Monday, March 30, 2015

Rakim Lubin transferring, could cost UConn APR points

Rakim Lubin is transferring from UConn, according to his mom on Twitter.




Lubin played sparingly in his one and only season with the Huskies. He missed a few games late in the season after suffering a concussion during a weight-lifting incident, and was suspended -- along with Omar Calhoun and walk-ons Dan Guest and Marcel Lewis -- for UConn's loss to West Virginia in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off championship game on Nov. 23.

But Lubin also showed some physicality and toughness that his fellow frontcourt players sometimes lacked. His best moments came in the AAC tournament, when he played a season-high 13 minutes in a win over Cincinnati and had three points and three rebounds in a loss to SMU.

Lubin wound up averaging 1.0 points and 1.2 rebounds per game.

He may also cost UConn an APR point when it's all said and done. Transfers must have at least a 2.6 grade-point average, or the school loses APR points.


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Ryan Boatright a 3-point contestant, but not an All-America honorable mention

A few quick items today:

Ryan Boatright will be competing in the 3-Point Shooting Championship out at Butler University in Indianapolis on Thursday night, during Final Four festivities. The contest will be broadcast on ESPN.

Boatright declined an invite to play in the All-Star Game as his shoulder heals. There is no structural damage to his shoulder, and it's getting better with rest, but he just didn't want to risk further injury.

*** As you likely know by now, Diamond Stone spurned UConn (and, more notably, his hometown Wisconsin) and chose to take his talents to Maryland. While UConn had seemingly been resigned to this for a while, the fact that the Milwaukee native didn't choose the Badgers but instead fellow Big Ten rival Maryland was a surprise.

UConn will still get to see him up close and personal on Dec. 8 at Madison Square Garden, when the Huskies and Terps square off in a Jimmy V Classic game.

*** The AP All-America teams were released today. No UConn player made even honorable mention. To make honorable mention, you must either have been conference player of the year or received at least two votes by AP writers.

Boatright got just one All-America vote.

First Team

Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin, 7-0, 242, senior, Lisle, Ill., 18.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.7 apg, 55.3 fg pct, 39.5 3-pt fg pct, 1.6 blocks (65 first-team votes, 325 total points).

Jahlil Okafor, Duke, 6-11, 270, freshman, Chicago, 17.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 66.9 fg pct (64, 323).

Jerian Grant, Notre Dame, 6-5, 204, senior, Bowie, Md., 16.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 6.6 apg, 1.7 steals, 36.6 minutes (53, 298).

Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky, 7-0, 240, junior, Olathe, Kan., 9.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.0 apg, 58.8 ft pct (45, 285).

D'Angelo Russell, Ohio State, 6-5, 180, freshman, Louisville, Ky., 19.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 5.1 apg, 41.5 3-pt fg pct, 1.6 steals (51, 282).<

Second Team

Delon Wright, Utah, 6-5, 190, senior, Los Angeles, 14.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.3 apg, 52.9 fg pct, 83.4 ft pct, 2.1 steals (15, 186).

Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky, 6-11, 250, freshman, Piscataway, N.J., 9.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 55.4 fg pct, 81.4 ft pct, 2.4 blocks (8, 139).

Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa, 6-8, 240, senior, Sheffield, Iowa, 15.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.3 apg, 61.6 fg pct, (3, 139).

Bobby Portis, Arkansas, 6-11, 242, sophomore, Little Rock, Ark., 17.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 54.7 fg pct (2, 102).

Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia, 6-5, 215, junior, Atlanta, 13.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.5 apg, 87.1 ft pct (2, 98).<

Third Team

Buddy Hield, Oklahoma, 6-4, 212, junior, Freeport, Bahamas, 17.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 82.2 ft pct (3, 96).

Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga, 6-10, 240, junior, Portland, Ore., 16.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.9 apg, 53.6 fg pct, 46.6 3-pt fg pct (4, 93).

Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse, 6-9, 250, senior, Philadelphia, 17.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 55.2 fg pct, 2.5 blocks (74).

Georges Niang, Iowa State, 6-8, 230, junior, Methuen, Mass., 15.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.5 apg, 40.2 3-pt fg pct, 80.5 ft pct (1, 51).

Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga, 6-2, 182, senior, Holland Landing, Ontario, 11.5 ppg, 5.0 apg, 44.4 3-pt fg pct, 83.3 ft pct (1, 50).<

Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order)

Lawrence Alexander, North Dakota State; Justin Anderson, Virginia; Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova; Ron Baker, Wichita State; Jalen Cannon, St. Francis, Brooklyn; Karl Cochran, Wofford; Kyle Collinsworth, BYU; Quinn Cook, Duke (1 first-team vote).

Kris Dunn, Providence (1); Perry Ellis, Kansas (1); Rico Gathers, Baylor; Madarious Gibbs, Texas Southern; Anthony Gill, Virginia; Kendall Gray, Delaware State; Ty Greene, S.C.-Upstate; Olivier Hanlan, Boston College (1).

Montrezl Harrell, Louisville (1); Martez Harrison, UMKC; Tyler Harvey, Eastern Washington; Corey Hawkins, UC Davis; Tyler Haws, BYU; LaDontae Henton, Providence; Darrun Hilliard, Villanova; R.J. Hunter, Georgia State.

Stanley Johnson, Arizona (1); Tyus Jones, Duke; Tyler Kalinoski, Davidson; Tim Kempton, Lehigh; David Laury, Iona; Damon Lynn, NJIT; Derrick Marks, Boise State; Jerell Martin, LSU; T.J. McConnell, Arizona.

Mikh McKinney, Sacramento State; Nic Moore, SMU; Justin Moss, Buffalo; Saah Nimley, Charleston Southern; Cameron Payne, Murray State; Chasson Randle, Stanford; Justin Sears, Yale; Kenneth "Speedy" Smith, Louisiana Tech.

Keifer Sykes, Green Bay; Marcus Thornton, William & Mary; Melo Trimble, Maryland; Fred VanVleet, Wichita State (1); Thomas Walkup, Stephen F. Austin; Jameel Warney, Stony Brook; Dez Wells, Maryland; Joseph Young, Oregon (1).

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bummed about UConn not being in this year's tourney? Have I got a book for you ...

Bummed out about UConn's season being over, while the NCAA tournament rages on? Well, I know of this book about last year's remarkable run to a national championship ...



You can find it at local bookstores, including Barnes & Noble, as well as online at amazon.com, and the University Press of New England's website.

Always great to talk to UConn radio analyst Wayne Norman, and had a chance to do so this morning on his WILI morning program. We talk about the book, what went into writing it, why I wrote it, etc., as well as some other nuggets from the 2013-14 season, this past season and the program's future (including conference affiliation).

Do take a listen, if you get a chance.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Daniel Hamilton's mom: "He's going back to (UConn)"

Been getting some emails (and some strange comments on the blog) about the prospects of Daniel Hamilton and Amida Brimah electing to leave UConn and take their chances at the 2015 NBA draft.

It appears UConn fans have nothing to worry about.

Brimah's legal guardian said late last week that Brimah isn't thinking at all about throwing his hat in the ring of the draft. And on Tuesday, I chatted with Daniel's mom, Karen, on the phone, and she told me that her son has no plans to enter this year's draft, either.

