth in the American this season?). Still, the Huskies did what they had to do -- beat up on a bad team and never take their foot off the pedal, cruising to a 90-66 win.

DeAndre Daniels and Shabazz Napier combined for 58 points and came a Napier missed trey away from becoming the first Husky duo to score 30 in the same game (Daniels had a career-high 31, Napier 27). Kevin Ollie apparently kept Napier in the game late to try to get him to 30, but Napier missed a trey with a little over a minute left (one of only three 3-pointers he missed in eight attempts).

“If you leave me in the game to get 30, I met as well just shoot the 3," Napier said afterwards. "I messed that one up. Hopefully, I get another chance.”

All in good fun on a fun night for the Huskies, who outrebounded the Owls by 20 (45-25) and held Anthony Lee, the AAC's top rebounder, to nary a board.

Daniels and Napier stepped up in the absence of Ryan Boatright, who attended his cousin's funeral earlier in the day in Aurora, Ill.

“It’s tough," said Ollie. "I talked to him right before the funeral, talked to Tanesha (his mother), just let them know that we’re thinking about him. He sent me a text, told me to ‘Get that dub (win)’ … I know he’s got a heavy heart, I know his family’s going to get through this, leaning on their guy. Hopefully, they can get through it. It’s just a tough situation. A kid dies at 21, I couldn’t even imagine what they’re going through.”

The coach added: “I’m glad he stuck with his family, to be there for his mother. He’s got a couple of young brothers and sisters, and they probably needed that man of the house to be there.”

*** We cover all of that and more in our game column tonight. But one other thing struck me the past couple of days: Terrence Samuel, the freshman pressed into more action (15 minutes) than he's seen in over a month due to Boatright's absence, hasn't seemed himself lately. Speaking to him last year while he was in high school, playing in all-star games, etc., he was always an upbeat, effervescent personality. And he was a kid who absolutely loved all things UConn. I remember calling him last March, the night it was announced that the AAC wouldn't be playing its conference championship tourney in New York City, Samuel's hometown.

"I love UConn,” said Samuel, who had committed to the Huskies the prior fall. “I’ll be proud to have ‘UConn’ on my chest.”

I'm sure Samuel still loves UConn as much as ever. But the kid's seemed a bit down the past two days, even as the chance for more playing time loomed tonight. Asked Monday if his lack of playing time had been bothering him, Samuel responded: “It has, actually. At first, it kind of got to me a lot. I might have said, ‘Just stop working for a while.’ But I’ve still got to keep my work habits, keep working in the gym, get better, working on my shot and getting ready to play when my name’s called.”

On Tuesday, Samuel did pretty well in his 15 minutes, scoring two points, grabbing two rebounds, handing out a pair of assists and turning the ball over twice, as well. Nothing spectacular, but not too bad, either. But Samuel still seemed a bit somber afterwards.

“I second-guessed myself a lot," he said. "When I had my shot, I’ve just got to get my feel back, I guess. I felt I played OK. I played good ‘D’ at first, but in the second half, my defense was horrible. I’ve just got to work on it.”

Asked again if his lack of P.T. has bothered him, he said: “At first I did. I mean, I’m a basketball player, obviously I want to be on the court. It does get to me at times. I want to play, but I guess the coach doesn’t trust me right now. I know we’ve got a great point guard in front of me, so I guess I’ve just got to wait my time. If I get in for one minute or two minutes, just do my job.”

Samuel had said on Monday that Daniels, who didn't see a whole lot of playing time as a freshman, either, has helped him get through his trying times this season.

Daniels said he told Samuel, "Just keep your head up. Basically, you never know what’s going to happen. Somebody can get hurt and he’d have to  come in and fill that spot for that person. You’ve just always got to be ready when your name’s called. I just told him, ‘Always be ready, because I’ve been through the same thing you’ve been through as a freshman – wanting to play more, wanting to help your team.’ But, everybody goes through it. I just told him to keep his head up and keep working hard.”

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Ryan Boatright '50-50' for Temple Game; Terrence Samuel Ready to Step In

According to Kevin Ollie, it's "50-50" whether Ryan Boatright will be there for UConn's bout with Temple Tuesday night at the XL Center.

"He left and he said he wasn’t going to be back, but then we talked and he might be back," Ollie said. "I’m planning on him not being back, making sure Terrence (Samuel) is ready, Lasan (Kromah) plays a little bit of point guard. If Boatright comes back, it’d be great. But if he doesn’t, we say this all the time: next man up.”

It appears funeral services for Boatright's cousin, Arin Williams, are on Tuesday. Williams was killed by a gunshot to the head on Jan. 14. Perhaps that means he'll attend services, then try to fly back for Tuesday night's game, but that's not clear at this point.

