Saturday, April 04, 2009

Detroit Breakdown

And so it ends for Jim Calhoun and the UConn Huskies, in the most unlikely of places: the Final Four. Calhoun had been a perfect 4-0 in the Final Four prior to Saturday night's 82-73 loss to an impressive, unrelenting, extremely well-coached Michigan State team.

It's too easy to say the Spartans wanted it more, though with a large portion of the NCAA tourney-record 72,456 fans at Ford Field bedecked in Sparty green, it's easy to see why MSU might have had a little more incentive. The Huskies played hard, they just didn't play particularly well: 16 turnovers, 21-for-33 foul shooting, 12-for-34 shooting in the second half, outscored 33-7 off the bench. The rebounding totals were even at 42 apiece, but the Spartans grabbed 18 offensive boards and seemingly every big rebound they needed down the stretch.

So now that the Huskies' season is over, what about the UConn careers of Calhoun and Hasheem Thabeet? Hard to decipher from their postgame comments (though it says here that Calhoun stays and Thabeet goes to become an NBA lottery pick).

First, Calhoun: "Very simply, I am the head coach of University of Connecticut, and I fully expect to be the head coach of the University of Connecticut," Calhoun said after the Huskies' national semifinal loss to Michigan State on Saturday. "During the next two, three, four, five months, which I've done every year for the past 10 years, I will reflect on some things. Do I have a little more things that I have to reflect on this year? Yes, I do. I'd be less than candid by not saying that. Were there some incredible disappointments by certain people who took things they have no idea about, unfortunately, and just started to jump? That's hurtful, I'm a human being. These are people I respect, care for and like, and they seem to say, 'We'll side with them and see if he's right.' But, I'm a pretty tough guy, I don't run from things."

Calhoun added that his happiest times over the past couple of weeks, since allegations of illegal recruiting broke in a Yahoo ! Sports story, have been with his players.

"That's why, in my opinion, this is one of the great teams in UConn history," he said. "Were they the greatest talent-wise? No. Were they as talented as some teams that didn't make the Final Four? No. But, it's something special, to get where they have been. I'm always going to love this team, coming off the most difficult summer of my life, physically … it's been incredible."

Thabeet was evasive when asked if he had just played his final game in a Husky uniform. To hear him talk, he's coming back – but I wouldn't bet on it.

"I'm a junior, so hopefully I can come back for my senior year," he said. "I was looking forward to the game on Monday, we didn't make it … I get one more chance … I'll listen to what the coaches tell me. They've pointed me to success."

Calhoun was asked if he believed Thabeet would return.

"I think his basketball future is incredibly unlimited, so it would be very difficult for me to look him in the eye and say, 'By the way, you can't move on.' But that's certainly going to be his choice. Would I like (him to return)? I would like to have him with me next year, yeah."

***One thing is certain: seniors A.J. Price, Craig Austrie and Jeff Adrien have played their final games as Huskies. For Price, it ends an incredible five-year journey of triumph and near-tragedy.

"I'll miss the program, I'll miss playing for Coach Calhoun, miss putting on the UConn jersey, I'll miss all that," said Price. "But, the show must go on. That's the beauty of life, you've got to keep on pushing and keep on struggling, and look forward to the next thing."

Price could be a first-round NBA draft pick in June. Adrien is also hoping to be drafted. Austrie hopes to continue his basketball career, as well, be it in the U.S. or overseas.

"It's not a good feeling," he said of the end of his college career. "I had expectations, I thought it was going to end a little different. But, it obviously didn't."

***UConn is able to roll out some impressive alumni to speak to its players throughout the season, but it's hard to top what Michigan State was able to offer on Saturday.

MSU alum Earvin "Magic" Johnson spoke with the Spartan players in the locker room prior to the Final Four bout with UConn. Ex-San Francisco 49er coach Steve Mariucci (a close friend of MSU coach Tom Izzo) and Minnesota Viking line coach Pat Morris also spoke. But it was Magic who stole the show.

"Nobody tops Earvin," Izzo said. "He's the best. I just love having him around and love what he did."

***Calhoun wasn't about to blame the pro-Spartan crowd for his team's loss.

"It could have been 7,000 people, as far as I'm concerned," he said. "I thought the court was great, everything about it was fantastic, except the outcome."

Price agreed.

"It didn't make a difference at all. When you're on the court, you're not paying attention to the crowd. You pay attention to the game."