"He'll be going back to school," Karen said, matter-of-factly.

And yes, that means UConn, not another program.

"He's definitely happy," she continued. "He wants the opportunity to continue to get better. He wants to concentrate on his studies. Those are the types of things that we care about."

Hamilton, of course, lost his grandmother, Lucine Noble (Karen's mom), recently. It's been tough on him, especially being so far away from his Los Angeles home. It was a decline in Lucine's health a couple of years ago that precipitated Isaac, Daniel's older brother, to break his commitment from UTEP and play closer to home at UCLA.

Karen, who wasn't able to get out to a UConn game this year because of her mother's deteriorating health, has done her best to comfort Daniel from afar.

"We've been on the phone every night," Karen said. "I keep telling him, (take) one day at a time."

Karen added that Daniel wants to improve not only as a basketball player, but as a person -- something easier to do at college than playing professional basketball.

"It's the mental toughness and things you have to deal with," she said. "It's not just basketball, it's maturing. When you're in a college setting ... we're talking about the difference between going to school and being in the pros. You can do what you need to do and get better either way, but you can't get your college experience back."

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Steve Enoch honored, Amida Brimah likely staying, Richard Hamilton loving retirement (and deodorant)

A couple of things today:

*** UConn commit Steve Enoch was named the 2014-15 Gatorade Connecticut Boys Basketball Player of the Year. Enoch, from Norwalk, played this past season at St. Thomas More School.

The 6-foot-10, 235-pound senior forward averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds per game this past season, leading the Chancellors (29-9) to the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council Class AAA semifinals. The state’s No.1 recruit in the Class of 2015 as rated by the New England Recruiting Report, Enoch scored 18 points with seven rebounds in an 83-76, come-from-behind victory over Vermont Academy at the Spaulding Hoophall Classic in January.

Enoch has maintained a 3.27 GPA in the classroom. He has donated his time delivering meals and clothing to families in need and has volunteered as a tour guide for prospective students at his school.

“Steven Enoch possesses tremendous integrity and initiative,” said St. Thomas More head coach Jere Quinn. “He has had a wonderful season while playing in the strongest conference in the country. He will have a very successful career at UConn as a student and as an athlete.”

*** There apparently has been some scuttlebutt about potential UConn transfers, seemingly based on Kevin Ollie's postgame quotes on Wednesday night. While the quotes did raise a few eyebrows, especially since they started off unsolicited, I don't think there's a whole lot to them. For the most part, the "exit interviews" next week are standard operating procedure.

I spoke with Amida Brimah's legal guardian, Nana Baafi, on Friday, and he scoffed at the idea that Brimah might want to transfer.

"Nobody’s thought about anything like that at all. That stuff is not … I don’t know how that stuff got out there," he said.

What about the NBA? A veteran Eastern Conference scout told me the other day that both Brimah and Daniel Hamilton would "both, for sure, be drafted -- maybe high second-round picks. To say they're first-round guys? I wouldn't say that right now."

But Baafi doesn't think that will happen, either.

"Shoot, honestly I don’t know. I don’t think so. He just took a couple of days off, we haven't had that discussion at all. It's not on our minds. We're not even close to that at all."

Then, asked about this past season, Baafi said: "Next year will be better, I know that much for sure."

*** Had a chance to chat with Richard Hamilton on Friday. He's currently promoting the new Gillette clear gel product called Undefeated, which promises wetness protection and no odor for up to 48 hours.

"From a guy's perspective, as a dad and an athlete, you need something that's gonna last you 1-2 days," he said. "Especially out in the sun."

Here's  the story I wrote for the Register, in which he talks retirement, his greatest memory as a player, and why UConn is the "best campus in the world," and here are a few leftover quotes:


(on who he likes in the NCAA tournament)

"I think Wisconsin. The only reason why I say that, you have to be lucky to win. You have to have a great team, but also be lucky. (Kentucky is) young. They don’t have guys on the team that have been in college four years, so when there's adversity, how do you handle when stuff ain’t going right for you? Are you gonna go out on your own, or stay in team concept? But also, they've got a great coach in Coach Cal, so ..."

(would he ever get into coaching?)

"You never know. One thing I love is being an analyst, doing work with NBATV, ESPN. I'm excited about doing that.


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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Is UConn trying to build a recruiting pipeline through Vermont?

UConn has bagged a few big-time recruits since Kevin Ollie took over the head coaching reins.

Daniel Hamilton was a national Top 25 recruit, as is Jalen Adams. Amida Brimah has proven to be a bit of a diamond-in-the-rough (his late-season play notwithstanding), and Steve Enoch appears to be better than some originally thought.

Still, the Huskies haven't exactly burned up the recruiting trails since their national title. They've lost out on numerous recruits, and while they're in on many of them and obviously can't get them all, it's a bit surprising that they haven't landed more.

It appears one of UConn's new recruiting pastures sits up in southern Vermont. Three of the Huskies' top targets play for Alex Popp up at Vermont Academy: Bruce Brown, a Class of 2016 (for now) combo guard; Tyrique Jones, a Class of 2016 power forward who hails from Bloomfield; and Samuel Mathias, 6-11 1/2 center from the Class of 2017.

UConn has offered all three players -- two of them (Jones and Mathias) in the same day. In fact, Kevin Ollie extended his offer to Mathias on the same day that Mathias went up against Enoch and St. Thomas More back in January.

It'll be interesting to see if UConn and Vermont Academy can establish a recruiting relationship. Popp was recruited as a player by Glen Miller when Miller coached at Brown, and he has known Miller and Karl Hobbs for several years and got to know Ollie out on the recruiting trails while he was an assistant at Holy Cross and thinks "very highly" of the Huskies' head coach.

"The opportunity to cultivate a great relationship with Vermont Academy makes a lot of sense," Popp said of UConn. "Say they miss on two of these three, or even three of three. We're gonna have a lot of great players coming forward. You're gonna go out and get other guys that can play at that level. Both parties are hoping the relationship can grow."

Here's a look at the three current VA players that UConn is recruiting:

BRUCE BROWN

"He's a leader, a guy who doesn't take days off," Popp said. "That translates to basketball."

Popp added that Brown, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound guard, is a multi-dimensional talent.



"We try to emphasize versatility in our program. We put him on the ball, off the ball. Defensively, ini a league where every team has rosters full of Division 1 players, he would guard four different positions in the span of a game. If LeBron James doesn't have a position, why do our guys have a position. He's somebody who really thrives at that."

Popp noted that Brown is very athletic, as well.

"He's explosive, both laterally and vertically," the coach said. "Combine that with his strength. He's a football player, with a football players' mentality. A lot of people compare him to Russell Westbrook. He just kind of overpowers the opposition."

Unprompted, Popp said that Brown would make a great backcourt mate with Jalen Adams.

"He's a power guard, he really is," the coach continued. "Looking at Jalen Adams, it's hard to ignore that. Put the two of them in the same backcourt, it would be special."

Popp said that Indiana, Iowa State, Michigan, Arizona State, UMass, VCU and UConn are working the hardest on him right now. IU's Tom Crean has been the most present of all the coaches. 

