Saturday, February 28, 2009

Emotional Rescue

So we know today was the final home game in the UConn careers of A.J. Price, Jeff Adrien and Craig Austrie. But what about Hasheem Thabeet? It seems a virtually certainty, though the big guy wouldn't bite – even after standing on the scorer's table after the game had ended, his arms raised in the air, as if saying farewell to the Gampel crowd.

"Today was the right time, our last game, we ended up with the win, so why not do it?" he reasoned. "(It was) goodbye for the season."

Of the pregame ceremonies, he added: "I wish they could call my name, but I'm not a senior."

When told he could have his Senior Day next year, Thabeet smiled. In what city?, he was asked.

"In Gampel," Thabeet replied. "I don't have enough credits (to graduate), so … we'll see."

Adrien wasn't buying it. When asked if Thabeet had just played his final game at Gampel, Adrien said: "You know, truthfully, yes. I think so. He's worked at it, you can say he deserves it. There are not many talented players like that who are 7-3. In my opinion, it might have been, yes."

***Not surprisingly, emotions ran high during the pregame Senior Day ceremony. Price had predicted that Austrie would cry first, but it appeared he lost that bet. Price appeared to get misty-eyed before any of his fellow seniors during the ceremony – even before his always-emotional mom, Inga.

"She was giving me the teary-eye before the walk, so she kind of set me up for that," Price explained.

When it was all said and done, all three scholarship seniors – Price, Austrie and Adrien – appeared to have tears welled up in their eyes.

Said Jim Calhoun: "I have never seen Craig Austrie cry, nor do I expect to ever see him cry again. A.J. cried, but I'm not sure if he was crying or he thinks he was supposed to cry, and he did."

It wasn't easy making the transition to a key Big East game.

"But you have to do it," said Price. "It's something you can't really prepare yourself for, as well, so it's kind of difficult."

Price, who's been through a lot over the past five years, admitted he got reflective during the ceremony.

"A part of me did think about a lot of different things that transpired throughout my time being here," he said. "But the one constant was, I just couldn't believe this was going to be my last game I was going to play in front of this crowd. I've played so many games here the last three years, you never really think about it ending. For it to happen, it's a reality, and it's just difficult."
***There was an embarrassing moment just before tip-off. The crowd was asked to turn its attention to the north wall to watch the unveiling of a banner commemorating Jim Calhoun's 800th career win. For several awkward moments, however, the banner wasn't unfurled.

Finally, while athletic director Jeff Hathaway handed Calhoun a ball that also commemorated the 800th win, the banner was revealed. It read: Coach Jim Calhoun, 800 Wins, Feb. 25, 2009."

*** With 41.1 seconds left and UConn clinging to a 66-65 lead, Thabeet was knocked to the floor hard by Kyle McAlarney while driving to the hoop and stayed on the ground for several moments. He eventually left the game, and Austrie (a 90-percent foul shooter last season) was allowed to enter. Austrie hit both free throws; Thabeet returned to the game a few seconds later.

"I didn't know he was that hurt, quite frankly," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said, rather sarcastically. "Maybe we should go to the NBA rule where I get to pick the guy (to shoot the foul shots). Did he get back in the game? Oh, he did. Oh."

Said Calhoun, with a wry smile: "If he faked it, I'm glad. I never thought he was that sophisticated about the game that he would think that way. But if he is, I'm happy for it, because I would have thought of it. Do I think he (faked it)? No. I think he took a good hit and wasn't ready to hit the free throws. But if you ask him and he says he thought of that, (raises thumb)."

Naturally, Thabeet was asked.

"I was not feeling good at all," he insisted. "I was trying to muscle up and go shoot the free throws. Then I felt that I couldn't, so I just took a break. I wasn't even thinking (about that), I was just thinking about pulling my numbers up."

***Thabeet also got a little jump-shot happy. He knocked down a 15-footer early but rushed one late in the game and missed.

"Sometimes it's OK, sometimes it's not OK," said Calhoun. "It's a good play if you make it. If I gave him a choice, he'd spend all his time out there."

Indeed, as Thabeet noted: "People walk by the arena and see me shooting jump shots and say, 'Oh, he doesn't need that.' Times come up, like today, I was open, I shot the ball. I shoot all the time in practice, and I'm shooting in the game."