***Tempers flared a bit with 1:55 to go in the half. Price had a shot blocked, Adrien grabbed the loose ball and was fouled going in for a layup by Walton. Walton quickly popped up and exchanged words with Adrien, and MSU's Marquise Gray stepped in and started barking at Adrien, as well. Thabeet yapped back at Gray, players had to be separated, Calhoun came out on the floor from the other side of the court, and order was eventually restored.

No technicals assessed, just a pair of free throws for Adrien (and he hit them!!!).

***Some more numbers: Price was 5-for-20 from the floor, had just one assist and two turnovers. In fact, UConn had just eight assists – its lowest total since it had only six in a 74-63 loss to Georgetown on Dec. 28, 2008.

Tonight was the first game this season UConn lost after scoring 70 or more points, ending a run of 16 straight games.

Stanley Robinson had 15 points and 13 boards but five turnovers. Freshman Kemba Walker, the start of UConn's Elite Eight win over Missouri, shot 3-for-9 from the foul line (missing his first five!).

The loss to No. 8 Michigan State leaves UConn 11-5 against ranked teams this season.

PRE-GAME PRIMER: Spartan Surroundings

Greetings from courtside at Ford Field, where a sea of green is poised to greet the "home" UConn Huskies for tonight's Final Four matchup. There were a lot of Sparty fans out on the streets of Detroit on my walk to the arena this afternoon, and as people still file into this cavernous stadium, it appears a lot of them will be in the building tonight.

But, as evidenced by the accompanying picture, there are plenty of UConn fans here, too.

Some sights and sounds from courtside:

***Magic Johnson just walked by, sporting his Sparty green. He had some fun with the UConn student section, which didn't seem to mind that he was wearing Michigan State gear and, rather, seemed awed by his presence.

***While an assistant coach at UMass, current UConn assistant Patrick Sellers recruited Michigan State's Goran Suton hard. Sellers even called up Suton's mother and introduced himself in her native Bosnian language, saying something to the effect of "I played basketball, too." Then, Michigan State went after Suton, who lived in Lansing, Mich. at the time, and he wound up going there.

***UConn had a hard, 50-minute practice at Wayne State University on Friday morning, before its open workout at Ford Field. Sellers said Stanley Robinson has been particularly impressive in practice lately, in every aspect of the game.

***Robinson's pre-taped message on the big screen: "This is Sticks, and welcome to the NCAA Final Four. Let's have some fun out there."

***Took a wrong turn on the way to courtside and walked by the visitors' locker rooms. Standing outside of the Michigan State locker room was Steve Mariucci, the former San Francisco 49er head coach who is close friends with fellow Upper Peninsula native Tom Izzo.

***Spotting UConn president Michael Hogan in the stands while the crowd was still sparse a good 90 minutes before tip-off, the UConn student section broke into a chant of "Hogan! Hogan!" Didn't realize he was so popular.

***Congrats to UConn radio man Joe D'Ambrosio, new (occasional) radio voice of the New Britain Rock Cats (he'll do about 50-60 games this season for WTIC and/or

What's New, Pussycat?

Heading over to Ford Field at 4 p.m. today meant one thing -- couldn't go see the Pussycat Dolls perform a free concert right outside our hotel. Didn't want to hear the Pussycat Dolls, mind you ... just see them. Oh well ... there's always Fergie and Staind tomorrow (not a big fan of either, but they will be playing as part of the Final Four's free concert series out by the Riverwalk, for those of you in Detroit).

One thing was evident on the mile-long walk from the hotel to Ford Field: Sparty is definitely in the house. It was like St. Patrick's Day, there was so much green flooding the streets. I scoffed at Jim Calhoun's suggestion that there would be 50-60,000 Michigan State fans at tonight's game, and while that still is an overstatement, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see about 20-30,000 of them tonight.

Check back later ...

Friday, April 03, 2009

Final(ly) Four

Here we are, on the eve of the Final Four. Nowhere I'd rather be right now, and certainly nowhere Jim Calhoun would rather be, either.

Calhoun seems in particularly good spirits these days – chatting with UConn cheerleaders, joking with reporters (presumably none of them from Yahoo!), a sunny disposition on his face at nearly all times. Scandal? What's that, other than Patty Smythe's cheesy '80's band? Calhoun is in his element, relevant again two years removed from being rejected by even the N.I.T., and truly in love with his team.