Brown hails from Boston, though his mom recently moved to Georgia. There has been lots of talk that Brown will re-classify to the Class of 2015, but Popp had no comment on that and, as of now, Brown is still '16.

"The best way I could describe Bruce Brown is he's a winner," Popp summed up. "If you're a college basketball coach, that's what puts food on your table. He's a winner. He's constant with it. It's not, 'I'm gonna mail it in today, coach, because we don't play in four days.' It doesn't matter if it's a simple drill, he wants to win every single drill in practice. It's remarkable how contagious that is when you have a guy who's as talented as Bruce Brown, because everyone in your program falls in line."


TYRIQUE JONES:

Jones is a 6-8, 240-pound jumping jack from Bloomfield.

"He grew up a big-time UConn fan," said Popp, "so they have that going for them, no doubt about it. That was his squad growing up."

Popp added that noted recruiting analyst Adam Finklestein recently named Jones the best rebounder of the Class of 2016.



"I spent time as a D-1 coach," Popp said. "For me, if you're not emphasizing rebounding in your recruiting, you're doing it wrong. Rebounding not only wins games, it wins championships at this level. He's very much a target."

Popp added that Jones has a "nose for the ball. He does a great job of winning all those 50-50's. He rebounds out of his area, above the rim. He's an underrated passer."

SAMUEL JAPHET-MATHIAS

At 6-11 1/2, 290 pounds, Mathias is a raw 16-year-old who has excellent hands and feet.


"He's a little bit of a dying breed," said Popp. "You don't have a lot of those positional, back-to-the-basket guys anymore. He knows what to do with it when the ball gets on the block."

Mathias was born in Nigeria and grew up in London. Ollie and Hobbs saw him play in some preseason open gyms and offered a scholarship after he went for 16 points and nine rebounds against St. Thomas More.

"In that game, he showed off an array of skills," said Popp. "He scored the ball on the block, pick and popped, scored with both hands, got a tip dunk. It was pretty obvious he could help UConn right away."

Of course, the Huskies would have to wait a couple of years, as the big kid is Class of 2017.

Whether UConn winds up with any of these players remains to be seen. But Popp is confident that any team that could get all three would be in very good shape.'

"You get those three guys," the coach said, "you're gonna win some national championships."


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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Ryan Boatright on his injury, future; Kevin Ollie on Boatright, Amida Brimah, and who wants to return next season

It's over.

We'll have a postmortem on this most frustrating UConn season some time tomorrow. As for now, digest some of these interesting postgame quotes:

RYAN BOATRIGHT:

(on whether he would have played had it been an NCAA tournament game)



Don't diss him, folks. Boatright made the right decision concerning his future. Really, it was the only decision.

More:

“It’s my last year. There’s no way. If I told you I wouldn’t (play if it was an NCAA tourney game), I’d be lying to you. But it wasn’t the NCAA tournament. Speaking with everybody that I need to speak to -- the coach, the trainers, the doctors and stuff -- they came up with the decision that I need to sit down. All I can do is honor that.”

Boatright said his shoulder injury has something to do with his rotator cuff, and that he'll likely have an MRI on Thursday.

“It was extremely tough. I was contemplating five minutes in if I wanted to go in there and throw my uniform on. It was rough. But I had belief in my team, I really thought we were gonna pull that game out. It sums up the season, man. Just inconsistent. We just need to get better, period, in all forms of the game.”

(on moving on to the next level)

“Just taking care of what I can control going into this process. I know it’s a long process, but it’s something I’ve been waiting for my entire life. It’s something I’m going to continue to work for, before and throughout the process. I’m just gonna control what I can control, which is my play. Hopefully, somebody believes in me and gives me the opportunity.”

KEVIN OLLIE:

“It just shows kind of our whole season -- the inconsistencies we’ve had. From the first half to the second half, I thought our guys really came out and played, started really executing and finding the open man. (But) we’ve got to do a better job as a coaching staff and as players to really fix that next year, because to be a good team, you can’t have inconsistencies as much as we had this year.”

(on the season as a whole)

“Fellas, we lost four games within 10 seconds. I mean, it’s not like we're in a damn pit. Ten seconds go our way, we’re gonna be in the NCAA tournament. I’m just gonna be real with you. There were a lot of games we lost at the end. I’m not crying over spilled milk, it is what it is. It’s a fine line. Those are the inches you’ve got to fight for as a coaching staff, as a program. I mean, it’s right there. It’s a fine line from being in the NCAA tournament or not in the NCAA touranment. ANd it’s a great life lesson I can teach the kids, too. You’ve got to value every game, every possession.”

Then there were these somewhat cryptic words:

“Whoever’s coming back, they’re gonna understand that we have a mission in mind. We’re gonna take the guys that want to be here, that are gonna fulfill that mission going forward.”

Asked if he's expecting transfers, Ollie replied: “I have no idea. I’m gonna have exit meetings next week, my door is gonna be wide-open. They can tell me their concerns, if they want to be here or not. If they want to transfer, I can’t stop them ... Hopefully everybody comes back. But, if not, we’ll keep moving on as a program.”

“I always have an open-door policy, with anybody. That’s the kind of relationship I want to have with my student-athletes.”

(on Boatright's chances in the NBA)

“It just takes one person in the NBA to love you. It doesn’t take all 30 teams, just one general manager, one person that believes in him. I think he really established himself as a better shooter this year. If you’re gonna be that small, at 5-9 -- he claims that he’s 6-feet, so we’re gonna say 6 feet -- he has to be able to shoot the basketball. I think he really worked on that this year, really shooting the ball at a high pace. And it wasn’t like he was just sitting in the corner. I mean, he had three people on him sometimes, and he still shot the ball at a high rate from the 3-point line.”

“He still has to work on body language and things like that. When you’re stuck in the NBA locker room, you have 30-year-olds, 32-year-olds, that you have to gain their respect. Not by talking, by working. I think he’s gonna do that from Day One. Hopefully, he’s in a position to do that on a day-to-day basis, because I know that kid wants it. He works so hard. Many times I try to sit him down, (he says) ‘No, coach, I want to work for my guys, get out here and practicre.’ I just wish the best for him. Because if he gets in a situation and it’s a dogfight, I’ll put my money on Boat.”

(on Amida Brimah, who played just three minutes in the second half and wound up without a point or a rebound for the game)

“He wasn’t banged up. Amida’s got to get better.”

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Hartford/New Haven lags in ESPN's 2014-15 men's college basketball TV ratings

Not sure what this says, but I think it says something.

Here are ESPN's TV ratings for the 2014-15 season. Hartford/New Haven ranks 29th, with a 0.97 rating, behind that hoops hotbed of Tampa/St. Pete and just ahead of San Diego. San Diego?

(Officially, Hartford finishes tied for 26th, since the numbers are rounded off. So Hartford gets a 0.8, along with Chicago, Jacksonville, Tampa, San Diego and Albuquerque).

You wonder one of the reasons why Louisville got the ACC invite over UConn? Louisville tops the list for the 13th straight year, this time with a 5.95 rating, nearly double second-place Greensboro-High Point, North Carolina's 3.02. Sure, Louisville certainly gets a big bump from all the Kentucky fans in the area, as well, but it still shows that the 'Ville is a hoops hotbed.