***The bigger Huskies barely won the rebounding battle, 39-37.

"That's unacceptable, really," said Calhoun.

***Scottie Haralson played just three minutes but canned another 3-pointer on his lone attempt.

"If we got up 8, 10 points, and I felt we were in better control of them, defensively, he would have been back in that game," said Calhoun. "Because the threat of him now is starting to become a threat. And he actually does a pretty good job on defense. He is so hungry to play and enjoys every minute of it, he gives you full possessions every 35 seconds. And some of our kids who've been around now how to not give you a full 35 and still play effectively."

***Kemba Walker made one of the key plays of the game, corralling a loose ball and calling timeout while falling to the ground with 23.4 seconds left and the Huskies up three. He even hurt his knee a bit on the play, but said he's fine.

***The Huskies have now clinched one of the top four spots in the Big East standings – and with it, a double-bye into the quarterfinal round of the conference tournament. In fact, UConn had clinched the double-bye less than three minutes into the game, thanks to Villanova's loss to Georgetown.

***Travis Knight and Souleymane Wane were the latest ex-UConn players in attendance and recognized during a timeout.

***Forget West Virginia's John Flowers, it's Dead Flowers tonight at the Groggy Frogg in Southington.

Rock 'n roll!!!

It's Jaquon Parker

In my pregame post, I referred to one of the recruits at the game as Aquan Parker. In fact, it's Jaquon Parker, a 6-foot-4 senior shooting guard out of Kings Fork High in Suffolk, Va.

My bad.


Here's a new feature that will run about a half-hour before each game:

***UConn has six recruits in the house for today's game: Three players from Sagemont Upper School in Weston, Fla. --- Fabricio de Melo, a 7-foot center who played on Brazil's Under-18 national team last summer; Richard Peters, a 6-10, 220-pound center; and Rod Days, a 6-6 small forward. De Melo is a senior, but he may need a year of prep school. Peters and Days are both Class of 2011. All three will head to Louisville tomorrow for a visit, as well.

Also here are Tobias Harris, Middletown's Andre Drummond, commit Jamaal Coombs-McDaniel and Aquan Parker (that's the name I was given; I did a Google search and a search and couldn't find anything on him. I may be misspelling his name, or may have heard it wrong).

Finally, the Huskies saw Darius Smith, a 6-2, Class of 2009 combo guard out of Chicago, on Wednesday and liked what they saw. So much so that they'll see him again on Tuesday night.

***UConn's student section is pumped up. Lots of Jim Calhoun faces being held (expect a huge ovation for him today). Chants of "One more year!" for Hasheem Thabeet; lots of boos for Luke Harangody and a fan who had the nerve to dress up as a leprechaun. The Blue & White Guy is resplendant in ... well, blue and white.

***UConn assistant coach Patrick Sellers: "If we play anything like we have the last two or three practices ... look out. Stanley, especially (Sellers knocks on the wooden floor) has been playing great, so much energy."

Sellers thinks a lot of the latter has to do with Robinson going up against 7-foot Charles Okwandu and 6-11 Ater Majok in practice every day.

***A.J. Price was greeted by his Amityville High coach, Jack Agostino, during pregame layups.

***No word on who hands Calhoun the commerortive ball celebrating his 800th win in a few minutes.

Friday, February 27, 2009

UConn's Past, Present ... and Future

With plenty still at stake, including a double-bye for the Big East tournament – more on that later – UConn has to be able to overcome the emotions of Senior Day tomorrow against Notre Dame.

And make no mistake, it promises to get emotional. Jeff Adrien said he was emotional as a freshman watching Denham Brown, Rashad Anderson and Hilton Armstrong partake in their Senior Day three years ago, so you can imagine how tomorrow might go. A.J. Price, who's been through more than most over the past five years, figures he'll be plenty emotional tomorrow but is betting that Craig Austrie is the first to cry. Even walk-on John Lindner has hinted that he won't be able to keep a dry eye.

Adrien, Price and Austrie – along with walk-ons Lindner, Johnnie Bird and Jim Veronick and managers Kyle Lyddy, Niele Marshall, Larib Omara-Otunnu and head manager Ben Wood – will be feted in a pregame ceremony starting at 1:40 p.m. tomorrow.

"It's going to be a tough one for me, to some degree," said coach Jim Calhoun, "because this particular group has bounced back from their sophomore year to their senior year."