It may sound blasphemous, but I really believe that, even if the Huskies lose tomorrow night, Calhoun – as bad a loser as there is in sports – will be OK with it. Don't get me wrong, he wants to win more than anything. But he also realizes how much adversity this team has already overcome, and has already helped him get through this most trying of seasons.

"I think he loves the team," said associate head coach and Calhoun confidante George Blaney. "Anytime you coach a team, things happen during the course of the year – some are mini-crises, some are fairly large crises – and you always deal with them. He has enjoyed this team, and on top of that, we didn't lose very often. Winning helps a lot. This is a good group. They work hard, they're fun to be around, there's a lot of really, really smart guys. I think he has a special bond with this group."

I asked Blaney if he thinks Calhoun is pondering retirement after this season, no matter how it ends.

"We have heart-to-hearts about every 15 minutes," Blaney said, with a chuckle. "We talk about the future all the time. I always tell him, 'We have our most fun in the gym.' That's where he and I like to be, and I'm hoping we stay there as long as we can."

So the advice Blaney would give him in a few weeks, if Calhoun seeks it?

"We like to be in the gym."

***Of course, also hanging in the air is whether Hasheem Thabeet will go pro after this season. It seems a foregone conclusion, but Thabeet insists he hasn't made his decision yet.

And when will he make it?

"After we win Monday night and go back for the parade in Connecticut," Thabeet said. "That's when I'll know what I need to do. I've got great advice last year from the coaches and I made the decision to come back. This year, they're going to assist me again with the decision either to come back or not. I really respect them, and their decision means something to me."

***A little X's and O's: Michigan State is probably as close to a Big East team the Huskies have faced so far in the NCAA tournament – and certainly as close as one will find in the slow-down Big Ten.

"They're different from other Big Ten schools," senior forward Jeff Adrien noted. "They like to run and they rebound, they're very physical. I think that's really why they won the Big 10 (regular season) this year, with their different style."

Indeed, the Spartans lead the nation in rebounding margin at plus-9.6 (UConn is third at 9.2; Pittsburgh is No. 2 at 9.3). Of course, outrebounding Big Ten foes is a lot different than outrebounding Big East opponents.

***Some defensive matchups: Travis Walton, the Spartans' defensive specialist, will guard A.J. Price.

"We've put him up against the best that each conference has to offer," MSU coach Tom Izzo said of Walton, the Big Ten's defensive player of the year. "Sometimes it's been 6-foot-6 guys, sometimes it's been 5-10 guys. Ninety-nine percent of the time, he's answered the bell. He's got a little tougher task ahead of him (tonight). But if there's anybody I feel comfortable doing it, it's him."

Walker appreciates the challenge ahead.

"He is a great player," he said of Price. "He makes big-time shots, so it's going to be a tough cover for me to kind of contain him. The main thing is to try to contain him and don't let him embarrass me in front of my home crowd."

Expect Raymar Morgan, a 6-8 junior forward who has battled illness and injury this season, to guard UConn's 6-9 jumping jack, Stanley Robinson.

"I think we have to stay in contact with (Robinson), because if we don't, those jets go off in his legs and he kind of leaps above everybody," Izzo said. "I think you're going to have to have contact if you have a big or a small guy on him. Raymar is a decent matchup for him."

Meanwhile, 6-7 forward Jeff Adrien – and not Thabeet – is likely to start off on MSU's Goran Suton, a 6-10 center who can step out and hit the mid-range jumper or 3-pointer.

***Another day, another brushfire: Calhoun addressed a column in Friday's Detroit Free-Press that insinuated that if he didn't come clean about the program's illegal recruiting allegations, he is essentially admitting guilt.

"I can't say anything," Calhoun said. "The NCAA has put a gag order. While they're doing their – not an investigation right now, but a review – they have told us that we cannot speak to the facts … so please don't think by my silence about what's been swirling around a little bit – quite a bit, actually – that it's not because I don’t want to say anything, it's because I can't say anything else. We've been put on a restraining order while the NCAA continues its review."

***Playing inside a cavernous football stadium can wreak havoc on basketball players' shooting. But after practices at Ford Field on Thursday and Friday, the Huskies aren't too worried.

"At first it was a problem, but we took plenty of shots out there, got our touch, and I feel comfortable right now," said senior guard Craig Austrie.

