Thursday, January 04, 2007

LSU, Big East, light reading

Spoke with LSU coach John Brady on Wednesday.

He discussed the Tigers in the Sugar Bowl, Baton Rouge, Glen Davis (check out a feature on “Big Baby” in Friday’s Register) and a city which emptied out because the other half of the population made the hour or so hike to New Orleans to watch LSU beat Notre Dame.

“I guess football has a pretty good following in this town,” Brady said. “For most of the week, it’s been quiet around here. Just me, the team and a janitor or two whistling by.”

He also spoke about last year’s run, when as a fourth seed out of the Atlanta Region, LSU made its first Final Four appearance in 20 years.

The way the Tigers did it, though, was interesting in terms of personnel. He then segued into his thoughts on Saturday’s game with UConn.

Nice transition.

“You know, I don’t buy what Calhoun is saying about playing with all those freshmen,” Brady said. “We did it last year with three freshmen, a sophomore and a senior starting. I don’t buy it from any coach.”

Of course, Brady said this in jest.


A few highlights from today’s media conference call with half of the Big East coaches.

Interesting perspective from West Virginia coach John Beilein, whose team defeated Villanova on Wednesday night.

He was asked about the 20th anniversary of the 3-pointer's inception.

Here’s his take.

“When it first came in, we really didn’t know how to guard it and I had been coaching for about 10 years then. Then we looked at percentages the first couple of years and saw that teams shot well into the 40s all year long. I’ll tell you one thing, though, it’s been good for us,” Beilein said.

“Whenever we take votes at the coaches’ meetings, with the general consensus, traditionally, I’m a believer in 'if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.' When we played last year in Kansas City, the line was back nine inches, but I don’t know if there was any difference.”

Next, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey spoke about the Irish’s 13-1 start.

He said the turning point of the season so far was the win over Maryland at the BB&T Classic.

He also commented on Kyle McAlarney's situation, after the sophomore guard from Staten Island was arrested on marijuana possession Friday morning. He is suspended indefinitely.

“As far as Kyle goes, he’ll travel with us,” Brey said. “We’re his best support group right now.”


Non-conference success continues at a high rate

With the non-league competition almost complete for 2006-07, Big East teams have had some success. As a conference, the Big East is 160-49 (.766). That is the best winning percentage since 1993-94 when the league was 80-19 (.808).

New coach vs. new coach

On Wednesday, two coaches made their Big East head coaching debuts and they did it against each other.

Seton Hall’s Bobby Gonzalez and Rutgers’ Fred Hill directed their first conference regular-season games as head coaches in the battle of local rivals at Continental Airlines Arena. The Pirates won 77-72.

Gonzalez was an assistant at Providence (1994-98), while Hill has spent time as a Big East assistant coach at Rutgers (2005-06), Villanova (2003-05) and Seton Hall (1998-01). Hill will coach his second league game against the league’s other new coach, Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin, who will be making his own Big East debut at home on Sunday against the Scarlet Knights.


Here's hoping Jeff Ruland catches a break at Iona.

Next, nice to see the coaching bug passed down from father to son. Here's a story on Tony and Dick Bennett.

Has it been more than 15 years since Wisconsin-Green Bay made a run?

Finally, Pat Forde’s piece from on Bob Knight from a few days ago.

Oh, the what-ifs.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Some insight from USF game

Here's a short UConn game note from last night's 69-50 victory over South Florida that did not make the web edition.

Some more insight and light reading to follow later on.


On a team whose guard rotation thrives on the mid-range jumper, the University of Connecticut returned to establishing first-half leads via the shot.

It comes off screens and inbounds passes but lately it has fallen into freshman guard Doug Wiggins’ hands the most. It happened against West Virginia. It continued against South Florida on Tuesday at the Hartford Civic Center.

“It’s something we look at a lot when we’re bringing kids in,” associate head coach Tom Moore said. “It shows that at an early age they know how effective the shot is and what it can do offensively. It’s hard not to like that.”

