Friday, January 12, 2007

Marcus Johnson injury

UConn head coach Jim Calhoun said Friday that sophomore forward Marcus Johnson likely will not start Saturday against St. John's at Madison Square Garden because of a mild left calf strain.

Johnson will still be available to play.

Calhoun did not say who would start in Johnson's place, but mentioned the possibility of either freshman forward Stanley Robinson or freshman guard Doug Wiggins to fill the spot.

It will remain a game-time decision.

Read more about UConn's game with the Red Storm in tomorrow's Register.

Some gems, reads and thoughts

Another round of Big East coaches’ conference calls Thursday.

Some observations.

* Providence’s Tim Welsh is a happy guy these days. He took to the defensive a few weeks back when asked about the program’s struggles in recent years. Now, as the Friars sit undefeated in conference play (2-0), Welsh remains optimistic even without Sharaud Curry. A huge reason why: Geoff McDermott. The sophomore has posted some quality numbers.

* Pitt’s Jamie Dixon could not be found.

* Fred Hill, Rutgers’ first-year head coach, on taking over the job and moving on the bench: “I’ve moved six inches, but really it’s a few miles.”

* Cincinnati first-year coach Mick Cronin on leaning on freshman Deonta Vaughn to lead his team: “It’s difficult to ask so much of all these guys. What’s tough in our society is that someone anoints you Steve Logan or the next great player, and for players to place that much pressure on themselves is unrealistic. Mentally, he feels that pressure from me and it is tough to handle that pressure even for a young guy.”

* Dixon still cannot be found.

* The always vociferous John Thompson III on Patrick Ewing living in his father’s shadow at Georgetown: “He’s very much in the same situation I was in, but I tell him the same thing. He’s been Patrick’s Ewing’s son his whole life, he has a comfort level with who he is. Big Pat is just his Dad.”

* And if you could not get enough of Marquette coach Tom Crean after Wednesday’s victory over UConn, here are some of his thoughts on Dominic James: “Before you get on to the next level, you have to master the one that you’re in. He has to get to the rim, improve as a catch-and-release shooter and let his talents do the rest. He’s such a unique player. He’s never going to be a conventional guard. He’s very quick and fast and has an understanding. Last night he took a serious step toward that.”

Crean has a very likeable style.

Big East Director of Communications Jon Gust always throws out some interesting tidbits. On the call, he emphasized parity in the conference. Also on Wednesday night, all four conference road teams won. Here are a few more Gust notes.

* End of streaks
Jan.6 - Notre Dame’s 12-game winning streak ended at Georgetown
Jan. 8 -West Virginia’s eight-game winning streak ended at Notre Dame
Jan. 10 - Georgetown’s seven-game winning streak ended against Villanova
Jan. 12 - Connecticut’s 31-game home winning streak ended against Marquette

- More streaks?
How long can Pittsburgh and Providence continue to stay unbeaten in league play? The Panthers’ next two games are at home, but they are against two opponents who have been ranked most of the season -- Georgetown on Saturday and Connecticut on Tuesday.

If the Panthers can beat Georgetown to be 4-0 in the Big East, it will be their third 4-0 start in the last four years.

If Providence can prevail at Louisville on Saturday, it will be the Friars’ first 3-0 start in conference play since 1988-89.


This was passed on to me by reader Brian Flanagan of Guilford.

This year was supposed to be the season of the big man in the Big East. There is some truth to this, but this story debates where the current shot-blockers stand in college basketball.

Tough to argue with Pomeroy.

Thanks, Brian. By the way, I've always had this feeling that I will never share the same name as a character in a movie given my last name. You, on the other hand, are in good company, Mr. Flanagan.

Tom Cruise has played a cornerback in UConn football writer Chip Malafronte's favorite sports movie "All the Right Moves." He has played a Maverick and Charlie Babbitt and Ron Kovic and Lt. Daniel Kaffee (He wanted the truth).

But he also played a very good Brian Flanagan.

Tough break playing alongside Bryan Brown in that one. I always thought he was a poor man's Michael Caine.

I digress. By the way, feel free to share a few links to quality stories.