Added Blaney: "The (shooting) background is dark, so it doesn't give you the depth perception that a lot of these places give you. So, in my opinion, it has not really been a big adjustment for the shooters at all. It could be different for the game, with all the people in there, (but) I don't think so."

Blaney added that the rims used for tonight's game will be new, but will have more consistency than rims in Final Fours past.

"It's not as difficult to come into a new place and shoot as it used to be," he said. "You really used to have to know what the rims will do. Now, they're pretty consistent."
The Huskies will have a shootaround today to further get acclimated to the surroundings.

***What was Scandal's biggest hit?

***MSU sophomore guard Chris Allen's aunt and uncle live next door to Magic Johnson's parents in Lansing, Mich. That certainly made Tom Izzo's recruitment of Allen, a Georgia native, much easier.

***Jerome Dyson (knee) flew in on a 6 a.m. flight on Friday after staying back for classes in Storrs. He'll participate in shootaround tonight (no layups, just jumpers) and watch the game on the bench, in uniform.

Any chance of getting in for a few token seconds, in case of a blowout?

"I'll be in (Calhoun's) ear the whole time," Dyson joked.

***Dyson said the Huskies will be wearing their gray uniforms tomorrow night.

***Some 25,000 Spartan fans took in MSU's open practice today. They won't all be here tomorrow night, obviously, since today's practices were free to the public and didn't require a ticket.

After the workout, MSU players waved "Thank yous" to the crowd. There's a real sense that the Spartans can serve as a form of tonic to help the city of Detroit get through its rough economic times.

"Detroit has been struggling," said Spartan guard Kalin Lucas. "A lot of people have been getting laid off and stuff like that. So, us playing here in the Final Four, being a Michigan team playing, it can bring a smile to everybody that stays in the city of Detroit.

***One of the big brouhahas out here was the fact that North Carolina guard Ty Lawson was at a Greektown casino playing craps on Wednesday night. Izzo said he told his team before they arrived that the casinos around here were off-limits, though it may not have totally hit home.

"You bet, you lose," said Suton. "I don't really remember him talking about it that much. You guys?"

Lucas: "No, he ain't talk about it."

Walton: "I don't think they remember. But he just said, 'No gambling.' We don't want that distracting us."

Calhoun on the subject:

"Our curfew has been tight. We told them that was off-limits. (Lawson) is of age. I'm not speaking for Roy (Williams) or anybody else, I just don't really find it that problematic. A person of age is allowed to do what he wants to do, as long as it's legal.

"I'm sure if he had to do it over again, just like some other things in life, you do them over again. I remember the YouTube thing – I meant what I said, I just wouldn't have said it the same way … a do-over kind of thing."

By "YouTube thing," Calhoun meant the Ken Krayeske affair. Oh, and it was printed as "U2 thing" in the transcripts. I seriously doubt Calhoun has any inkling who Bono or The Edge are.

Oh, and sticking on the gambling topic, Calhoun added: "The governor (of Connecticut), by the way, I believe bet with the governor of Missouri – that's another issue for another day. I really don't look at that as being a major issue, no."

We assume he was kidding.

***A question posed to Suton at today's presser.

Q: Goran, can you tell me a little bit about your path to the University of Michigan …?

SUTON: I have to correct you with that. Michigan State University. We don't want to be confused with the U of M.

So that's it for now. I'm off to dinner and Greektown. I'll say hi to Ty Lawson for y'all.

"He Was Born To Do This"

Here's a story from today's Register on A.J. Price and his father, Tony, who went to the Final Four 30 years ago with Penn and lost to -- ironically enough -- Michigan State. Also some video of A.J. talking yesterday.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

50,000 Spartan Fans? Could Be Wrong

Jim Calhoun has been known to exaggerate – especially if it winds up somehow helping his team.

On Monday, when asked about Michigan State’s possible homecourt advantage on Saturday playing at 72,000-seat Ford Field, only about 90 miles from campus, Calhoun said: “Clearly, when you talk about 72,000, I’m sure there will be 50 or 60,000 Michigan State fans there, as well there would be (for UConn) if we were playing up here.”

In truth, there will be nowhere near 50-60,000 Spartan fans at Ford Field on Saturday.