Here's some tidbits from today's practice on the three graduating scholarship seniors.


(on what seems like his 10-year tenure at UConn)

"I've been here for a while, a long time, it seems like. But I've only played three years of basketball. That's something I kind of regret, looking back on it now. I wish I had got all four in. Unfortunately, circumstances came upon us and you have to deal with them. It's just said to see it all come to an end."

(on his best accomplishment at the school)

"Growing up as a man. Without college, I don't think any of that would be possible. Given everything I went through, for me to still be where I am, I think it shows a lot of character and shows how I've developed."

Calhoun on Price:

"It's been a journey. This year, in particular, we've developed a particular bond … It's why you coach, it's why you do what you do. He really, really is a great tribute to someone who's overcome something none of us wanted. I will never get over sititng in the hospital that night when the nurse came in and said things don't look good. And then when I got a phone call about him with some self-induced misery, that was difficult, because he's a very loveable and likeable kid … very open, accessible, very articulate and very bright."


"It's been the greatest four years of my life, I'm sure it'll be an emotional day … I never complained, I just wanted to go out and do what I can … When I stepped out on the court, I wanted to project myself as a winner … It went by extremely quick. I remember those guys – Rudy, Marcus – like it was yesterday."

Calhoun on Austrie:

"He never asked one single thing in the sense of, 'Coach, you've got to give me more playing time, more opportunity.' He never uttered those words. He's a remarkable young man. Craig Austrie's got a bright future ahead of him, be it basketball or otherwise."


(On how he wants to be remembered as a UConn player)

"Somebody that plays the game every day, every game, and just goes to work."

(On whether he'll be emotional tomorrow)

"My freshman year, I kind of got emotional with those seniors. I knew them for about a year … it was very, very emotional for me, just a freshman. I could just brush it off and keep it moving, or I could be as emotional as I was as a freshman."

Calhoun on Adrien:

"His numbers speak for themselves, but I think his growth as a human being speaks even higher (of him). He came to us as a kid who learned that if you work exceptionally hard, do the right things, you'll be successful. Jeff took that verbatim. He worked hard and did the right things, then had a very difficult time sharing them. He gave it to the team all the time, but he couldn't share it. Now he's learned how to share it, how to help lead others – a lot of times by example … There will be greater names that we've had here, but his accomplishments are just marvelous."

Funny to think that Andrew Bynum could have been celebrating Senior Day tomorrow, too.

***Also expect a rather large banner commemorating Calhoun's 800th win to be unfurled on the Gampel Pavilion wall. It was covered up yesterday, but it seems logical that's what it will be. The real question is, who hands the commerotive ball to Calhoun during the ceremony?

Former A.D. John Toner will also be added to the Huskies of Honor. There's a (smaller) banner that will be unfurled tomorrow for that, too.

***Calhoun was asked about the never-ending controversy surrounding his postgame tirade last Saturday and the recent comments from a couple of state legislators that he should be reprimanded for them.

"People like Sen. Lieberman and all those other phone calls I've got throughout the country – the head of the NCAA and all the various people that have called me – that's all I've really needed. Quite frankly, all I've really needed is to go home and see Pat and my kids, look at these guys (his players) – that's all I really need. All I need is them. There have been other difficulties – much more difficult than this, trust me. Especially when someone tells you that you have a particular disease, that's a tough thing. Some of these other things that have gone on, I have no control over that – after the fact, certainly."

He did make one other ominous statement (though I wouldn't read too much into it): "This has been a real fun year coaching my basketball team, which is what I do and what I want to continue to do, wherever it may be."

***Remember when Hasheem Thabeet's comments about Luke Harangody were the controversy du jour? Not even a topic today. In fact, very little about the game itself was broached during today's availability.

***Despite what Big East officials said during a conference call yesterday, UConn has not yet clinched one of the top four spots in the Big East – and with that, a double-bye for the tournament. If the Huskies lose their final two games, it's possible they could finish in a three-way tie for second at 14-4 with Pittsburgh and Villanova (and behind both Louisville and Marquette). If that's the case, a "mini-conference" between the three teams – their records against each other – would determine who gets the final two spots for the double-bye. Pitt would have gone 2-1 against UConn and 'Nova, and Villanova is 1-1 vs. UConn and Pitt. UConn would be 1-2 against Pitt and 'Nova, so they would fall to fifth place in the league standings.