The AAC actually does pretty well on the list. Cincinnati (No. 6) and Memphis (No. 10) are in the top 10. Sure, Cincy also probably gets a boost from the UK fans (maybe Ohio State fans, too), but the numbers are what they are.

But perhaps the AAC is one of the reasons Hartford's numbers are where they are. In 2011-12, Hartford ranked 17th on the list. In 2012-13 (the postseason ban season) they were 14th. Last season, Hartford was in about the same place as it is this year.

It should be pointed out that these are only the ratings for games on ESPN (not any ESPN2, ESPNU or anything like that), so we're only talking about a handful of UConn games. But if you take into account all the ESPN platforms (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPNews), Hartford isn't much better -- tied for 22nd.

Louisville 5.95 656,900
Greensboro-High Point 3.02 689,040
Raleigh-Durham 2.73 1,135,920
Kansas City 2.44 923,290
Columbus, OH 2.08 913,550
Cincinnati 1.89 876,290
Dayton 1.87 466,930
Indianapolis 1.85 1,082,690
Charlotte 1.80 1,154,040
Memphis 1.76 653,560
Norfolk-Portsmth-N. Nws 1.68 714,410
Knoxville 1.68 515,190
Richmond 1.59 548,680
Greenville-Sprtnburg-Ash 1.50 842,020
Nashville 1.46 1,002,840
Milwaukee 1.35 893,210
Las Vegas 1.29 718,820
Oklahoma City 1.23 704,490
New Orleans 1.15 641,150
Birmingham 1.10 710,180
Tulsa 1.07 530,200
Atlanta 1.03 2,334,520
Baltimore 0.98 1,092,620
Detroit 0.93 1,833,320
Washington, DC 0.91 2,408,990
Chicago 0.82 3,477,250
Jacksonville-N. Brunswk. 0.81 659,630
Tampa-St. Pete 0.80 1,822,550
Hartford & New Haven 0.79 968,450
San Diego 0.76 1,054,350
Albuquerque 0.75 679,380
Buffalo 0.72 612,110
Phoenix 0.70 1,834,360
Salt Lake City 0.69 897,390
Cleveland 0.69 1,469,190
St. Louis 0.66 1,226,860
Austin 0.64 729,300
Minneapolis-St. Paul 0.63 1,730,170
New York 0.63 7,442,270
Pittsburgh 0.63 1,173,320
Denver 0.62 1,565,760
Ft. Myers 0.61 506,610
Orlando 0.60 1,472,960
Philadelphia 0.58 2,953,760
Dallas-Ft. Worth 0.55 2,603,680
Sacramento 0.55 1,345,960
San Antonio 0.53 911,680
Providence 0.50 605,930
Miami-Ft. Lauderdale 0.44 1,632,760
Houston 0.44 2,301,230
Boston 0.42 2,423,640
Seattle-Tacoma 0.40 1,802,920
Portland, OR 0.40 1,154,070
Los Angeles 0.34 5,523,800
San Francisco 0.32 2,476,860

ALL ESPN NETWORKS

Louisville 1.80
Greensboro-High Point 1.00
Kansas City 0.90
Raleigh-Durham 0.90
Knoxville 0.70
Cincinnati 0.60
Memphis 0.60
Richmond 0.60
Dayton 0.60
Oklahoma City 0.60
Columbus, OH 0.60
Indianapolis 0.50
Charlotte 0.50
Norfolk-Portsmth-N. Nws 0.50
Tulsa 0.50
Las Vegas 0.50
Greenville-Sprtnburg-Ash 0.50
Nashville 0.40
Birmingham 0.40
Milwaukee 0.40
New Orleans 0.40
Albuquerque 0.30
Washington, DC 0.30
Hartford & New Haven 0.30
Atlanta 0.30
Baltimore 0.30
Salt Lake City 0.30

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Some interesting words from Kevin Ollie, Rodney Purvis

Some notes and quotes from after today's practice, as UConn prepares for its NIT bout with Arizona State on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Gampel.

*** Ryan Boatright sat out of practice and is questionable for Wednesday's game. He suffered what appears to be a mild subluxation of his left shoulder after being hit coming off a screen in Sunday's loss to SMU.

“We’re just gonna treat the heck out of it," said Kevin Ollie. "Knowing him, he’ll be out there. But if he’s not, we’ll just go with the guys we’ve got.”

“Ryan’s a tough guy," Ollie added. "Hopefully, he’s back out tomorrow. If he can’t go, Terrence is gonna fill in, Rodney is gonna fill in, and we’re gonna play with the guys we’ve got.”

*** Daniel Hamilton attended his grandmother's funeral on Tuesday and was slated to fly home Tuesday night on a red-eye flight and be available for Wednesday's game (albeit, most likely, a bit tired).

*** Kentan Facey was cleared to practice on Tuesday, but only non-contact drills. If he wakes up and feels alright on Wednesday, he should be cleared to play.

*** Ollie on the lack of respect the selection committee appeared to show the AAC:



*** Ollie on Rodney Purvis's strong play lately:

“He’s getting the ball fullcourt and going down with a head of steam. It’s very, very hard to stop him when he starts doing that. And his 3-ball is going, and he’s making more of his free throws, which is gonna be a key to him if he wants to be an explosive scorer. Because he’s gonna get to the rim, he’s gonna get fouled a lot. For him to convert two free throws will really give him the momentum to keep attacking.”

“We’re seeing glimpses of what Rodney can do.”

(on Arizona State)

“Great transition team. They’ve got four JUCO transfers, they’ve got good, talented basketball players. And everybody can score. They usually play four-out, one-in, with Jacobsen in the middle. When he goes out, they bring in another shooter. There are gonna be a lot of shooters around the court.”

“They play four guards, sometimes they play (6-foot-6 Savon) Goodman at the five, so it’s gonna be a situation where I’ve got four guards out there. It’s not big deal. We’re just gonna go out there, whoever shows up and is willing to play, we’re gonna push them to play hard and we’re gonna prepare them to play the same way.”

(on Boatright ending his senior year on a down note)

“It’s tough, but he had a great senior year. Hopefully he remembers that, and hopefully the fans remember that. He had a remarkable, remarkable senior year. Yeah, it’s tough and all that stuff in the last game. But the games before that and what he was doing, there’s no way we would have been there. I was playing him 40 minutes. The guy’s not a robot, he’s a human being. It’s said that he went 1-for-12, but please don’t remember him that way.”

*** Rodney Purvis had some interesting things to say.

(is it strange practicing without Boatright, Hamilton, Facey?)

“Yeah, it is. But that’s what you have other players for, other Division 1 players for. Terrence is gonna have to step up really, really big ... I’m not sure if Daniel’s gonna come back.”

“He’s supposed to," said a reporter.

“Oh, he is? Thank God.”

(on Terrence Samuel needing to step up if Boatright is out)

“His number hasn’t been called that much this year, because of the greatness of Boatright. I just feel like he’s got to be ready to step up and be ready to make plays for us (Wednesday).”

(on how much the high ankle sprain early in the season affected him)

“It took a really, really long time. I was able to kind of plant off it, but not really have my full explosion. I can’t really gauge the time. I feel like I was able to contribute. I probably wasn’t scoring as best as I could, but I think I did a pretty good job on the defensive end, just trying to do different things.”