When Boatright does return, Ollie hopes basketball will be a "sanctuary" for him.

“You go and get away from it a little bit," he said. "Hopefully, he understands that once he comes here, he has nothing but love. He has a brotherhood that’s got his back and is going to be here for him. Hopefully, it relieves him of that tension or thinking about his cousin, or the pressures of dealing with his family and the different dynamics of what’s going on. Hopefully when he gets on the basketball court, he can just think about basketball.”

*** If Boatright doesn't play Tuesday night, Samuel is ready for some more playing time. In fact, he seems to have been chomping at the bit for more PT.

“I’ve been ready to get in, show what I can do and help the team win," Samuel said. "I’ve been waiting for my time, I’ve just got to step in, make the right decisions.”

Samuel's played in just 10 of UConn's 18 games, averaging just 6.3 minutes per contest. He's played a grand total of six minutes in the Huskies' first five AAC games.

Samuel said the lack of action has been tough.

“It has, actually. At first, it kind of got to me a lot. I might have said, just stop working for a while, but I’ve still got to keep my work habits, keep working in the gym, get better, working on my shot and getting ready to play when my name’s called.”

He added: 

Said Ollie: “You never want somebody to lose or see somebody hurt, but if they go down, I’m like, ‘It’s my time, I’m ready to go.’ Hopefully Terrence, Omar (Calhoun), Lasan understand that. They might get that situation where they’re going to have the ball in their hand a little more.”

Ollie added that Samuel has been "getting better understanding the offense, the defense, the next play, not putting his head down as much, being confident in who he is. I see him being a terrific player here.”

*** Asked if he'd heard from any of his "mentors" after Saturday night's ejection, Ollie said: “I heard from my mother. She said calm down a little bit. That’s the best mentor of all.”

He hasn't heard from Jim Calhoun yet.

“Jim’s in Cabo, man," Ollie said with a smile. "He’s on a golf course. But I will hear from him. I know he’s seen the incident, but let him be on vacation. When he comes back, we’ll have our usual talks.”

He added that Kevin Freeman did a good job of escorting him back to the locker room.

“He did his job. I wasn’t going to go punch anybody. I just wanted to get my money’s worth a little bit. Kevin did a good job restraining me, so I didn’t overreact – which I did, a little bit, when I ran down the baseline. But, it happens. Hopefully, we can move on. Hopefully, (Mike) Stuart can move on from the game, and we can all be better from it. That’s what my hope is.”

Then, he reiterated: “That was a foul.”

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

My AP Top 25 -- The American is Well-Represented This Week

The American Athletic Conference made filling out my AP Top 25 ballot this week particularly tricky.

Does UConn get back in after winning at Memphis then losing at home to Louisville? And if the Huskies are back in, they've got to be ranked ahead of Memphis, right? Riiiight ... except Memphis just beat Louisville on the road last week and has beaten Oklahoma State on a neutral floor.

Then I have to go make things even more confusing by including SMU this week. You know, the SMU that's 14-4. The SMU that beat UConn a couple of weeks ago, and who's only two league losses were to the two best teams in the AAC: Louisville and Cincinnati.

I went with SMU over a bunch of other deserving candidates, including Oklahoma, UCLA, Creighton, Oregon, Missouri, Gonzaga, California, George Washington, Clemson, Texas and Xavier. I realize I'm still probably out on an island with the Mustangs, but so be it. I saw them in person and was impressed by their size and guard play ... and, of course, their Hall of Fame head coach. And obviously, they get ranked ahead of UConn, right?

Nah, I still think the Huskies are the better team, though in order to make some noise come March, they'll need a much more consistent DeAndre Daniels.

Like I said, a particularly tricky week this week.

1.       Arizona                 
2.       Syracuse              
3.       Michigan State       
4.       Villanova              
5.       Wichita St.           
6.       Florida                  
7.       Oklahoma State     
8.       San Diego State      
9.       Kansas                  
10.   Wisconsin            
11.   Iowa                      
12.   Cincinnati            
13.   Louisville              
14.   UMass                  
15.   Kentucky             
16.   Michigan              
17.   Ohio State              
18.   St. Louis               
19.   Pittsburgh           
20.   Kansas State      
21.   Duke                     
22.   Iowa State          
23.   UConn                  
24.   Memphis             
25.   SMU                             


Kevin Ollie Ejected; Ryan Boatright's Status for Temple Game Unsure

Louisville continued its hex in recent years against UConn with a 76-64 victory. OK, where do we start?

Ah yes, Kevin Ollie's first career ejection as head coach (he had earned a technical foul last season at DePaul for leaving the coach's box).