***UConn had three recruits from Sagemont Upper School in Weston, Fla at practice today: Fabricio de Melo, a 7-foot center who played on Brazil's Under-18 national team last summer; Richard Peters, a 6-10, 220-pound center; and Rod Days, a 6-6 small forward. De Melo is a senior, but he need a year of prep school to improve his academics. Peters and Days are both Class of 2011.

***Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg were in the house today. Good story from UConn men's basketball media relations man Kyle Muncy: Seems Muncy brought Nantz up to see the UConn golf team's indoor facilities (complete with videos of courses they can play, etc.) and he wanted to give the team a chance to meet Nantz.

Muncy tried to call UConn golf coach Dave Pezzino but couldn't get a hold of him. He walked into the facility and noticed that Pezzino was already there, with the team, on the putting green. Muncy told the team he had a special guest with him and in walked Nantz, who regaled the golfers for about 20 minutes with tales of his days as Fred Couples' college roommate, etc.

Needless to say, the UConn golfers were thrilled.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Statements from UConn

I love my job, love writing and love reporting. I'm very proud of my occupation as a sports writer and won't apologize for my career in the field. Yet occasionally, there are aspects of the media that really bother me. Contradictions, really. Like why the media (and fans) crucify Major League Baseball players for past use of steroids yet completely burying their collective heads in the sand as the most popular league in America, the National Football League, swims in a sea of HGH and performance-enhancers right in front of everyone's eyes.

And now, this recent Jim Calhoun controversy. Not sure how this thing has blown up as much as it has. Not sure how Calhoun seems to have become some sort of poster boy for being out of touch with the current economic crisis, and for coaches who make too much money.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Ken Krayeske had the right to ask the question he did, though it should have been done one-on-one and not in the grandstanding manner by which he chose. And Calhoun could have handled the situation better, as well. Short of that, Krayeske is proving more and more, with each interview he gives (freeing all non-violent prisoners in Connecticut?) that he is a fool and a fraud. And Calhoun is being unduly pilloried for last weekend's rant.

The Ken Krayeskes and Jason Pages of the world will likely brand me some sort of Calhoun lackey for that statement, but that's my educated opinion.

Anyway, here are statements released by UConn from president Michael Hogan, athletic director Jeff Hathaway and Calhoun on the subject that won't die:

Coach Calhoun is a valued member of the UConn community, a Hall of Fame coach with two national titles to his credit. His salary reflects a fair-market value and his teams generate considerable resources for our Division of Athletics. In addition, while the current controversy may cloud the facts, Coach Calhoun and his wife give back to our community in many ways – through the time, energy, and personal donations they invest in important charities. We at UConn (and the charities to which they give so generously) are grateful for their contributions and support.

As to the controversy over Coach Calhoun’s recent press conference, the question he was asked about his salary was perfectly fair, although the reporter, as Coach Calhoun suggested, might have found a more appropriate and less provocative setting for his inquiry. I am sure that we all regret the controversy, including Coach Calhoun, and I can assure you that we will continue to encourage all members of the UConn community to resist temptation and treat others in a judicious and respectful manner, no matter what the circumstances.

Jim and I have talked on a number of occasions about the debate over his comments from last Saturday. It is clear to me that Jim is now aware of the potential impact his comments may have had.

We are in agreement that in challenging and emotional settings we must always be sensitive to the manner in which we make our comments and how others may interpret them.

Everyone would agree that Jim, Pat and the entire Calhoun family are passionate about their commitment to assisting and participating in the many charitable endeavors associated with our University, the state of Connecticut and on the national level.

The significant contributions of Jim’s 23-year tenure at UConn have provided our institution with a nationally ranked men’s basketball program along with a platform to showcase our outstanding academic institution and serve as a rallying point for students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends and the state of Connecticut.

I am confident that Jim understands the impact of his comments from last Saturday and I believe with this behind us, Coach will now be able to focus his attention on the remainder of the regular season and the postseason ahead.

It has become clear that my comments have been misinterpreted by some as being insensitive to the current economic climate that those of us around our country and here in Connecticut are all facing.

I believe I have a duty, responsibility and obligation to support the state I love and the many people and organizations of Connecticut that are in need. I look forward to continuing with the same amount of passion and commitment to assist people and causes that are important to me and my family.

