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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