No doubt, Wayne Blackshear should have been called for a foul on Niels Giffey on the play in question. What happened next was pretty intense. Here's the reaction to Ollie's ejection, administered by ref Mike Stuart:

“I just thought it was a foul,” he said. “Niels is a pretty good shooter. He went up and, you know, got hit in the shoulder or the arm. Then, coming back, Shabazz (Napier) does the same thing later on and they didn’t call that foul. It happens, and we’re going to go from there.”

Added Ryan Boatright: “I was glad that he had our back. He fought for us, because some of those calls were ridiculous. The one that he got kicked out for was an obvious foul. It was crazy that they didn’t call it.”

In a statement, Stuart said Ollie was hit with “two unsportsmanlike Class A technical fouls. The first one was reacting to running down the sideline. The second one was coming on the floor to protest the call.”

Ollie admitted he earned the ejection -- sort of.

“I saw the replay, I think I jumped around a little bit, sprinted,” he said. “I don’t know if there was a warning or not, but I thought they gave me the first ‘T’ and I didn’t really have a chance to do anything and then the second one came.”

More Boatright: “He said he let his emotions get the best of him. He apologized for not being there when we needed him on the sideline. We just told him that we appreciated him for having our back, and really saying the things that we really couldn’t say. He showed how frustrated we were in not getting those calls. He’s a coach and he did the right thing.”

Rick Pitino's somewhat odd synopsis: "We were up (nine). I thought (the ejection) hurt us, actually, because we missed our free throws. We had momentum and let the crowd get in the game. Especially Kevin Ollie, you don't ever want to see him get thrown out. Jim Calhoun, you want to see get thrown out. I'm only kidding. Make sure you tell Jim that."

We would, but Calhoun -- perched in his usual seat on the press row baseline in the first half -- left the arena at halftime. No, he didn't join Ollie in the locker room after his ejection. Apparently, Calhoun left early because he's heading out on vacation tomorrow.

*** Bad call (or no-call) or not, UConn hardly deserved to win this game. The Huskies were outrebounded 45-30, with 16 of the Cardinals’ boards of the offensive variety. UConn also was outscored in the paint, 40-20.

“It’s not like they have Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar out there,” Ollie pointed out. “So, we’ve got to do a better job.”

*** DeAndre Daniels, fresh off a 23-point, 11-rebound effort in Thursday’s win at Memphis, picked up his second foul just over six minutes into the game and spent the rest of the first half on the bench. Without him, UConn had great difficulty penetrating Louisville’s active, 2-3 zone. The Huskies were forced into taking half their shots (14) from 3-point land, many of them late in the shot clock. UConn did hit six of them (three by Napier) to stay close and trail by six at the break.

Daniels finished with just three points for the game.

“Him sitting on the bench hurt our rotation,” said Ollie. “But, at the end of the day, he played the second half, and he’s got to play better. You’ve got to respond as a basketball player ... You get two fouls, I would’ve been boiling mad coming out at halftime. I would have got my third or fourth real quick on a charge, or throwing somebody out of the way. Something.”

*** Ollie said that Boatright will be heading back to Chicago on Sunday. It appears the funeral for Boatright's cousin, Arin Williams, is on Tuesday -- the same day UConn hosts Temple. But Boatright said he's not sure what he's going to do yet.

"I'm still contemplating if I want to miss Tuesday's game or not," he said. "I don't know exactly what I'm going to do."

*** The last time a UConn coach was ejected from a game was when Calhoun was booted from a Dec. 7, 2007 game with Northeastern by Wally Rutecki. Afterwards, Calhoun famously called Rutecki "incompetent."

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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Daniel Hamilton's Not Signed (LOI), but Definitely Sealed and Delivered to UConn

If there were still any questions whether or not Daniel Hamilton was firmly committed to attending UConn next season, the 6-foot-8 shooting guard out of L.A.'s St. John Bosco High put them to rest on Saturday morning. Watch and listen:

Hamilton signed a financial aid agreement to attend UConn back in November but didn't sign a national letter-of-intent. The reason basically was because of the experience his older brother, Isaac, went through.

Daniel didn't want to be bound to a school like Isaac was, so he only signed the financial-aid forms.

"No schools are calling me, trying to recruit him," said Bosco coach Derrick Taylor. "He’s not looking at anyone else, so that’s all because of his brother ... It was such a bad experience with his brother, and that’s all that it was. But he’s loyal to UConn. I mean, he wears UConn garb everywhere he goes. And his parents wear UConn garb everywhere they go.”

When Isaac transferred to UCLA in September, some speculated that Daniel would soon follow.

“People just want to stir up some stuff, something they can talk about," Daniel said. "But, no, there were no facts about that.”

Hamilton said of UConn: “I’m real excited to come in and play for Coach Ollie, who’s a great dude. He went to Crenshaw High School, I went there my freshman year. There’s just a connection and a bond there, somebody I can trust, and somebody who can really help me better my game.”