Bits and Pieces

(A few leftover bits and pieces from UConn territory following Wednesday's big win over Marquette)

***Jeff Adrien's recent spate of subpar play (4-for-18, 11 points in his last two games) hasn't been beneficial to UConn's present, but its origin could be a big positive for the Huskies' future.

Confused? Well, Adrien goes up against Ater Majok and Charles Okwandu in practice every day. Lately, both Majok and Okwandu have been getting the best of Adrien -- blocking his shots, defending him well, etc. -- and it may have gotten into Adrien's head a little bit and is carrying over into games.

It says here that Adrien will snap out of it (though it's been a while since he's had a good first half in a game), but the fact that Majok and Okwandu are developing well in practice is a good sign for UConn's future.

In fact, the two African natives have developed a tight bond. It may sound odd, but when Okwandu was deemed academically ineligible last month, it may have been a blessing in disguise for the 7-footer who's still very new to the game. Now, he can develop in practice at a slower pace than if he was still expected to possibly contribute some minutes as the season progresses.

***The Huskies are high on Darius Smith, a 6-2, Class of 2009 combo guard out of Chicago. In fact, they'll watch him a couple of times in upcoming weeks -- including this afternoon during one of Smith's practices.

***After associate head coach George Blaney expressed the historical context of Jim Calhoun's 800th career win in the locker room following Wednesday night's game, the entire Husky team huddled together and A.J. Price took over. Price re-emphasized Calhoun's accomplishment, then led the team in a chant of "800! 800!"

***After watching Scottie Haralson miss his first two 3-pointers but keep shooting and finally hit a pair later in the game, Calhoun was impressed with the freshman's guts on Wednesday night -- though he used a slightly different term.

***(Tough one, going way back in the day) Who sang "Bits and Pieces"?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The 800 Club

Jim Calhoun's 800th career win, via a 93-82 barnburner over Marquette, was an emotional one – though nary a tear could be found in the eternally tough head coach's eye afterwards.

"My wife was crying when I talked to her on the phone," Calhoun said in his postgame press conference. "She gave me a Lexus for Christmas and I gave here a yellow rose for Valentine's Day. That isn't really much of a deal. But she said she'll have a little cake when I get home tonight. She's been the best friend I've had through this whole journey."

It's been a remarkable journey, no doubt, full of great peaks and a few valleys. One of those valleys came this week, following his outburst at a freelance writer following Saturday's game and some ensuing criticism from Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell.

He jokingly opened his postgame presser: "If you have anything else you want to ask me that's not related to our basketball team, I'd be more than happy to not answer you outside."

In fact, when he was done, Calhoun was asked by an out-of-town reporter about the situation with Gov. Rell.

"I talked to the Governor this morning, and we had a really nice conversation," Calhoun noted.

***Calhoun joins Bob Knight (902), Dean Smith (879), Adolph Rupp (876), Jim Phelan (830), Mike Krzyzewski (825) and Eddie Sutton (804) in the 800 Club.

"My dad always used to tell me, when I wasn't hanging around maybe the best kids in Dorchester and South Boston and some other places, that you're always going to be judged by the company you keep," Calhoun said. "I looked at the list, and I'm really happy to be in that company."

Associate head coach George Blaney told his team the historical nature of tonight's win.

"He told us that we were a part of history, and that Coach Calhoun couldn't get this win without us," said freshman Kemba Walker (nine points). "It's a good feeling knowing that I'm a part of history, and this team is part of history."

Added A.J. Price: "When it's all said and done, (Blaney) said Coach Calhoun would be one of the top five coaches of all-time. When you think about it, that really means something. I couldn't be more proud for him."

***Ah, A.J. Price. What a game. His 36 points were the most by a UConn player since Ben Gordon netted 37 against Nevada on Nov. 19, 2003. It also firmly etched his name next to some of the top players in UConn history, according to Calhoun.

"I look what A.J. did, I think of Ben, I think of Ray (Allen), I think of Richard (Hamilton), and some of the great players we've had," Calhoun said.

Said Price: "Just to hear him mention my name in the same sentence as those guys is special. On the other hand, I can't really enjoy it too much right now. If I want to be mentioned with guys like Rip and things like that, I've got to take this team somewhere special, and that's to the Final Four."