A reporter asked if it bothered him in his strong game at Florida.

“Florida? I kinda struggled in that game ... Oh yeah, when I came back in and hit a couple of big 3’s. I didn’t really need my ankles for that. That was mainly just catch and shoot, you know?”

*** Purvis noted that "next year is starting now" for the Huskies.

"Not only with me, but our entire team. Everybody’s confidence just has to go up a little bit. Boatright did a whole lot for us, carried us the whole season. Guys have got to start coming into themselves, because there’s gonna be no more Boatright.”

He added that he's looking forward to being more of a leader next season.

“I definitely am. This year, I kinda had to sit back a little bit and learn from Boat. Kinda waiting my turn, you know? It was kind of frustrating at times, I’ve got to be honest, because I was looking forward to coming in and being more. But I can blame some of that on myself. I wasn’t really ready to play a lot of the games. I’ve been going through a lot this whole entire season. I had a lot of things on my (plate), so I tried to put that to the side and play with a free mind.”

(on what he knows about Arizona State)

“I know they play like four guards, so this game is gonna be fun.”

(on potential for fatigue)

“We’re all 19, 20 years old, so there shouldn’t be any issues getting ready to play (Wednesday).”

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Giving the AAC a little much-needed love on my AP individual awards ballot

Nothing more irrelevant than the final Top 25 ballot of the season. Teams only care about their seedings right now for the NCAA tournament, not their rankings.

But, had to submit one, so here's mine. Also, AP voters must submit three All-America teams, a national player of the year and a national coach of the year. I included my votes for those here, as well (and gave the AAC a little much-needed love. How the heck did UCLA get in over Temple, anyway?).

1. Kentucky
2. Wisconsin
3. Villanova
4. Duke
5. Arizona
6. Virginia
7. Gonzaga
8. Northern Iowa
9. Notre Dame
10. Iowa State
11. Maryland
12. Kansas
13. Wichita State
14. Utah
15. SMU
16. Oklahoma
17. Baylor
18. Louisville
19. Arkansas
20. Georgetown
21. Oregon
22. North Carolina
23. Michigan State
24. VCU
25. Butler

ALL-AMERICAN TEAMS

First team
Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
Jahlil Okafor, Duke
Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
Jerian Grant, Notre Dame
D'Angelo Russell, Ohio State

Second team
Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky
Kris Dunn, Providence
Georges Niang, Iowa State
Tyus Jones, Duke
T.J. McConnell, Arizona

Third team
Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga
Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
Ryan Boatright, UConn
LaDontae Henton, Providence


PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Jahlil Okafor, Duke


COACH OF THE YEAR
Fran Dunphy, Temple

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There will be a new national champ this year. UConn is NIT-bound

And so, as you likely know by now, after UConn's 62-54 loss to SMU in the AAC championship game on Sunday, the Huskies are NIT-bound. They'll face Arizona State on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Gampel in their first-round game, and they promise to be up for it, despite the disappointment of not being able to defend their national title.



And somehow, I forgot to put this Kevin Ollie quote in my story:

Q. Is it going to be hard for them to gear up for (the NIT)?

COACH OLLIE: Why? You put on a UConn jersey. If you can't get gered up, then i don't want you on my team. So, no, you put on a UConn jersey, it's important when you put that jersey on and that's my message.

Here's NIT ticket info. Tickets are a real bargain:

Tickets for Wednesday night’s first round game vs. Arizona State are priced at $10 apiece and $4 for UConn students.

UConn Club members and Husky season tickets holders can purchase tickets at UConnTickets.com during an exclusive time period of Sunday night through Monday at noon.

Tickets to the general public will go on sale Monday at noon at UConnTickets.com and will have the ability to select their seats and print tickets at home. Tickets can also be purchased by visiting the UConn Ticket Office in Storrs or by calling the UConn Ticket Office at 1-877-AT-UCONN from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

UConn students can purchase tickets at the box office in Storrs, including game night.

Parking at the North and South Garages will be available for $5 on Wednesday night, which is paid upon entry to the garage.

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Raise money for the fight against brain tumors in the Hoops for Hannah bracket challenge

Three years ago, Dave and Jeanne Taylor lost their daughter, Hannah, after a long battle with a brain tumor. Hannah was a huge UConn fan. 

Last year, Dave and Jeanne started the Hoops for Hannah bracket challenge as a fundraiser to fight against brain tumors. It raised $2,675, mostly among friends and family, but they'd like to raise much more.

2nd Hoops For Hannah Bracket Contest

Join Us in the fight against brain tumors, the college basketball bracket contest where everyone wins!

Simple rules;
Entry Fee - $10 per bracket (donations above the fee greatly appreciated)
1st prize - 25% of entry pool
Donations - 75% of entry pool, plus any additional donations (donations will be shared equally by The Musella Foundation, Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure, and the American Brain Tumor Association)

Just click the link below to join;


PASSWORD - sammyhusky

Pay to;
or checks to;
Hoops for Hannah
PO Box 964
North Canaan, CT  06018

e.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

UConn is one win away from earning its automatic NCAA tournament bid

All you really need to know is that UConn scored 19 points in the game's first 22 1/2 minutes on Saturday.

Then, the Huskies scored 19 points in the game's final 6 1/2 minutes to win.

Also, Ryan Boatright is not only UConn's Mr. Clutch, he also gets a chance to prove the AAC coaches made the wrong choice for player of the year when he faces SMU's Nic Moore on Sunday.

Should be fun.

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Ryan Boatright cemented his UConn legacy with Friday night's buzzer-beater

A little late with this today (late night at the XL Center last night, as you probably know).

Anyway, I say that Ryan Boatright didn't need that last-second game-winner to validate his career, but it certainly helps cement his legacy at UConn.

Here's how Boatright feels about that:




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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Kevin Ollie, UConn talk about routine rout of South Florida

Some quick numbers:

In the (extremely) brief history of the AAC tournament, no team has shot better from the floor (54.5 percent) and from 3 (64.7 percent, 11-for-17), hit more 3's (11) or allowed fewer points in a half (14) than UConn did on Thursday night. And no freshman has ever scored more than rookie of the year Daniel Hamilton's 20.

(Alas, Hamilton isn't perfect: it was he who banged heads inadvertently with Kentan Facey in practice on Tuesday, causing Facey to suffer a concussion. He didn't dress for Thursday's game)

Oh, and South Florida is terrible.

Another number: 5,431. The attendance at the XL Center. Honestly thought it was closer to about 7,500, but it's not like they're gonna shortchanged themselves, right?

Anyway, expecting a bigger turnout Friday night in the quarters against Cincinnati. A game that promises to be a "dogfight."

KEVIN OLLIE:

“Our guys came out with intensity. We’ve just got to continue with that. It’s a short turnaround, we know that. It’s tournament play, so we’re gonna go back, get ready for Cincinnati. Everybody knows when you play Cincinnati, it’s a dogfight.”

(on Phil Nolan's seven rebounds)

“That was great. I challenged the bigs, in the Temple game, Phil played 20 minutes and got two rebounds, and Amida (Brimah) played 28 minutes and got one rebound. So, it was great to see those guys combine for 12 rebounds in their minutes. We want them to continue to rebound -- rebound out of their area.

