Wednesday, March 12, 2008

No Average Joe

You might say UConn dodged a bullet when Providence lost to West Virginia in today's opening-round Big East tournament game. Providence, after all, is a nightmare matchup for the Huskies, having beaten them three straight times, twice this season.

But the Mountaineers boast a nightmare matchup of their own for UConn in the form of Joe Alexander. The 6-foot-8 jumping-jack forward torched UConn for a career-high 32 points in their prior matchup just 12 days ago at the XL Center.

The Huskies tried 6-9 Stanley Robinson, their best athlete, on Alexander, and that didn't work. They switched to 6-7 power forward Jeff Adrien late in the first half to equally ineffective results, as Alexander helped engineer WVU's impressive comeback in a 17-4 run that cut what was once a 17-point UConn lead down to three. UConn wound up holding on for a 79-71 win.

When asked on Wednesday if he was a particularly tough matchup for the Huskies, Alexander said: "I think I am. They've got such a big front line that are true big men. I don't think I'm a true big man, so that's a tough matchup."

"I'm a little bigger than Robinson, he's young," he added. "Jeff's a great post player, but he's a little bit less perimeter-oriented than I am."

While UConn has spent a lot of time talking about getting revenge on Providence, the Huskies will now have to deal with a team looking for revenge on that 79-71 loss in Hartford on March 1.

"I don't think we played too well tonight, I think we'll play a lot better tomorrow," WVU guard Alex Ruoff said after the Mountaineers' 58-53 win over Providence. "(UConn is) a good team, though. We're really looking for that revenge."


Curtis Kelly has practiced with UConn each of the past two days at Columbia University and will dress for tomorrow's game. Kelly dislocated his left elbow against Villanova on Feb. 23 and hasn't played since. He's averaging just 2.0 points and 7.6 minutes per game this season.


Unlike a year ago, when he was sure his team would earn an NCAA tourney berth after its quarterfinal-round Big East tournament loss, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim is resigned to the fact that his Orange (19-13 overall) are NIT-bound following their 82-63 loss to Villanova.

"We needed to win a lot of games," he said. "After last year, we probably needed to win two or three games to even get close to where we were last year. But that wasn't the thought. We knew we needed to win."

Boeheim won't even bother watching Selection Sunday.

"Even if we had won, I still wasn't going to watch it because of what happened last year. I watched it, and I thought we were going to be in, so I told myself no matter what, I'm not going to watch it."

Added forward Arinze Onuaku: "I'm on the same schedule as him."


Remember Dwain Williams, the PC guard who hit 3-pointers from all over the court in the Friars' Jan. 17 win in Hartford? He missed the Friars last six games with a high ankle sprain and hasn't been at any practices or games. A source close to the program said he went back to his San Diego home to get a second opinion on his ankle in hopes of avoiding surgery. He's been back on campus since but is solely concentrating on his schoolwork.


The chant of "Fire Welsh!" went up in the waning seconds of PC's loss to West Virginia. It's a strong possiblity, as the Friars are now just 1-10 in Big East tourney games and 0-2 in NCAA tourney games over Welsh's 10 years at the school. Who'd replace him? Phil Martelli, Jim O'Brien and Jim Larranaga have been mentioned as possibilities, but don't overlook Craig Robinson, the dynamo coach just a few miles across town from PC at Brown. (Robinson, by the way, is Barack Obama's brother-in-law).


Seen sitting behind the Providence bench: Ex-NFLers Warren Moon and Cris Carter.


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