Price canned a career-best eight 3-pointers, none bigger than a dagger with 1:14 left to give the Huskies an 89-81 lead.

""I was pretty winded, but they didn’t do a great job of playing the ball screen all game. I actually felt disrespected – they continued to go under time and time again, even after I got off to a good start. At first, I was going to try to take (Jerel) McNeal one-on-one," Price described, "but I said to myself I can probably get myself a good shot because they haven't been playing the ball screen. I called the ball screen, once again they went under and left me wide-open."

***About 4 ½ minutes into the second half, Price made an ankle-breaking head fake on McNeal. McNeal bit and fell to the ground, Price stepped back, knocked down a jumper, then seemed to say something to McNeal – causing the UConn bench to erupt in laughter.

Asked about the sequence afterwards, Price insisted he didn't say anything to McNeal, but just "gave him a look."

***Price was hardly the only contributor in a game of great runs and terrific individual performances. Stanley Robinson had far and away his best game of the season with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

"Coach Calhoun told me that nobody could stop me from driving, which is true, so I just kept driving," said Sticks.

"He didn't just get to the rim," said Calhoun, "he got above the rim."

Hasheem Thabeet added 14 points, 15 boards and five blocks, and freshman Scottie Haralson – in a rare eight minutes off the bench – canned a couple of 3-pointers.

"It's very satisfying, but I'm still not satisfied," said Haralson. "I'm going to still keep working, on my strengths and my weaknesses."

Said Price: "I feel real good for (Haralson). All week, Coach has been pumping him up and giving him hints that he's going to be playing a little bit more. I've been staying in his ear, telling him to stay ready, keep doing the things he's been doing in practice. He got out there, missed the first two 3's, but he didn't let it bother him. I came down the third time, I had a shot, I saw he was more open, I gave him the ball and he hit it. He's going to help us in some big game this year."

***Think losing Jerome Dyson's a tough break? The Golden Eagles feel your pain – and then some. Dominic James, Marquette's senior point guard and one of the top players in the program's history, broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot less than five minutes into the game.

"His career at Marquette is over," Golden Eagle coach Buzz Williams said, bluntly. "It's probably a 100-day rehab."

Tough break for a team with Final Four aspirations.

"We will be accountable as a team, as men for our work from this point forward, despite the public perception of 'feel sorry for Marquette,'" Williams said.

***Give the Marquette student section some credit for at least one creative sign: A large sign in the shape of a dime, with Calhoun's picture on it over the words "Not Another Dime." At one point, a chant broke out: "How much money? Not a dime!"

Calhoun's lucky he didn't tell the bird-brained blogger that he wasn't going to give a nickel back. Who was well-advertised as coming to the Bradley Center in a few weeks? Yup, Nickelback.

***Tonight's crowd (19,091) was the largest ever to see a game in the state of Wisconsin. They went home disappointed, but got to watch a truly stirring show.

*** Calhoun harked back to win No. 1 at UConn, on Nov. 29, 1986 over UMass.

"The day before, the team (Northeastern) I left, intelligently – Reggie Lewis, God rest his soul, and Andre LaFleur, one of my assistants – beat Louisville, the defending national champs. I watched that game. Then I watched my seven kids I had, and six walk-ons, take on UMass and we won by about four. I still remember the old fieldhouse, there might have been 2,000 people there. It seems like a long time ago, and in some ways, it seems like yesterday."

James Won't Ride Again

Marquette senior point guard Dominic James is out for the game with what's simply being called a left foot injury. James limped off the court about five minutes into play, shortly after burying a 3-pointer.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Milwaukee's Best

Greetings from Milwaukee, home of Laverne & Shirley, Happy Days, Johntel Franklin, Jeffrey Dahmer, sausage races, the Brewers, Bucks, Bud Selig and, of course, beer. Lots of beer.

Oh, and home of Marquette, too, alma mater of Doc Rivers, Dwyane Wade, Buddy Cianci (law school) and Chris Farley (holy schneikies!!!) among many others. Currently enrolled there is perhaps the best senior guard triumvirate in the nation – Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews and Dominic James. Throw in small forward Lazare Hayward and it seems one of the four breaks a new school record every night.

With the Golden Eagles so strong at guard, tomorrow night's game should be the one where the Huskies miss Jerome Dyson the most.