“Coach Ollie’s a real good dude, just a solid dude. That’s when he first started recruiting me, at Crenshaw. He came out to a couple of pick-ups and a couple of games. Even when Isaac went to UTEP, Coach Ollie never stopped, when a lot of coaches and teams stopped recruiting me because they thought they didn’t have a (chance). But Coach Ollie never stopped recruiting me.”

Bosco plays in the Hoop Hall Classic tonight at 6 p.m. against St. Frances Academy (Md.) at Springfield College's Blake Arena. The team opened its practice to reporters this morning.

Hamilton and teammate Vance Jackson, 6-8, a Class of 2016 forward, will be at UConn's game against Louisville tonight.

Taylor, who also coached DeAndre Daniels at L.A.'s Taft High, said Hamilton is having a fine senior season.

“Daniel’s doing what we expect him to do. He’s having a really good year, leading us in scoring, rebounding and assists. And, he draws the toughest man every night.”

Taylor said Hamilton's greatest strength is his "versatility." In fact, Hamilton will play some point guard tonight, since Tyler Dorsey (an Arizona commit) didn't make the trip with the team.

What does Hamilton need to work on?

“Being patient, offensively. Sometimes he tries to force his offense, because he believes he can do so many things. At times, he takes more risks than he should.”

But, Taylor added, “He has a will to win like no other. As coach, it’s easier to turn a guy down than try to dial a guy up. You don’t ever have to turn him up. That guy is ready to play from Day One. He’s very quiet, his demeanor is low-key, but on the court he’s like a mad man.”

“(UConn is) going to give him the opportunity, that’s all he asks for. Daniel’s going to make his way. You’ll find out, he’s one of the most competitive individuals. And he thinks he’s better than everyone, so he’s going to try, try, try. I think you guys will love him. He’ll play so hard, and he’ll play the game correctly.”

Added Hamilton: “I think I’ve been playing alright, (but) I think I can play better. Just more of a leadership, being a ‘C,’ I think I can lead my team better. It’s something I’m trying to work on right now, maturity.”

As for next season at UConn, “It’s a matter of earning a spot. Nothing’s going to be given to me at all, so I just think I can come in and play if I work hard. That’s the main thing. And what I really want to do is just win.”

The southern Californian doesn't even mind the snowy weather he's encountering in New England this weekend.

“I like the cold weather," Hamilton said. "Matter of fact, I can’t even sleep unless the room is cold. That’s something people don’t know about me. I like it real cold. In the hotel room, I put it on as cold as it can be.”

*** Bosco principal Casey Yeazel also had good things to say about Hamilton.

“He’s a good young man. Given his talent and his ability, you would never know how many accolades he’s gotten, basketball-wise, because of the way he carries himself on campus. He’s very humble, never gets into trouble, takes care of everything we ask for academically. UConn’s getting a good, good young man. He comes from a good family, good parents. We’re really pleased to have him, a great piece to this whole program.”

*** Jackson is also being recruited by UConn, along with Arizona, UCLA, Arizona State, Washington, USC and Georgetown.

“He can shoot a basketball like you cannot believe," Taylor said. He added that the only weakness of Jackson's game is that he's not overly athletic.

"He's skilled, he's smart," the coach said, "and he can shoot it."

Said Jackson of UConn: “I just like the tradition they have, I like coach Kevin Ollie, and I like how they play. It seems like I can fit in there, too. I like their system.”

He did note that he needs to get "more physical ... more rebounds."

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ryan Boatright Lost a 'Brother' on Monday Night, But Was Picked up by Other 'Brothers' All Week

Ryan Boatright played with a heavy heart in UConn's absolutely huge win over Memphis Thursday night. His cousin ("really my brother") was killed by a gunshot to the head in Boatright's hometown of Aurora, Ill.

Yes, DeAndre Daniels had perhaps his best game as a Husky, with 23 points, 11 rebounds, 4 of 5 3-pointers, terrific drives to the hoop.

Yes, Lasan Kromah hit all five of his field goals and both of his free throws for 13 points, including six key points late in the game.

Yes, Shabazz Napier joined Daniels with a triple-double (17 points, 10 assists) despite shooting just 1-for-6 in the first half and turning the ball over four times.

Yes, Omar Calhoun snapped out of a long slump by hitting 3 of 4 shots, including a trey, for seven first-half points.

Yes, even Rodney Purvis, sitting out the season as a transfer, assisted in UConn's win. How? Ask Daniels

"Rodney Purvis challenged me, before we left in practice, we had a huddle and Rodney challenged me. He wanted me to get 10 rebounds, so I did it for him, too. He called me out in front of the coaches and players. He said, 'Get 10,' I said, 'Alright, I'll get 10.'"