“Phil did an amazing job. It doesn’t show in the points ... He sacrifices his body for our team, takes charges, does all the small things. That’s why I give him the minutes I give him, because I really trust him on the defensive end. And on the offensive end, he knows the right spots to be in.”

“He knows about this time of year. He started all six games of our tournament run last year. He’s a very experienced guy, especially in March and April.”

RYAN BOATRIGHT:

(on Cincinnati)

“It’s gonna be physical. I’ve played them a lot, and every single time we play them, it’s extremely physical. It’s gonna be a close game, it’s gonna come down to whoever wants to win the most. It’s gonna be a dogfight. They’re probably gonna play their match-up zone, so we’ve got to execute and break that zone down.”

NOLAN:



OMAR CALHOUN:

“I never lack confidence. Just a clean slate. Everybody’s just leaving it all out there, we all have the same goal in mind. We’re all just playing for each other.”

(on Cincy)

“It’s gonna be a dogfight. We beat them before, they beat us. We’ve got to come out with our best game. The best team’s gonna win.”

“I’m just healthier. We have a couple of days off before the tournament, and I needed those days to get my body back for this run. I’m feeling real good right now.”

Calhoun said his knee had been bothering him, as well as a sprained toe.

BRIMAH:

“Coach was talking to us about rebounding the last two games. We just came out and made sure we did that.”



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Kevin Ollie on Ryan Boatright: "Of course he wanted to win player of the year. I'd be lying right in your face (to say) he didn't."

Daniel Hamilton was named the AAC's rookie of the year on Thursday, and Pat Lenehan earned the league's Scholar-Athlete Award.

Both, of course, are well-deserved. Here's what they had to say:

HAMILTON:



"It's truly a blessing. I just want to continue to keep improving from this day on and keep getting better."

(on Kevin Ollie being a "second father")

"I can just talk to him about anything, his door is open 24 hours. Being to be able to talk to him about anything, on and off the court."

"It's truly an honor to be able to play for him, as well."

"This award means a lot. There were a lot of expectations coming into it, but when you've got coaches and teammates believing in you, it's not that tough."

Hamilton noted that his grandmother, Lucine Noble, passed away recently. The funeral is on Tuesday, and he will try to fly out to California on Monday to attend.

Added Kevin Ollie:

"You've got to take in consideration, he's from L.A., coming all the way across the country. Dealing with the academics, the time management we put on their lives -- it's tough. For him to continue to work and to have that on his back throughout the whole season, being named preseason rookie of the year, it's great. His expectations of himself are more than we expect of him. He's going to continue to do a good job, hopefully throughout this new season that we have, he'll continue his great play."

LENAHAN:



"It was completely unexpected. I didn't really think I'd be up for it. I know the scholar part, but the scholar-athlete part. It's an honor to receive the award. I think it says a lot about the University of Connecticut and the basketball program, really what coach Ollie stands for. I'm happy to be a representative of what coach Ollie wants us to do on and off the court."

*** Meanwhile, Temple's Fran Dunphy won coach of the year and SMU's Nic Moore was named player of the year. Obviously, Ryan Boatright could have won player of the year, as well, but Moore was the best player on the best team.

Here's what Ollie said about it:

"Anybody who's a competitor, you want to win player of the year. He had some great numbers, he led our conference in scoring, in assists he was right up in the top five. He did a wonderful job. He was unanimous first team, that's a great honor for him. Of course he wanted to win player of the year. I'd be lying right in your face if he didn't. But, at the end of the day, he doesn't have any control over that. What he has control over is getting our team ready to play, being a leader, being the point guard of our team. I think that's where his mindset is."


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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Ryan Boatright: "We've got to win four straight"

UConn begins AAC tourney play Thursday night around 8:30 p.m. at the XL Center. Here's what Kevin Ollie, Ryan Boatright and Amida Brimah had to say after practice on Wednesday:

KEVIN OLLIE:

(on the "formula" to making a long postseason run)



(on Amida Brimah winning AAC defensive player of the year award)

"Sometimes we tell Amida he needs to rebound a little more, because he tries to block every shot. I think the Temple game, he gave up a couple of offensive rebounds because he got himself out of position. Other than that, he’s a monster back there. We don’t want him to try to block and go help everybody. That means we’re not playing good defense.”

“To have the big fella back there, not even blocking every shot but deterring every shot ... we just need him to rebound a little bit more. I told him one rebound in 28 minutes is unacceptable. To be the defensive player of the year, you’ve got to finish possessions with rebounds.”

(on whether Brimah needs to be more assertive on offense, or if his teammates need to look for him more)

“A little bit of both. He’s got to go in there and post up hard, make himself available, create his shots. All my coaches used to always tell me, when the shot goes up, that’s a pass to you. You’ve got to go get a rebound, you’ve got to involve yourself in the game. That’s running up and down the court. We had plenty of fast-break opportunities.”

(on playing in front of the home crowd)

“It’s an added shot in the arm. You get down, or you get up, you hear the crowd going, it gives you a boost of energy. But we’re not gonna say we’re gonna win the AAC tournament because we’re in front of our home crowd. We saw in Memphis, the quarterfinals last year, we beat them in front of about 17,000 people. So, we’ve been on the other end of that.”

Ollie noted that Sam Cassell, Jr. won't be available Thursday night.


BOATRIGHT:

(on the need for other guys to step up)

“We’ve got two players, Daniel and Rodney, that can do that, easy. We’re playing 4-on-3 sometimes. It should be easy to get the basket. I told them, in order for us to go far, you’re gonna have to do that. They took it positively, and these last few days, they’ve been working extremely hard and having the right attitude.”

(on what it would mean to win the AAC tourney)

"A lot. It’s my last year. It could possibly be my last game every time we step out there on the floor. It means a lot and the team obviously because we want to make the tournament. In order to do that, we’ve got to win four straight."

(why is it possible)

"We beat every team that we’re going to face in this tournament. We beat them where we’re playing at, the XL. We should be confident going into those games knowing that we beat the teams that we’re facing already, we beat them where we’re playing at. And you should just have confidence in yourself, period. We’re good players and a good team, we’ve just got to go out there and show that.

(on memories of watching UConn's five-game run to Big East tourney title in 2011)

"I got in trouble a few times. I went to school late a few times, I watched Kemba and them.
It’s similar. I think they had five games, that’s even tougher, man. It’s kind of similar but we’ve just got to dig down deep and have a lot of pride. It’s going be tiring. There’s going to be some ups and downs, but we’ve got to stay together and keep fighting."

onestly, I haven’t watched USF lately. … We know they’re going to come in here and play hard. They’re not going to lay down. We need to go in there and take care of business.

(on talking to his teammates after calling them out a bit after Saturday's loss)

"We had a real long film session and we watched every clip, one by one. Then we watched the last five minutes and the first five minutes… I just told them they’re even going to come out showing that they’re going to take me out of the game and we’re going to figure it out from there. Or they’re going to go out and try to play us straight up and once I get to going off they’re eventually going to try to take me out of the game.

