Sunday, March 15, 2009

All Aboard!

Some notes & quotes from Selection Sunday at Gampel Pavilion, where UConn learned it's the No. 1 seed in the West and will face Tennessee-Chattanooga on Thursday in Philly:

Jim Calhoun: "Even in 2004, as good as we were, we were a two-seed. And we won a national championship. This is an objective committee saying that they're one of the four best teams in America. That's a nice thing to be able to hang up on your wall."

Calhoun admitted he thought the loss of Jerome Dyson might have an impact on whether the Huskies got a top seed or a No. 2 seed.

"I was nervous that they were going to make that a factor ... but I think the body of our work was just too strong, and all those wins on the road – at Louisville, at Marquette, at Gonzaga – those things really hold an awful lot of weight. I think they had a tough time turning that down, the fact that we were just so strong on the road."

Memphis got the No. 2 seed in the West and, obviously, would face the Huskies in the Regional finals if both are able to get that far.

***Following UConn's marathon, six-overtime loss to Syracuse Thursday night/Friday morning, Calhoun was oddly critical of his team -- even saying, at one point in the post game presser, "We didn't come to play."

But upon a couple of days of reflection at his Madison home, he has come to realize what a special game that truly was.

"I’m still probably really upset, because I think when you play the sport and they keep score, you should try to win. (But) I really came to appreciate, without any prompting … just how proud I was of our kids, and just the grit they showed. I don't think they showed great execution, but in a game like that, you can almost throw that aside.

"From Hash diving, at 7-foot-3, to get a loose ball and call a timeout, to Gavin (Edwards) coming in and blocking shots, to A.J. stepping up big-time, to Stanley … and to Syracuse's kids. I think every kid was truly tested in an athletic sense. Never have I been involved with a greater test with what an athlete has inside."

In fact, Calhoun even felt the loss to Syracuse may have actually benefited the Huskies in the eyes of the tournament selection committee.

"I'm not so sure the six-overtime (game) didn't tell them, 'I think this team's body of work is great, but they also have some grit to them.' That might have helped us, in a strange sort of way."

"As we leave for Philadelphia on Tuesday, I know I'm taking a pretty gritty bunch of guys. I knew that, to some degree, with all the road wins. But given the circumstances, I'm just so proud of them, I really am."

Jeff Adrien learned something about his team against Syracuse.

"That we don't quit. We fight very hard to the end. A lot of teams could have quit, maybe in the third overtime. But we kept fighting, and obviously Syracuse kept fighting, too. It showed that guys really wanted it, and we weren't going out without a good fight. It's very unfortunate that we didn't come out on the winnings side, but it definitely was a great experience."

Adrien believes that's something that will carry over into the NCAA tournament. Calhoun agrees.

"As we leave for Philadelphia on Tuesday, I know I'm taking a pretty gritty bunch of guys," said the coach. "I knew that, to some degree, with all the road wins. But given the circumstances, I'm just so proud of them, I really am."

***Both of UConn's national titles, in 1999 and 2004, came out of the West Region. Of course, so did last year's first-round exit to San Diego.

***UT-Chattanooga earned an automatic bid by beating the College of Charleston in the Southern Conference tournament finals. Calhoun watched that game with interest because his close friend, Bobby Cremins, coaches College of Charleston.

"They're a very, very quick basketball team," Calhoun said of the Mocs. "They'll come at us, they seem fearless. We know that Texas A&M and BYU are there, but they're there for Chattanooga, too."

Calhoun likened Chattanooga scoring leader Stephen McDowell to Miami's Jack McClinton.

***Injuries may have had an effect on several teams' seedings, including North Carolina, which was the third overall seed -- due in part, most likely, to the questionable status of point guard Ty Lawson.

"They probably called Carolina, and Carolina probably gave the same answer I would have, that he'll be fine for next week. I'm sure he'll play, there doesn't appear to be anything broken."

***Don't tell Adrien he's in a slump.

"Slump? I don't feel like I'm in a slump. I definitely may be, since Jerome's gone, he had helped me out a little bit with maybe finding me a little more or whatever it was. But there's other ways of scoring and helping my team on defense. I've just got to figure it out. I've done it before, and I'll do it again."

***A.J. Price's father, Tony, helped Penn (not Princeton, as I originally wrote) to a Final Four in 1979.

"He'd always say that was easy, and I need to take it one step further," said A.J. "That's this team's goal to try to get to Detroit and play in that Final Four."

***Price's only personal NCAA tourney memory came last year, when he tore his ACL nine minutes into the eventual overtime loss to San Diego.

"You definitely want to get out there more than nine minutes," he said.

Sixty-one again, A.J.?

"Not that long."

***Just went from the media room into the Gampel gym to make a cell phone call, and there was Craig Austrie, hours after the rest of his teammates had left, working on his jump shot. Don't tell me he's not trying.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Princeton? Try Penn...

9:49 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

gotta love the kid for trying to get better, I believe his whole slump or whatever you want to call it is all mental. Austrie I believe can be as good as he wants to be. He just needs to find the confidence and unfortunately Calhoun isnt the type of guy to build confidence in them by taking them out after missing a shot or messing up on one play.

9:58 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good to hear such things about Austrie.

10:27 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also I thought it was funny that people are confident in saying Uconn wont make the final four but given how UNC and Pitt have played in recent they are a better lock then Uconn? Also since when is everyone so sure Memphis will win the West Conference when they havent played anyone worth mentioning?

11:08 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i mean...memphis did win at tennessee and at gonzaga. in fact they crushed the zags in washington. so they did play someone worth mentioning. already got my tix to glendale...

12:12 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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1:05 AM 

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