Yes, this was UConn's first league road win and easily its biggest win of the season thus far (trumping the Florida win, in my eyes).

But sometimes, it's about more than just basketball. Ryan Boatright lost a "brother" on Monday night, and his other "brothers" picked him up all week, culminated by Thursday night's huge victory.

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Daniel Hamilton Playing in Springfield, Mass. on Saturday

Daniel Hamilton will be playing about an hour away from UConn on Saturday evening. But it will be tough for Husky diehards who want to watch the much-ballyhooed UConn commit play in person and get to UConn's 9 p.m. bout with Louisville to do both.

Hamilton's St. John Bosco High from California will face Maryland's St. Frances Academy (led by UNLV-bound Dwayne Morgan) on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Springfield College's Blake Arena. The game will be broadcast on The Basketball Channel.

Obviously, fans could get to the game, then make the drive to Storrs and get to Gampel by tip-off for Louisville. UConn's coaching staff, which has continued to recruit Hamilton as if he hadn't committed to the school, won't be able to do the same. But UConn will make sure to get to one of Hamilton's practices this weekend.

Hamilton, of course, hasn't signed a national letter-of-intent to attend UConn but has signed a financial-aid agreement form, which doesn't bind him to the university.

Hamilton's teammate, point guard Tyler Dorsey, committed to Arizona a few days ago.

*** Nice column today by the ProJo's Bill Reynolds on Dee Rowe, who coached Reynolds at Worcester Academy back in 1963-64. Couple of interesting anecdotes on Rowe in this one.

*** Also, here's a piece from today's Memphis Commercial-Appeal on Shabazz Napier. Nothing really new here, but at least the local paper acknowledges that there is a game tonight, which is more than can be said for the Houston Chronicle a couple of weeks ago.

*** A little disappointed in Beale Street. While there appears to be plenty of lively bars, restaurants and blues clubs, it only appears to occupy about a block or two. Then, you're right back in a rather dreary, lifeless downtown Memphis.

Of course, it was about 35 degrees last night, so that probably accounts for the lack of vitality in the city. I've got to believe it's a lot more fun in the summertime around here -- or, for that matter, in March, when the American Athletic Conference championship tournament will be held.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

UConn Ready for 1-2 Punch of Memphis, Louisville

UConn won't play two bigger games this season, at least until March, than the two it'll play Thursday and Saturday nights. It starts Thursday night at No. 17 Memphis, then there's a quick turnaround for Saturday night's ESPN College Gameday battle with Louisville in Storrs.

Playing back-to-back games vs. ranked foes was old hat for UConn back in its Big East days. Heck, the Huskies had such consecutive match-ups nine times over the past five seasons.

But this will likely be UConn's only chance to do so this regular season, and it just feels a lot bigger and more important than in recent years, doesn't it? UConn really needs to at least split the two, if not sweep. Getting swept would really put the Huskies behind the eight-ball in terms of hopes for a league title and, for that matter, possibly even an NCAA tournament berth.

(Incidentally, the last nine times UConn has faced Top 25 teams in consecutive games, the Huskies lost both games four times, won both of them twice and split the two three times. Last year, UConn beat No. 17 Notre Dame on Jan. 12 on the road, then lost to No. 1 Louisville two days later in Storrs).

Here's what Kevin Ollie and Ryan Boatright had to say about Memphis:

A few more tidbits:

*** There are six Memphis kids (and eight Tennessee-born kids altogether) on the Memphis roster. There is just one Connecticut scholarship player (Tyler Olander) on the Connecticut roster. In fact, Memphis has as many Connecticut kids on its roster as UConn does. Kuran Iverson, who was a two-time Register All-State selection while at West Hartford's Northwest Catholic High, is a freshman for the Tigers. He's seen precious little playing time this season, particularly lately, having appeared in just one of Memphis's first four conference games. Iverson, a 6-10 forward, is averaging 2.8 points and 1.3 rebounds in 9.4 minutes of action overall this season.

UConn recruited Iverson, but not heavily.

*** This will mark UConn’s first-ever game at Memphis. The Huskies and Tigers have met just once before, on Nov. 16, 2007 in a 2K Sports College Hoops Classic game at Madison Square Garden. The John Calipari, Derrick Rose-led Tigers won, 81-70.

UConn is the second of four FedEx Forum newcomers in 2013-14. Memphis is 22-1 when facing teams making their first visits to the arena.

*** Did you know both Ollie and Memphis coach Josh Pastner have NCAA title rings. Ollie got his as an assistant to Jim Calhoun in 2011. Pastner got his as a (ahem) ... player on the 1997 Arizona title team.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Hartford Doesn't Rate Among ESPN's Top 25 Ratings Markets ... Yet

I was admittedly quite miffed that Hartford-New Haven didn't make ESPN's Top 25 list of metered markets for college basketball telecasts. The area is currently tied for 28th with a .9 rating, according to ESPN's Rachel Siegal.