"I just told guys that’s your sign to step up. That’s your time to know that, ok, we’re going to let boat get us rest and we’re going to take over the game. We’ve got two, Daniel and Rodney, that can do that easily. We’re playing 4 on 3 at times, and it should be easy for you to get a basket."

"I told them in order for us to go far, you’re going to have to do that. They took it positively. These last few days they’ve been working extremely hard and have the right attitude."

(playing at the XL Center)

"It helps a lot. I’ve been saying it all year, we’re a totally different team at XL and at home than we are on the road, especially XL. We’ve been playing extremely well at XL this year. It has a lot to do with the crowd."
AMIDA BRIMAH:

(on winning defensive player of the year, other stuff)

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Amida Brimah wins AAC defensive player of the year honors

While he's more than deserving, I wasn't sure if Amida Brimah would win the AAC's defensive player of the year award this season. I guess I thought the possibility of awarding so many players (Ryan Boatright for POY? Daniel Hamilton for ROY?) on a sixth-place team might hurt his chances.

It didn't Brimah earns the award, after blocking a league-record 101 shots during the regular season.

SMU's Markus Kennedy won the Sixth Man Award, while his teammate, Yanick Moreira, was most improved player.

And while few would put the words "sportsmanship" and "Memphis" together in the same sentence, Memphis forward Shaq Goodwin was chosen the winner of the league's Sportsmanship Award.

Brimah, the latest in a long line of standout centers for UConn, led the American Athletic Conference in total blocks as a sophomore and was second in the league in blocks per game (3.4). He averaged a league-leading 4.0 blocks per game in conference play and was the anchor of a UConn squad that held opponents to 39.7-percent field goal shooting. Brimah, who was an honorable mention all-conference selection, started all 30 games for the Huskies, averaging 10.0 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.

Kennedy earned honors as The American’s Sixth Man after he averaged 11.2 points and 6.0 rebounds in 20 regular-season games off the bench. He shot 56.3 percent from the field and ranked 11th in the league in scoring in conference games (11.8 ppg). Kennedy was named to the all-conference second team earlier this week.

Moreira, who also earned second-team all-conference honors, was tabbed as the league’s Most Improved Player after he finished the regular season as SMU’s second-leading scorer (11.3 ppg) and the team’s top rebounder (6.4 rpg). He started all 30 games and ranked seventh in The American in rebounding and blocks (1.3 per game). He averaged 6.0 points and 3.9 rebounds for the Mustangs last season.

Goodwin averaged 9.5 points and 7.1 rebounds for Memphis, but was recognized by the league coaches for his sportsmanship, positive demeanor, commitment to player safety and public support of both his teammates and opponents.

The league’s Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the Year awards will be presented at a Thursday luncheon at the XL Center in Hartford.

Complete coverage of the 2015 American Athletic Conference Championship will be available on the conference’s Championship Central page atwww.TheAmerican.org/mbb.


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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ryan Boatright unanimous pick for first team all-AAC; Daniel Hamilton, Amida Brimah earn honorable mention

The AAC all-conference and all-rookie teams were announced this morning.

They are as follows:

FIRST TEAM

Ryan Boatright, UConn *
Nic Moore, SMU *
Austin Nichols, Memphis
James Woodard, Tulsa
Will Cummings, Temple

SECOND TEAM

Markus Kennedy, SMU
Yanick Moreira, SMU
Shaq Harrison, Tulsa
Octavius Ellis, Cincinnati
Louis Dabney, Tulane

HONORABLE MENTION

Daniel Hamilton, UConn
Amida Brimah, UConn
Troy Caupain, Cincinnati
Jaylen Bond, Temple

ALL-ROOKIE

Daniel Hamilton, UConn
Adonys Henriquez, UCF
B.J. Taylor, UCF
Gary Clark, Cincinnati
B.J. Tyson, East Carolina

* -- unanimous selection

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Monday, March 9, 2015

Sounds like Nic Moore will be the AAC player of the year

Listening to the American Athletic Conference coaches today on a conference call, it sounds like SMU's Nic Moore will be the league's player of the year. The award will be announced on Thursday around 11:30 a.m.

Here's what some of the coaches had to say:

Memphis's Josh Pastner:

“I would assume it’s gonna be Nic Moore, they won the league. I’d be surprised if he didn’t. But there’s a lot of great players in this league.”

SMU's Larry Brown:

"I think there are a lot of great players in our league. If you ask me, and I don't ever like to push my kids, but we won the league with (Emmanuel) Mudiay not coming, losing Keith (Frazier), Justin Martin. Certain people had to step up and Nic had a great year. I think we're all proud of him. Any time you play on a conference championship team, that's got to mean something.

"(Shaq) Harrison is great, (Will) Cummings is great. (Ryan) Boatright, I admire him. There are a lot of quality players in our conference that did a great job for their team. But Nic's one of my kids. We wouldn't be sitting where we are without him playing at such a high level."

Temple's Fran Dunphy:

"I think there are a lot of good candidates at (Cummings') position, a lot of really good palyers. It'll be an interesting ballot and vote. I will say (Cummings) is a terrific guy. We wouldn't know what to do without him. But many coaches would tout their leaders in that way. Just so much respect for the league, programs, coaches within that league. If he's honored that way, he would be very much respectful of that."

East Carolina coach Jeff Lebo:

"I think there are a lot of worthy candidates, a lot of point guards in this league certainly worthy of it -- (Ryan) Boatright, (Will) Cummings I love and Nic Moore at SMU has had a special season. Those three guys, in y mind, pop to the forefront. It's hard to pick one over the other. I don't think there's a clear-cut. If any onoe of those three win it, I wouldn't be surprised."


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Sunday, March 8, 2015

My penultimate AP Top 25 ballot of the season

The last (sorta) meaningful AP Top 25 ballot of the year. Let's face it, no one cares about the one released a week from tomorrow, after everyone finds out about their postseason fates.

This week, we welcome Georgetown, Davidson and Boise State and give Dayton, Murray State and Tulsa the boot. North Carolina hangs by the slightest of threads. That should be the least of the Tar Heels' worries, considering the punishment Syracuse faced (which I don't think was harsh enough), and the fact that UNC's improprieties seem far worse.

1. Kentucky
2. Duke
3. Wisconsin
4. Virginia
5. Villanova
6. Arizona
7. Gonzaga
8. Northern Iowa
9. Maryland
10. Notre Dame
11. Kansas
12. Iowa State
13. Wichita State
14. Utah
15. Louisville
16. Oklahoma
17. Baylor
18. SMU
19. Georgetown
20. Arkansas
21. Davidson
22. Butler
23. Boise State
24. West Virginia
25. North Carolina

Field is set for 2015 American Athletic Conference tournament in Hartford

The field is set for the second AAC tournament, which will be played at the XL Center this year. UConn opens up against South Florida on Thursday at about 8:30 p.m. The game will be on ESPNews.

If the Huskies win, they'll face a hot Cincinnati team on Friday at around 9:30 p.m. That game will be on ESPU.

UConn, of course, needs to win the tourney to earn the automatic NCAA tourney bid. If the Huskies win their first two games, they'll play Saturday around 5:30 p.m. in the semifinals, against the winner of Friday's Houston/Tulane vs. Tulsa matchup.

