Thursday, January 03, 2008

Recruiting news

A couple of recruiting notes:

  • Nate Miles' paperwork should have arrived at the NCAA clearinghouse either today or tomorrow. If Miles is deemed eligible by the clearinghouse – a process that could take a few weeks – he then must be approved by UConn's admissions office. That may be the more difficult part of the two.
  • The Huskies have a lot of interest in Scott Haralson, a 6-foot-4 senior shooting guard from Provine High in Jackson, Mississippi. Haralson has been described by one person who's seen him play as a "poor man's Rashad Anderson."
  • While in Indiana tomorrow, the Huskies will take a look at Stephan Van Treese, a 6-9, 220-pound junior from Lawrence North High in Indianapolis.

Moving from the UConn future to the past: for those in need of a trip down memory lane, ESPN Classic will air UConn’s 75-74 win over Georgetown in 1996 Big East Championship finals on Saturday at 5 p.m. The game featured Allen Iverson, Othella Harrington, Ray Allen, Travis Knight and other future NBA players.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Quick hitters on The Hall

Some quick hitters from this morning's UConn men's basketball availability, just prior to their practice at noon. The Huskies will be leaving for Newark directly after today's practice.

* Jim Calhoun believes Cincinnati's upset road win over Louisville is a precursor of things to come in what appears to be a very well-balanced Big East. The key to success, he reasons, is to not squander any winnable games. If you're on the road and you're better than the opponent or playing better than that opponent, you've got to win.
"You can't let games get by you and assume you can make them up, because where are you going to make them up?" Calhoun asked rhetorically. "You're not going to make them up in Indiana, you're not going to make them up a lot of places. You've got to take that Belichick theory of being focused on one game at a time."

* Another interesting quote from the coach: "If Georgetown, because of the Final Four last year and returning the big kid, is the best team in the league … it doesn't seem to me they're very much separated from anybody else in the league, even though I think they're very good."

* Backup center Jonathan Mandeldove won't make the trip to Newark with the team, but the 7-footer will be re-evaluated tomorrow and might make the trip to South Bend for Saturday night's bout with Notre Dame. Mandeldove wasn't with the Huskies on their recent five-day excurision in Orlando.

* Craig Austrie still isn't 100 percent after a bout with pneumonia three weeks ago, but the junior guard said he's "getting there."

* Seton Hall is a guard-oriented team, led by 6-foot-5 senior swingman Brian Laing, who leads the Big East in scoring at 20.5 ppg, and sophomore guard Eugene Harvey, who averages 18.4 ppg and gets to the line -- he has hit 70 of 100 free throw attempts so far this year, both tops in the conference. (UConn's Jeff Adrien is second with 90 attempts, though he's hit just 53 of them).
The Hall averages 11.3 steals per game (tops in the Big East), led by junior Paul Gause, who averages 3.27 thefts per contest, and Harvey (2.09). They like to press and use their quickness defensively.
"We've got to take care of the ball and play defense," Calhoun reasoned. "Those are the two things I want us to do."

* Incidentally, free throw shooting is the only glitch Adrien sees in his own game right now.
"I could make more free throws, a lot more free throws," he said. "Other than that, I had some games where I didn't get as many rebounds as I wanted to, but I think I'm picking it up. Going into the Big East season, I know I can't have those games where I get one, two rebounds a game. I'm going to be there when it's time."

* In a category only media types will care about: a big thumbs-down for Seton Hall's sports information department. The Hall is the first school not to have its media notes available to the press the day before a game. (And its website is no picnic, either).

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Views from UConn Territory ...

... as the Huskies get ready to start Big East play:

In Jim Calhoun’s 22 years as University of Connecticut men’s basketball head coach, the Huskies have never had five players average in double figures for a season. But as UConn heads into Big East play beginning Thursday night against Seton Hall, all five of its starters are scoring at a double-figures clip: Jerome Dyson (14.9), Jeff Adrien (13.5), A.J. Price (12.6), Stanley Robinson (11.9) and Hasheem Thabeet (10.5).

This could be viewed in two different ways.

While it’s hardly a given that all five will remain in double-digits through the rest of the season, it does speak to the fact that the Huskies boast a rather balanced scoring attack. That four different players have been game-high scorers so far through UConn’s first 11 games – Dyson and Price four times each, Adrien and Robinson twice apiece (Adrien and Robinson shared high-scoring honors with 16 each against Florida A&M) – adds further credence to UConn’s balance. As does the fact that the five players’ scoring averages are only separated by 4.4 points.

However, it also suggests that the Huskies don’t really boast a go-to guy. Or who do you get the rock to when you absolutely need some key hoops down the stretch?

