Monday, March 17, 2008

About Last Night ...

Some notes & quotes from UConn's Selection Sunday celebration:

So what do we know about the University of San Diego men's basketball team? Well ...

*They're nicknamed the Toreros.
*They've never won an NCAA tournament game in three appearances, losing all three games by single-digit margins.
*They've never faced UConn before.
*They beat Gonzaga 69-62 in the WCC championship game. Gonzaga, of course, beat UConn back on Dec. 1 at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston. Jim Calhoun stayed up late to watch USD's win over Gonzaga on March 10. "I don't know why," he said. "It wasn't a premonition."
*They're led by 6-foot point guard Brandon Johnson, who's averaging 16.9 ppg and shoots 37-percent on 3-pointers, and 6-8 forward Gyno Pomare (13.7 ppg).
*They're third-leading scorer, freshman Rob Jones (8.8 ppg) is the grandson of infamous cult leader Jim Jones.
*"They're a good, solid basketball team," said Calhoun. "They caught Gonzaga, shot the ball well. They don't score an awful lot of points, they try to keep control of the game. They're more of a defensive team. The biggest thing they did against Gonz. Is they determined the pace of the game and won the game because of that."
*The rest, we'll find out on Friday around 3 p.m.

THE WEST IS THE BEST

UConn certainly doesn't mind being placed in the West Region. If the Huskies get through their first two games they'll go to Phoenix for the West Regional. UConn's national-title runs in 1999 and 2004 both went through Phoenix.

"If history repeats itself, I'll take it," said Jeff Adrien.

Also, UConn's 2004 national championship win over Georgia Tech took place in the Alamodome in San Antonio -- site of this year's Final Four, as well.

Can the Huskies win it all this year?

"You'd best believe it," Adrien said.

Added Calhoun: "The good thing is, we're not going to play over our head. George Mason had no chance (after beating UConn in the 2006 Elite Eight), in my opinion. They played a great four games and went to the Final Four and weren't going to win the national championship. We can get there and anything can happen in two games. We've already beaten some of the teams that are ranked pretty high."

BATTLE-TESTED

This will be Calhoun's 15th trip to the Big Dance in his 22 years at UConn, and his 20th appearance overall. He is 36-11 in NCAA tournament games at UConn.

"If you win, the band's playing around you,"he said. "If you lose, all of a sudden you hear in the distance the band marching up the street and leaving you behind."

Juniors Adrien and Craig Austrie are the only two Huskies with NCAA tourney experience. But they're certainly not the only two who have watched it on TV.

"You grow up watching March Madness, this is the best time of year," said A.J. Price. "Stars can be made here, guys know that. We've got to be ready to play, and if we do what we have to do as a team, we can make history as well."

BIG EAST REDEMPTION

The Huskies were happy to see the Big East match its own record by getting eight teams into the Big Dance. Last year, Syracuse was curiously snubbed. This year Villanova, a bubble team, made the cut. The Wildcats lost to Big East regular-season champ Georgetown in part because of a controversial official's call with less than a second remaining.

"I think it's a direct reflection of last year, to some degree," said Calhoun. "I think they looked at it and said, 'how are you going to differentiate one-tenth of a second?' (Villanova would) be somewhat of an automatic, when you think about it, with that Georgetown win."

Added Price: "I've said all along this is the best conference, even though a lot of other conferences were getting a lot of notoriety, such as the PAC-10. There are no easy games, top to bottom -- the bottom team can beat the top team on any given night -- and it showed by getting eight teams in."

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