The championship game will be on Sunday on ESPN at 3:15 p.m.


Thursday, March 12 – First Round (ESPNU/ESPNews)
3:30 p.m.               No. 9 UCF (12-17) vs. No. 8 East Carolina (13-18) - ESPNU
6 p.m.                     No. 10 Houston (11-18) vs. No. 7 Tulane (15-15) - ESPNews
8 p.m.                     No. 11 USF (9-22) vs. No. 6 UConn (17-13) - ESPNews

Friday, March 13 – Quarterfinals (ESPN2/ESPNU)
Noon                      UCF/East Carolina winner vs. No. 1 SMU (24-6) – ESPN2
2 p.m.                     No. 5 Memphis (18-13) vs. No. 4 Temple (22-9) – ESPN2
7 p.m.                     Houston/Tulane winner vs. No. 2 Tulsa (21-9) - ESPNU
9 p.m.                     USF/UConn winner vs. No. 3 Cincinnati (22-9) - ESPNU

Saturday, March 14 – Semifinals (ESPN2)
3 p.m.                     Friday afternoon winners
5 p.m.                     Friday evening winners

Sunday, March 15 – Final (ESPN)
3:15 p.m.               Semifinal winners



Meanwhile, here's the schedule for conference award announcements:

Tuesday, March 10

All-Conference, All-Rookie Teams Released 

Ryan Boatright is a given for all-conference, Daniel Hamilton for all-rookie. Hamilton and Amida Brimah could be in line for all-conference honors, too.


Wednesday, March 11

Select Individual Awards Released

The American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Most Improved Player, Sixth Man and Sportsmanship Award winner will be released 

Brimah is among the frontrunners for defensive player of the year, though I wouldn't be shocked if he doesn't win.

Thursday, March 12

Awards Luncheon

The American Athletic Conference will present the following individual awards at a reception in the Coliseum Club at the XL Center:

Player of the Year

Rookie of the Year

Coach of the Year

Scholar-Athlete of the Year

Boatright for player of the year? Very deserving, but I think it'll go to Nic Moore of SMU. Hamilton has to win rookie of the year. Coach of the year is likely either Frank Haith of Tulsa or Larry Brown of SMU. I'd go with Haith, but either pick is fine. Fran Dunphy is worthy of consideration, too. For that matter, so is Cincy interim coach Larry Davis.

*** Tickets are available online at XLCenter.com, in person at the XL Center box office, or by telephone at 877-522-8499.

Additionally, all games of the tournament will have national radio distribution by IMG College and will be carried on SiriusXM satellite radio (XM 202, Sirius 218 and 92). Westwood One will have additional national coverage of Sunday’s tournament final. The American Digital Network will provide coverage throughout the week, including postgame press conferences and interviews with coaches and players.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Harsh -- but true -- words from Ryan Boatright after loss to Temple

Sorry, no video tonight. Did you really want any?

UConn finishes sixth in the AAC. It will play South Florida in its opening-round game on Thursday around 8:30 p.m. at the XL Center, and must win four games in four nights to earn the automatic NCAA tourney bid.

Can this group pull that off? Stranger things have happened -- though I'd caution against any 2011 Big East tournament comparisons just yet.

Here's what Kevin Ollie, Rodney Purvis and a frustrated Ryan Boatright had to say after the loss to Temple:

OLLIE:

“Not the way we wanted to close out the season. I thought we played very, very well the first half, the tempo was going our way. The first two possessions of the second half, they got offensive rebounds. That really set the tone. We never could get our tempo back. Our guys never had the poise to box out, to run a solid play. Credit them. They did a great job, getting up in us, giving us fits.”

(difference in Temple's defense against Boatright in the second half)

“There were no adjustments. Ryan was playing outstanding, but it comes down to rebounding, playing aggressive. Of course, they probably started denying. But they were denying in the first half. Other guys have to step up and make plays, you can’t just rely on Ryan. You try to take him off the basketball, they were creating a couple of turnovers. I know they really trapped the screen and roll when he came off the screen and roll in the second half.”

(didn't Temple switch and put Jesse Morgan on Boatright in the latter half?)

“They all did a good job -- Morgan, Cummings. When he came off pick-and-rolls, they were trapping him.”

(daunting task of winning four straight)

“I told them they’ve got a game on Thursday, and we’ve got to be tougher, or we don’t go anywhere. I wasn’t even mentioning the NCAA tournament.”

PURVIS:

“I think they just out-toughed us. They were getting offensive rebounds. We’ve got to be able to hit and put a body on somebody, that goes for the whole entire team, from the guards to the bigs.”

(what did Temple do differently on Boatright in latter half?)

“He was killing them in the first half, that’s what most college teams are gonna do. One player’s killing ‘em, they’re gonna try to change up their assignment. That’s what they did.”

(what's changed since the SMU win?)

“I’m not sure, honestly. Just a lack of energy. We really weren’t together these last two games, like the SMU game ... That Memphis game, from the top to the bottom, we weren’t connected. This game, we just got out-toughed in the second half.”

“This should feel like a fresh start for us. Just gotta have a breath of new energy.”

(can Huskies win four games in four nights?)

“Yeah.”


BOATRIGHT:

(what did Temple do differently on him in second half?)

“Fouling.”

“They had two, three guys on me at all times. Every screen I came off, they blitzed it. Ball screens, they blitzed it. Their game plan was to take me out of the game, make somebody else beat them. That’s when somebody else has to step up and make a play. It didn’t happen today.”

(what's got to change?)

“I don’t know, man. If I knew, I’d change it. Guys just got to step up, stop feeling sorry for yourself, know you’re a good player and have confidence in yourself. There’s no way there should be two, three guys on me and you shouldn’t take it as disrespect. Guys were triple-, double-teaming Shabazz, I was gonna go for 40. You’ve got to step up and have some confidence in yourself.”

(four games in four nights?)

“Anything is possible. But, we come and play how we did in the second half, it ain’t gonna happen. We’ve got to change our approach.”

(team's problems)

“Too many turnovers, gotta stop traveling, man. We travel too much for a Division 1 basketball team. We’ve just got to clean some stuff up. But I definitely believe in these guys still. There’s still a possibility, and I won’t give up.”

“It’s so frustrating. I pray all the time, I wish I was 6-10. I can’t control that. I try to help as much as I can on the rebounds, but that’s not my specialty.”

“Just play basketball, man. I can’t tell you what to do. You’ve got to play with instinct. Me telling you what to do didn’t get you here. All I can do is drag two, three people out, make a good pass. You’ve got to create -- a play for yourself, or a play for somebody else.”

“It’s irritating ... I’m not used to this losing.”

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Honestly thought there was no way Memphis would beat UConn Thursday night

We'll just leave you with some video footage.

The night started off positive for UConn, with Pat Lenehan ...



And Ryan Boatright ...



... being honored on Senior Night.

Then came an overall poor performance, as Memphis flipped the Senior Night script. The Tigers were clearly the better team Thursday night, and the game was only close thanks to UConn's massive (22-2) free throw advantage, something Josh Pastner is getting used to in the Nutmeg State.

When it was over, this is what Kevin Ollie ...



... and Ryan Boatright had to say ....




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