However, there's a very good reason: UConn hasn't had a game yet on ESPN's main channel. It's had six games on ESPN2 and some others on ESPNU, but none yet on ESPN. And the games on ESPN are the only ones that factor in the ratings, not ESPN2, ESPNU or the like.

So there's your answer. And with two big ESPN games coming up this week at Memphis on Thursday and against Louisville (for ESPN's College Gameday), those ratings are sure to go up. Last year, in fact, UConn was tied for 14th (with Memphis, Greenville, N.C., Cleveland, Norfolk and St. Louis) with a 1.3 rating. That was up from 2011-12, when Hartford-New Haven drew a 1.2 and was tied for 17th with Norfolk and St. Louis.

Anyway, here's this year's list:
ESPN Metered Market Ratings (through January 9)
DMA Avg. Rating
Kansas City
New Orleans
Oklahoma City
St. Louis
Las Vegas

Tickets Available for AAC Tournament in Memphis

Thinking of a March trip to Memphis? It's not New York City, but it's certainly not a bad alternative. Beale Street, Graceland, the blues and some goo basketball for a few days. Not bad:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A limited number of tickets to the first American Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Championship are now available to the general public through the University of Memphis athletics ticket office as well as through member institutions’ ticket offices.

The 2014 American Athletic Conference Championship will be played at FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn., March 12-15. All 10 American Athletic Conference teams will compete for the league title, including 2013 NCAA champion Louisville, which is one of the eight conference teams that have reached the NCAA Final Four. Five of the 10 American Athletic Conference teams (Cincinnati, UConn, Louisville, Memphis, SMU) were either ranked or received votes in the Jan. 6 Associated Press top-25 poll.

The 2014 championship will begin with two first-round games Wednesday, March 12. Two quarterfinal doubleheaders will be played Thursday, March 13, followed by a semifinal doubleheader Friday, March 14. The final will take place Saturday, March 15.

The ticket packages made available to the general public Monday, covering all nine games of the championship, are priced at $175. Tickets will be available online Purchasers will be notified of their exact seat locations at a later date. Seat locations will be prioritized by the date and time of purchase.

Fans interested in purchasing tickets through member schools may contact the respective school’s athletics ticket office.

Monday, January 13, 2014

UConn Gains a Little Ground in AP Top 25 Poll

The top 25 teams in The Associated Press' college basketball poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Jan. 12, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week's ranking:<

Record Pts Prv

1. Arizona (61) 17-0 1,621 1

2. Syracuse (4) 16-0 1,560 2

3. Wisconsin 16-0 1,482 4

4. Michigan St. 15-1 1,442 5

5. Wichita St. 17-0 1,300 6

6. Villanova 15-1 1,289 8

7. Florida 13-2 1,205 10

8. Iowa St. 14-1 1,048 9

9. Oklahoma St. 14-2 1,046 11

10. San Diego St. 14-1 1,020 13

11. Ohio St. 15-2 979 3

12. Baylor 13-2 952 7

13. Kentucky 12-3 912 14

14. Iowa 14-3 831 20

15. Kansas 11-4 686 18

16. UMass 14-1 579 19

17. Memphis 12-3 536 24

18. Louisville 14-3 525 12

19. Cincinnati 15-2 405 _

20. Creighton 14-2 329 _

21. Colorado 14-3 328 15

22. Pittsburgh 15-1 299 _

23. Duke 12-4 193 16

24. Saint Louis 15-2 148 _

25. Oklahoma 13-3 103 _

25. UCLA 13-3 103 _

Others receiving votes: Missouri 42, Oregon 39, UConn 35, Kansas St. 25, Gonzaga 17, Michigan 11, California 10, Virginia 6, Louisiana Tech 5, Harvard 3, Illinois 3, New Mexico 3, Xavier 3, George Washington 2.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

My AP Top 25 Ballot This Week

Tough ballot this week. No fewer than 10 of the 25 teams I voted for last week lost at least once, and three (Ohio State, Oregon and Illlinois) lost twice. Gonzaga lost the lone game it played (to Portland).

With all that in mind, Oregon, Illinois, Gonzaga and Colorado get bumped this week. Those last few spots were tough to fill, and to be honest, I gave UConn consideration after a week in which it scored a (somewhat unimpressive) win over a good Harvard team, along with a very impressive win over a "meh" UCF squad. Ultimately, I left the Huskies off, though they can certainly get right back into the picture this week with games at Memphis on Thursday and at Gampel on Saturday night against Louisville. Should be a fun week.