Price is probably the best bet. But he’s also the point guard. In a perfect world, the Huskies would have somebody Price could dribble-penetrate and dish off to for a big hoop.

Alas, this is not a perfect world, and the Huskies are not a perfect team. But they’re better – far better than they were a year ago and even a month ago – and it says here that they can make some noise in the Big East this season and make a definite run at an NCAA Tournament bid.

Road Warriors?

One thing that stood out to this observer in UConn’s 85-82 win over a game UCF team Friday night was the way the team comported itself in a hostile environment. While UCF fans will never be confused with Cameron Crazies, they were out in decent force – the announced crowd of 6,224 was the largest in school history, believe it or not.

From behind press row, the fans were particularly targeting Thabeet. Some of the things shouted at the 7-foot-3 center would never be said to him face-to-face – or, more aptly in the case of most of the vertically-challenged hecklers, face-to-chest. Thabeet seemed to get caught up in the interaction a little bit. After he’d make an inside basket or a foul shot, the big guy often gave a death stare to the leather-lungs behind the basket, or simply looked up at the scoreboard, then back at the fans with a satisfactory glance.

While this suggests a bit of rabbit ears on Thabeet’s part, it also hints at a bit of cockiness or “swagger,” if you will. This can’t be a bad thing as the Huskies head out for three more road games over the next 10 days to kick off their Big East slate.

Injury Bug

The story of the Big East so far has been injuries. Louisville lost both Juan Palacios and David Padgett to injuries and paid the price, losing to BYU and Dayton and falling out of the Top 25. (Both have returned to the Cardinals' lineup, Padgett in time for this afternoon's surprise loss to Cincinnati).

Syracuse lost second-leading scorer Eric Devendorf for the season with a torn ACL. And in consecutive games, Pittsburgh lost Mike Cook for the rest of the season and Levance Fields for most of the rest of the way.

Which leads us to the (admittedly somewhat cryptic) question: Which player could UConn least afford to lose? It says here it’s Price again, with Thabeet a not-too-distant second.

Price has been running the with aplomb. He leads the Big East in both assists (6.18) and assist/turnover ration (3.09). And, of course, he can score the ball. Quite simply, as A.J. Price goes, so go the Huskies.

Thabeet would be a huge loss on the defensive end of the floor. He’s currently second in the Big East in blocked shots (3.55 per game) and almost certainly leads the conference in altering shots, if such a stat existed.

Prediction Time

We liked Pittsburgh to win the conference title until the injuries to Cook and Fields cropped up. The Panthers will still be competitive with their stout defense, but losing their best player for at least two months will be tough to overcome.

Otherwise, Georgetown appears to be the best team, though the Hoyas aren’t great. In fact, there are no great teams in the Big East this season, just a bunch of good ones. UConn is one of the good ones. How good? We’ll soon find out.

Here’s how we see the Big East stacking up: 1. Georgetown (13-5); 2. Marquette (12-6); 3. West Virginia (12-6); 4. Louisville (11-7); 5. Villanova (11-7); 6. Connecticut (10-8); 7. Pittsburgh (10-8); 8. Providence (10-8); 9. Syracuse (10-8); 10. Seton Hall (9-9); 11. Notre Dame (8-10); 12. Rutgers (7-11); 13. South Florida (7-11); 14. Cincinnati (6-12); 15. St. John’s (5-13); 16. DePaul (3-15).

Monday, December 31, 2007

Roll of the Dice

Jerome Dyson has been named to the Big East's weekly Honor Roll following his 23-point, 5-rebound, 3-steal effort in the Huskies' 85-82 win at Central Florida Friday night.

Dyson joins four other players on the Honor Roll. Syracuse's Paul Harris was named Player of the Week and DePaul's Dar Tucker was Rookie of the Week.

With Big East play read to kick off this week, the Huskies have several players among the conference leaders.
  • Dyson is 14th in scoring at 14.9 ppg and Jeff Adrien (13.5) is 23rd.
  • A.J. Price leads the league with 6.18 assists per game and is also tops in assist/turnover ration (3.09).
  • Hasheem Thabeet is second in both field goal percentage (.632) and blocked shots (3.55 per game).
  • Adrien is sixth in rebounding (9.0) and Dyson is 12th in free throw percentage (78 percent).
As a team, the Huskies are fourth in the conference in scoring offense (82.2) and ninth in scoring defense (66.5). UConn leads the league in field goal percentage defense (.358), rebounding offense (46.9) and blocked shots (9.09). However, only Rutgers makes fewer 3-pointers per game than the Huskies' 5.27.