It is c-c-c-cold out here (8 degrees), but surprisingly not too windy. And while it's supposed to snow quite a bit not too far to the south, Chicago isn't due to get too much snow tonight. Maybe just a dusting. A little different from Connecticut, I'm told, though the Huskies were able to make it out of Bradley this evening and arrived in Chicago about 7:15 p.m. local time (8:15 p.m. EST).
UConn, now ranked No. 2 in the nation, is here to face lowly DePaul. Their biggest challenge, it would seem, would be to guard against overlooking the Blue Demons. For these are not the Blue Demons of Ray Meyer, Terry Cummings and Mark Aguirre. Heck, they're not even the Blue Demons of Joey Meyer and Dallas Comegys. Or Dave Leitao, Wilson Chandler and … well, you get the point.
DePaul is 8-12 overall and 0-7 in the Big East. They've got one of the conference's top scorers (Dar Tucker, a 6-4 forward who averages 18.6 per game) and rebounders (6-10 sophomore Mac Koshwal, 10.5). Junior guard Will Walker averages 11.8 ppg and popped in 17 against Marquette the other day. Beyond that, the cupboard is pretty bare here.
In fact, a strong case could be made that the Blue Demons don't even belong in the Big East. A couple of sports TV talk show types were saying as much the other night. Jerry Wainwright is one of the most quotable coaches in the Big East, but his job could be in serious jeopardy. We were going to go over to Allstate Arena this afternoon to catch Wainwright after practice for an interview, which is always enjoyable. However, Metallica is playing tonight at Allstate, switching DePaul's practice to its campus, which is too much of a hassle to get to from our hotel.
(Speaking of hotels, my room number in both South Bend and now in Chicago has been the same, 611. Really should play that lottery number).
DePaul gave No. 8 Marquette a good run on Saturday, on the road, before eventually falling, 79-70. Tomorrow night's game is sandwiched between a bunch of more heralded showdowns for UConn. The Huskies are fresh off consecutive wins over ranked teams, including an emotional win Saturday night at Notre Dame. This Saturday, arch-enemy Providence (which is 5-2 in the Big East and swept UConn last season) comes to town. And two days later the Huskies travel to Louisville to face Rick Pitino and the No. 7 Cardinals.
Considering all that, it wouldn't be a stretch to suggest this could be one of those games where the Huskies come out a little flat. I can see DePaul putting up a good fight, maybe even leading at halftime, before UConn eventually pulls out a safe, double-digit win. I've never seen a coach who can will his team to victory like Jim Calhoun.
"This is one of those games, you go into a building without all the glitz and glamour," Calhoun said. "But they count this as a Big East win at the end of the season, just as much as they would any other win. So, it's really important that we stay in focus."
***Here's a familiar refrain: Stanley "Sticks" Robinson (5.0 ppg) was asked what he needs to do to get more involved offensively.
"Coach told me to shoot, to get involved," Sticks said. "But at the same time, I'm missing shots. I'm kind of dealing with driving and shooting right now. That's my game plan right now … I'm just anxious to get into that rhythm I haven't found yet … I think I'm doing everything according to plan. I've just got to keep working at it. Everybody will have their day, so it will come."
***When the Huskies played (and lost) here two years ago, Jerome Dyson lost three teeth after slamming his face into the floor while diving for a loose ball.
***Devin Hill, DePaul's 6-foot-9 freshman forward, hails from Stamford. So does UConn's Craig Austrie, though Austrie said the two don't know each other very well. He said they both went to the same high school (Trinity Catholic in Stamford) when Hill was a freshman and Austrie a junior, but Hill later transferred to St. Luke's in New Canaan.
"I haven't really even seen him play," Austrie said. "I've just seen him around."
So much for that sidebar story.
***Anyway, domo arigato! (And don't even try to pretend that Styx isn't the worst band EVER!)