Ultimately, I kept Kansas State on my ballot (barely), despite its 26-point loss at Kansas. Many others have been drubbed in Lawrence, and plus, the Wildcats boast wins over Oklahoma State, Gonzaga and George Washington this season. I also added Oklahoma after its big home win over Iowa State; Creighton, which is 14-2 and arguably has the best player in America; and Iowa (with a bullet, all the way to No. 14) after its ultra-impressive road win over the Buckeyes.

(UPDATE: Made a switch. For some reason, didn't acknowledge that Memphis had defeated Louisville AT Louisville earlier in the week. Recognizing that, I've moved Memphis up and Louisville down, changing the ranking of a few teams by a spot).

1.       Arizona
2.       Syracuse
3.       Wisconsin
4.       Michigan State
5.       Oklahoma State
6.       Villanova
7.       Wichita State
8.       Florida
9.       San Diego State
10.   Ohio State
11.   Kentucky
12.   Iowa State
13.   Iowa
14. Memphis
15.   Massachusetts
16.   Cincinnati
17.   Kansas
18.   Louisville
19.   Pittsburgh
20.   Creighton
21.   Duke
22.   Baylor
23.   Oklahoma
24.   New Mexico

25.   Kansas State

Big Night for Amida Brimah Leads to UConn's First AAC Win

Friday, January 10, 2014

Kevin Ollie talks Central Florida, the AAC, Amida Brimah ...

 Kevin Ollie from practice Friday, in advance of Saturday's AAC bout with Central Florida in Storrs:

(on UCF’s Isaiah Sykes)

“He’s been putting up big numbers … he’s a walking triple-double. We’ve got to limit his touches. He loves to drive left and finish left. We’re going to have to squeeze paint.”

(on what team did better against Harvard)

“We stayed connected, believed in each other. When one man was out of position, another guy had his back, playing high-level defense. Offensively, it was a challenge. They slowed the ball down, and sometimes when you come down after a 35-second possession, you want to rush a shot.”

(on The American)

“Every team is good. These teams are good. They can come and beat you at any time. If you’re not ready to play at Level-5, they’re going to beat you. That’s where I want my teams to play at … Anybody can get beat.”

(on what Amida Brimah can do to avoid foul trouble)

“Most big men get fouls on not keeping vertical … He’s learned how to be vertical … We don’t want him to hand-check, where he’s getting a lot of silly fouls. I like a foul where he’s banging on the boards and he’s called for an offensive rebound (vs. Harvard), which wasn’t an offensive foul or over-the-back. I like those type of fouls … We want him to be on the floor a lot more.”

(on Shabazz Napier playing a lot of minutes)

“He’s a competitor,he wants to play. Kemba’s played a lot of minutes, too. You’ve got to know when to pick and choose your spots. He worked out before the season started with the soccer team, so I think he’s in phenomenal shape, the best shape he’s ever been in … He’s not 41, like I am. He’s a young man, and he’s got a lot of basketball ahead of him.”

(on Omar Calhoun, Phil Nolan)

“(They’ve) just got to keep working hard, play Level-5 on the defensive end. The guys in front of them are playing well. Lasan’s playing well, Niels is playing well, Amida … they’ve got to put the hard decision on me, keep playing your game, try to improve on a lot of things people don’t see. With Phil, I think the sickness took a lot of weight off him, he didn’t have the stamina he once did. Omar’s got to play defense, stay solid.”

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

UConn Goes from Tears (Almost) to Cheers, Pulls Out Win Over Crimson

Interesting quote from DeAndre Daniels after UConn snapped its two-game losing streak with a 61-56 win over Harvard Wednesday night.

“It was kind of heart-breaking,” Daniels said of last week's two losses in Texas. “Everybody on this team is competitive. With those two losses in a row, in the second one, we had a lot of people sad, people had tears in the locker room.”

Players were actually crying after the SMU loss?

"Not literally crying," Daniels said, "but it was there, like, almost coming out, because (Kevin Ollie) hates losing, he just wants to win. That put fire in everybody. We were just tired of losing."

Daniels added the flight home was a long one.

"It was a pretty miserable ride home. Everybody was quiet. Nobody talked the whole way there, on the bus ride or the plane. We came to practice the next day and everybody worked hard."

The Huskies were far from perfect on Wednesday, but they got a win over a good (if depleted) Harvard squad. Never mind that the Crimson were without their top scorer (Wesley Saunders, 15.7 ppg). Never mind that UConn nearly squandered an eight-point lead with 35 seconds to play, after giving up a four-point play, a conventional three-point play, missing two of four free throws, giving up an easy drive to the hoop then turning the ball over on a travel with 9.1 ticks left.