Thanks again, Brian.

Next, another fine read from Kelly Whelliston from the mid-majority via ESPN. He gives us a look at Trey Johnson of Jackson State. Good to see some true scorers still exist in the game.

Thanks to Bruiser Flint, once of UMass notoriety, Drexel is causing some problems in Philadelphia. The Big Five is now considered the Big Six, that is, at least for one year.

Seth Davis of debates who’s on the coaching hot seat. Late mention of Nike CEO Phil Knight in the story. Obscure reference, but I haven’t looked at waffle irons the same way.

Interesting take on non-conference victories, matchups, etc., from The Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy.

Also, if you’re in the neighborhood, the Register ran a feature on Doug Wiggins today. In addition, here's the follow-up to UConn's loss to Marquette.

Lastly, addressing the crowd situation at UConn games.

Toughest places to leave after an event:
1) Major Deegan or Cross Bronx after a Yankees’ game – the characters around the stadium cap the evening. It’s a free experience, won’t cost a dime, and at times, better than the game itself. Tough to find the exits, though.
2) Shea. If you’re not taking the subway, you may get a tour of Queens. You’ll pass LaGuardia a few times but you know that you’re out of the lot.
3) Meadowlands after a Dead show. We were kids. Had no idea what we were doing.
4) Times Square after New Year’s. Same applies.
5) Jersey Shore. Any summer day. The scenery is different than the Bronx at night, but it’s still scenery.
1,146) Gampel Pavilion or Hartford Civic Center. Some very weak sauce.

Monday, January 08, 2007

A few observations from LSU, light reading

Aside from UConn's shooting weauxs against LSU, the Huskies left Baton Rouge with a few lessons learned before starting this week at No. 24 in the Associated Press poll.


There were a few no-calls, a few make-up calls, and a few perplexing calls, but officiating cannot be used as a crutch. The final score: 66-49. In terms of strength, only Glen Davis had the appearance of a stronger, much more refined player in the post. When play began, it was a different story.

The Huskies held a rebounding edge (42-40) but away from the ball, LSU’s strength lied within, well, its strength.

The Big East schedule is loaded with physical play. This won’t be the last time someone will push back.


Enough has been made about this. It is an immediate problem in need of some fixing.

Doug Wiggins remains UConn’s most consistent shooter from the perimeter. He played only 12 minutes against LSU, and at times, saw very little opportunity to shoot or even drive against the Tigers. Jerome Dyson is getting his early-season touch back but head coach Jim Calhoun is looking for another shooter as well.

Foul shooting, though, is a very easy statistical category to change very quickly. Yes, Hasheem Thabeet is improving from the line every game. Jeff Adrien, who improved his foul shooting over the summer and is statistically a better free-throw shooter this season, struggled at LSU, going 1-for-6.

As much as the 3-pointer remains a great equalizer, so is the foul shot.


In his post-game press conference, Calhoun wondered if there are scientific studies on things such as effort and competitiveness. There are (still trying to dig up an applicable one to analyze).

You had a few things here. A national television audience. A good non-conference opponent. And a very good and competitive home crowd. They know their basketball at LSU. (By the way, the Maravich Assembly Center is a quality facility. The atmosphere for a college basketball game - at least three times better.)

The Huskies will not face a crowd like that until maybe Pitt on Jan. 16. Saturday’s road game against St. John’s at the Garden won’t carry the same clout.

Calhoun wants his team to adapt and improve in all three categories.

Marquette is Wednesday.

Now, some light reading.

If you want to read about futility, check out Division III Caltech.

One of the best features the New York Times runs every Sunday is its “Keeping Score” column in the sports section. During the baseball season, this space is loaded with statistical information broken down into clear English.

But even with college basketball, the reads are so thorough.

This is one writer’s take on the best player in college basketball.

Came across this notebook as well. It mentions Geary Claxton, RPI breakdowns and other nuggets. Give it some time.

Finally, No. 1 UCLA was upended this weekend. Bill Plaschke of the LA Times, one of the best in the business, captures the atmosphere on the road.

One last note: Here’s hoping New Orleans recovers.