Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Philadelphia Freedom

Greetings from Philadelphia, home of Rocky Balboa, Will Smith, Rasheed Wallace, Sun Ra, Hall and Oates, Geno Auriemma, Kobe Bryant, the Iggles, 76ers, Flyers and world-champion Phillies (and Soul!). And a lot of historical figures, too.

Day One of the NCAA tournament got off to a slow start … literally. The wireless Internet ($16.50 per writer!) took quite a while to get going this morning. Lots of writers couldn't get on, and those that could were met with glacially slow Internet access. Nothing worse than a bunch of disgruntled writers who can't get on the Internet they (well, their company) is paying for.

But, the problem was solved, and everything's good.

Here's some news, notes and quotes from the Wachovia Center, where UConn will face upset-minded (and very loosey-goosey) Chattanooga tomorrow around 3 p.m.:

*** Craig Austrie will return to the starting lineup this afternoon. Freshman Kemba Walker started over the slumping Austrie in Thursday's Big East tourney loss to Syracuse.

"Craig and I have a very close relationship," said UConn coach Jim Calhoun. "He's always been the guy that, 'OK, now you're going to start after not starting 12 games, or you're going to have to sit because Marcus (Williams) is coming.' He's always been there as a guy, a player, a teammate. I took him in my office (and told him), 'I really believe in you … much more than you do.'"

Calhoun said he told Austrie, "You start on Monday in practice and you carry it, you'll start Thursday. He's had three good practices."

Austrie will start off guarding Mocs leading scorer Stephen McDowell, who canned 135 3-pointers this season.

***Here's a Register video of A.J. Price talking about the challenges UConn faces tomorrow, and a bunch of other stuff.

***It will be one year ago on Saturday that Price's season was unceremoniously ended by a torn ACL in the Huskies' first-round loss to San Diego. He went through long months of rehab to get back in time for the start of this season, but even he marvels at what Chattanooga's Khalil Hartwell has gone through.

Midway through last season, Hartwell tore his ACL in a game against Davidson. He finished the game but sat out the next four, and it seemed obvious his season was over.

However Hartwell begged to keep playing. Doctors eventually gave him the OK and, wearing a knee brace, he finished out the Mocs' season, even going for a career-high 19 point and 11 rebounds in a win over College of Charleston.

"I wasn't the same player, it took me a while to get adjusted to the brace," Hartwell said. "But I was still able to get out there and give some good minutes, help my team get some more victories. My team was better off with me than without me."

Hartwell added that his ACL was "completely torn. They said I might have had an old injury before, then all of a sudden after hyperextending it, it completely tore. The doctor said in the next 30 years, he may never see anything like that again, that it was a miracle what I was able to do with a torn ACL."

Count Price as being impressed.

"I know how difficult it is to come back from an ACL injury. So, for him to do that, that is really impressive."

Could Price have done the same thing?

"I don't think so. That does say a lot about him."

***Jimmy Fallon is picking Chattanooga to win the NCAA tournament this season. That's certainly funnier than most of his Weekend Update performances.

*** The Hasheem Thabeet Factor could be huge tomorrow.

Opposing centers going up against Thabeet for the first time – or one of the first times – in their career don't normally have good results. Last season, Notre Dame's Luke Harangody got off to a good start against Thabeet, but had three quick shots blocked after halftime and went 0-for-8 in the second half. This season, Louisville freshman Samardo Samuels appeared completely intimidated by Thabeet's presence, going scoreless in 19 minutes of play.

"Two shots," Price noted. "Two shots."

Indeed, Samuels took just two shots all night.

"It's almost like a 'wow' factor," Price added. "The first time (they) get on the court with him, they realize he's very athletic. He's not your typical 7-3 guy, if there is a typical 7-3 guy. He's very different. People that play against him for the first time, even in the Big East … it is very difficult for them to react and adjust on the fly."

Such is Chattanooga's challenge this afternoon.

"We can't back down, but we've got to be smart," said Shulman. "We're not going to sit there and challenge him all night long at the basket. A lot of people tried that. If it doesn't work for some of the Big East people, trust me, it doesn't work for Chattanooga. We have to make sure he goes this way, away from the basket, make him defend a little bit away from the basket."

According to Thabeet, the feeling-out process works both ways. Here's what he has to say about that -- and Jimmy Fallon's prediction -- in a Register video.

***Register columnist Dave Solomon doesn't believe ducks can fly. Geese, even turkeys, sure, but he insists ducks can't fly. Can someone please straighten him out?


Anonymous Todd said...

Great write up. $16.50 for a lousy internet connection?

I hope Austrie has a good game to get his confidence going.

I was hoping you would have asked them about Obama picking Memphis to make the Final Four. I am sure Coach would have had a funny answer.

7:51 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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2:10 AM 

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