A win is a win, and, as we point out in the game story, UConn desperately needed one on Wednesday. A must-win, even, as Ryan Boatright pointed out:

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

UConn Working on Getting Niels Giffey More Shots

UConn returns home Wednesday night to try to snap its two-game losing streak, and it won't be easy against a very good Harvard team. The Crimson and Huskies each got the same amount of votes (41 apiece) in this week's AP Top 25 poll.

Been getting a lot of feedback through email and Twitter lately about how Niels Giffey isn't involved enough in the UConn offense, and that the team doesn't run enough plays for him.

Giffey leads the nation in 3-point shooting at a ridiculous 61.8 percent (21-for-34). And yet he's only taking just over four shots per game, and only 2.4 from 3-point land. So, it would make sense for him to get up more shots.

The first thing to understand is this: Giffey isn't strong off the bounce and isn't really able to create his own shot very well. Few would dispute this fact, including Kevin Ollie and Giffey himself.

"Niels is not a big guy to put it on the floor and do two crossovers and get to the lane," said Ollie. "That’s not his game. His game is spotting up."

Added Giffey: "Guys like me, Lasan (Kromah) and Omar (Calhoun), we’re never going to be the guys who just break down a guy from the top of the key."

So there's that. Now, to the point that UConn doesn't run enough plays for Giffey to get off shots, Ollie had this to say: “I’d like him to shoot 10 shots, wide-open. If I can diagram a play to get that, I’d definitely like to do that. You’ve got scouting reports, too. Scouting reports say, 'We’re not leaving Niels. If the penetration comes, we’re not leaving Niels' ... A lot of teams are switching pick-and-rolls on our pick-and-pops. We put in some different sets that can move the basketball, and hopefully that works. Hopefully, we can get more spacing, more penetration, drawing kicks for Niels to get off.”

Said Giffey: “I definitely have to use screens better … That’s also a team effort, I think ... That’s kind of like a team effort to get everybody back involved. We can’t play a slow-paced game where it’s a couple of guys who do one-on-one moves. We’ve got to play as a team, share the ball the same way we did in the beginning of the season where we really attacked the paint.”

He added: 

A couple of other quick tidbits:

*** Ollie on whether Calhoun is still not 100-percent after off-season hip surgeries: “It’s hard for me to say that, you’d have to ask him that question. Whenever I ask him, a teenager will say, ‘I’m good, I’m ready to play.’ Just like my son. Every time I ask him something, ‘I’m good.’ I think he’s fine. I think it’s more mental now. He’s getting some wide-open looks. I don’t think it’s his hips that are making him miss those shots. He’s just got to keep getting in the lab, keep shooting, keep shooting with confidence. They’re going to keep giving him those shots ‘til he starts knocking some down.”

*** Harvard has won nine straight games, since a 70-62 loss to Top 25 Colorado on the road on Nov. 24. The most impressive thing about the Crimson's win streak is that seven of those games were away from home: three in the Great Alaska Shootout (beating Denver, Green Bay and TCU), as well as at Northeastern, BU and Fordham. The Eagles also beat BC at home.

*** UConn has won nine straight over Harvard, dating back to an 80-70 loss on Dec. 22, 1972. There have been some close calls along the way, however, including a narrow, 79-73 win over the Crimson on Dec. 6, 2009 at Gampel in which Jeremy Lin scored 30 points and had this impressive dunk:

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Monday, January 6, 2014

No UConn in My AP Top 25 for First Time This Season

Remember a couple of years ago, when Texas wanted to secede from the United States? UConn probably wishes that had gone through after this past week.

Losses at Houston and SMU knock UConn out of my AP Top 25 ballot. The SMU loss is somewhat understandable, but it's the Houston loss that likely will not look good come Selection Sunday. I don't think the Cougars are all that good -- especially down three starters -- though they certainly shot the lights out in the first half on New Year's Eve against the Huskies.

Anyway, UConn doesn't deserve to be ranked this week, but it can work itself back in the discussion rather quickly. There's a very good Harvard team on Saturday, and after UCF on Saturday, the following week's two-headed monster of Memphis (on the road) on Jan. 16 and Louisville two nights later in Storrs.

Also gone from my ballot this week are North Carolina, George Washington and Toledo. Joining the fray are Colorado, Kansas State, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

1.       Arizona
2.       Syracuse
3.       Ohio State
4.       Michigan State
5.       Wisconsin
6.       Louisville
7.       Oklahoma State
8.       Wichita State
9.       Iowa State
10.   Villanova
11.   San Diego State
12.   Florida
13.   Duke
14.   Oregon
15.   Kentucky
16.   Gonzaga
17.   Baylor
18.   Colorado
19.   Massachusetts
20.   Illinois
21.   Kansas State
22.   Cincinnati
23.   Pittsburgh
24.   Memphis
25.   Kansas