Even though A.J. Price did not shoot well against the Bulls in the first half, he relies on the now-lost college basketball art. Jerome Dyson opts to pull up from the perimeter or drive to the basket more so than pulling up in the lane and Craig Austrie has always adopted the pass-first mentality.

Wiggins, though, seems to prefer the shot more so than the other two options. He has made moving without the ball difficult to defend.

Against South Florida, he knocked down a pair of baseline jumpers off screens and inbounds passes while scoring nine first-half points, just missing his seventh double-figure scoring outing this season.

As an undersized guard first at East Hartford and now in the Big East, Wiggins has utilized the shot more than ever.

“A lot of it is creating space then pulling up. The rest is easy,” Wiggins said. “It’s also repetition. You have to develop it because it’s not for everyone.”

Sunday, December 31, 2006

UConn-West Virginia notes

Here are some notes from yesterday's game that made the Register's print edition but did not appear online.

Wiggins a bright spot
Freshman adds outside support for UConn in loss

By Brett Orzechowski
Register Staff

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – On a day when little went according to plan, Doug Wiggins continued to make gradual improvements Saturday during a season that started less than auspiciously for the freshman guard.

The East Hartford product finished with a season-high 20 points on 7-for-14 shooting from the floor, including four 3-pointers. Wiggins remained one of the only active guards on defense and played with poise, a concern for the University of Connecticut coaching staff heading into the school’s first road game at an otherwise raucous West Virginia Coliseum.

In the loss to West Virginia, the Mountaineers’ 1-3-1 zone left some gaps open on the wing and Wiggins took advantage of the opportunities. Collectively, the Huskies shot 6-for-19 from beyond the arc with A.J. Price and Jerome Dyson each adding one. Wiggins, though, was able to convert in key situations when UConn remained in the game.

“When the holes are there, and we knew they would be there, you don’t have much time to think,” Wiggins said. “We knew that the zone was going to be a problem, but really it was for a few minutes. There are days when all those shots aren’t going to fall. It was one of those for all of us.”

Wiggins continues to bring up the Hispanic College Fund Classic weekend, when he played minimal time with minimal confidence. For the first time in November, Wiggins was able to play in his backyard, the Hartford Civic Center, in front of friends and family. He said he was disappointed in himself. His usual affable demeanor was reduced to re-evaluation.

He credits UConn head coach Jim Calhoun with the change. The confidence booster against Sacred Heart, when Wiggins was 5-for-10 from the floor and finished with 12 points, started a string of seven games when the freshman became a quality contributor off the bench in the backcourt. In that span, he has averaged 12.7 points, picking up the scoring productivity that Dyson carried for most of the first five games.

In that same time, Wiggins has shot 13-for-27 from 3-point range, now the highest percentage (41 percent) on a team in need of more consistent outside shooting.


He has played the last two games without the protective sleeve on his right elbow, but Dyson continues to play selflessly for UConn.

Dyson left the game with about four minutes remaining in the first half to tend to a cut on his left hand. The guard chased down a loose ball and sliced his palm on one of the lower bleachers at the Coliseum. He returned for the second half with his hand taped up but only shot 2-for-9 in the last 20 minutes. Dyson said it did not affect his shot, but it just added to the list of self-inflicted scrapes earned since the season began.

Also, a stray elbow caught Dyson across the left temple, opening up another cut.

“I’m fine. When you have a little bit of momentum and you have to leave, it’s not easy coming back,” Dyson said. “Like with most of what happened today, it just wasn’t good.”


The polls have a cyclical way of filtering out teams and welcoming in others around this time of year.

After the unranked Mountaineers improved to 11-1 overall with the victory over UConn, West Virginia will likely receive a number of nods from voters who have shared the same opinion of the Huskies because of their non-conference schedule.

Much like UConn, though, the Mountaineers’ schedule was designed with a purpose. Now, with its first Big East win, a very young West Virginia will have the opportunity to break some ground in the top 25.

“We knew it would take some time. We really don’t look at polls. If it were up to me, I would just get rid of those things. Nothing good comes out of them,” West Virginia guard Darris Nichols said. “But it’s nice to get recognized for what we’ve done this season. We still have a long way to go.”

Brett Orzechowski may be reached at