"I think it'll be the greatest challenge from the perimeter we're going to face all year," said Jim Calhoun. "Notre Dame has two good players, but they aren't the quality of the combination of the three of them. And then Hayward can make jump shots. It just really spaces you, which makes it a little more difficult for us."

Since Dyson went down with a season-ending knee injury five minutes into the Syracuse game on Feb. 11, Calhoun said the Huskies (25-2, 13-2) have held opponents to 33.7 percent shooting. But Marquette is a whole different animal.

"We have great fear of their 3-point attack and particular fear of their penetration," Calhoun noted. "The only team in the league that could eventually surpass us in free throw attempts would be Marquette, because of the penetration of all three perimeter players."

Added Jeff Adrien: "They'll blow by you if you fall asleep. They're scoring very well, they execute, they run their stuff. I think they're really more free this year than in years past."

Of course, in Adrien, Hasheem Thabeet and Stanley Robinson, UConn boasts a big size advantage over Marquette. Should be a good one tomorrow night (7 p.m., ESPN).

***The Ken Krayeske fallout continues: this afternoon, Gov. Jodi Rell told reporters she believes Calhoun would welcome "a do-over and not have that embarrassing display" when he shouted at the self-important blogger on Saturday. (Apparently, Rell had a lot of positive things to say about Calhoun, as well, which didn't make the Associated Press story).

Anyway, Calhoun wasn't about to get into a war of words through the press.

"I'm getting ready for the Marquette basketball game," he said. "Whatever people want to say or do, we have three really tough games coming up, and that's what I'm interested in."

***Calhoun was asked if Donnell Beverly and Scottie Haralson have looked good in practice lately and could be ready for more game action.

"Scott was given a long chance today, I thought he played pretty well. Gavin (Edwards), we'll give him some extended minutes to play Hayward, in case we have a problem. I don't think Jeff has done the small things, defensively, that he's capable of doing. Yet we need him, there's no question. We need his offense, because that's one of our advantages – his inside power."

No mention of Beverly.

***Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Time to go find Shotz Brewery … or just a local watering hole. Been a long day, definitely could use a little of what made Milwaukee famous.

Knight's School?

Greetings from … Philly. Yup, Philly, home of Rocky Balboa and Will Smith and … ah, never mind.

We're currently at the whim of two of the worst entities you'll ever find when traveling: U.S. Airways and Philadelphia International Airport. And by "we" I mean myself and Mike Anthony … and no, not the bass player from Van Halen.

Our U.S. Dare … er, U.S. Air connector flight from Philly to Milwaukee was cancelled due to mechanical problems. Come to find out three other flights to Suds City were also cancelled for the same reason (!?). Gotta love U.S. Air. Why would Sully Sullenberger work for an airline like that, anyway?

So, we got on a flight that leaves here at 5:55 p.m. and lands in Milwaukee at 7:15 p.m. – about the same time UConn is slated to arrive. Hopefully, we won't miss too much – if any – of the team's availability at their hotel. It does mean a few more hours in this God-awful airport, however. Honestly, I can't think of a time I've ever flown through here where there wasn't some sort of snafu. Fellow travelers, you with me on this one?

Anyway, I realize this blog has been a little light on recruiting news lately, for various reasons. (And not because I'm busy trying to get Jim Calhoun to give money back from his contract. Guess I'm not doing my job, am I).

Here's a little something: Brandon Knight, the top-rated Class of 2010 point guard in America, according to, likes UConn a lot. According to someone close to him, the Huskies are "definitely in the mix" for Knight's services, "they've just got to stay in the mix."

Calhoun, George Blaney and Pat Sellers have all been down to Fort Lauderdale to see Knight play at Pine Crest High. Sellers also saw Knight play recently in New York, and Knight was at Storrs last season for a game against Marquette.

Of course, coaches from Syracuse, Georgetown, Duke, Miami, Florida, Kentucky, Kansas, Texas … virtually every major program in the country have come down to see Knight play. Knight won't start seriously paring down schools until this summer. We're told he loves the Big East and loves the fact that UConn sends so many players to the NBA, and that ultimately his decision will come down to whether he wants to stay near home or take his outstanding game (and 4.2 GPA) away from home.

Anyway, that's all I've got for now. Talk to you soon from Milwaukee … hopefully.