Each of the Final Four schools (UConn, Michigan State, North Carolina and Villanova) have been allotted 3,750 tickets to disperse. After that, virtually all the rest of the tickets are spoken for – from tickets distributed to the host committee, the National Association of Basketball Coaches, CBS Sports, Division 1 athletic directors, the NCAA, and to the general public.

More than 20,000 tickets were allocated to the general public in a lottery drawing done nearly a year ago. According to Cameron Schuh, the NCAA’s associate director for public and media relations, nearly one in seven attendees at the Final Four will be from the Detroit or Michigan area. Even if nearly all of them were Michigan State fans, added to the 3,750 tickets dispersed to the school, that would only account for about 7,000 fans.

I'm sure some Spartan fans from nearby will find ways to score some ducats. But the idea that there will be 50-60,000 of them strong? I'd be shocked if it approached 10,000.

“I’m sure there will be a green tint (to the crowd),” said Schuh, “but by no means will it be this outweighing of Michigan State support.”

But then, Calhoun has never let the facts get in the way of a good motivational story for his team. He's going into Saturday's Final Four game feeling like a road team, and the Huskies went 9-1 on the road this season and are 8-1 at neutral sites.

According to Schuh, here’s a breakdown of how the 72,000 tickets for the event have been allocated:

General public – 28%

Teams – 23%

Host committee – 10%

NABC – 6%

CBS/Corporate family – 5%

Division I athletics directors – 7%

NCAA – 21% (The NCAA block isn’t limited to staff only – it’s more like a catch-all to account for any other groups that the NCAA provides tickets to: vendors, licensees, constituent organizations, governance committees, etc.)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Smith: Huskies Are "We" Now

Darius Smith has yet to visit the UConn campus, but he hopes to soon.

“Hopefully, after we win the title,” Smith said on Monday.

Smith can refer to the Huskies as “we,” because the 6-foot-2 combo guard out of Chicago has made a verbal commitment to UConn.

“Their coaching style and their playing style – it all just took me in,” said Smith, a senior at Marshall Metropolitan High. “They get up and down the court, and I’m that type of guy.”

UConn assistant coach Patrick Sellers was the lead man in Smith’s recruitment, making visits to see him play when the Huskies were in Milwaukee to play Marquette, among several other times.

“I thought he had a house out here,” Smith joked. “The little things Coach Sellers was doing: he’d come up to talk to me, or when he couldn’t even talk to me. His presence was felt.”

In addition to UConn, Smith was heavily recruited by Marquette, Cincinnati, Arizona State, Memphis, UCLA, Duke, Indiana and Missouri. His final five schools were Arizona State, Cincinnati, Duke, Memphis and UConn.

Allegations of illegal recruiting surrounding the UConn program were no bother to Smith. He said he’s comfortable that UConn won’t receive any harsh penalties.

Smith, who is ranked as the No. 21 shooting guard in the nation for his class by, averaged 23 points per game this season. He’s equally adept at point guard and shooting guard, but will likely be asked to fill the latter role at UConn. With Kemba Walker, the Huskies are pretty well set at the point.

“Whatever they need from him to win,” said Henry Cotton, Smith’s coach at Metropolitan Marshall who Smith refers to as “dad.” (Cotton and Smith’s mother, Sharon, are good friends).

“He’s a good defender,” Cotton added. “His defense creates his offense. He can create plays for himself and for others, that’s why he chose UConn. (And) you have to defend his shot at all times.”

Both Cotton and Smith said that Smith is already an academic qualifier. Smith said he wants to major in architecture.

Darius Smith Commits

Darius Smith, a combo guard out of Marshall High in Chicago, has committed to UConn. Smith, 6-foot-2, is a top-notch scorer and was Chicago's player of the year.

More to come on this ...

H to the Izzo

Check out tomorrow's Register for a feature on the (somewhat unlikely) friendship between Jim Calhoun and Tom Izzo.

Throughout the season, Calhoun has told us several times, "I talked to Tom Izzo last night …" We've always wondered what exactly goes on in those conversations, and here's a snippet: Last month, shortly after the whole "not one dime back" controversy, Calhoun got a call from Izzo.

"Thanks," said Izzo.

"What for?" Calhoun asked.

"Now, we're all alerted that we're going to get asked that same question. You had to be the guinea pig, but that's tough."

It's not one of the more likely friendships in college basketball: Calhoun, the 66-year-old cantankerous Irishman from Boston; Izzo, the 54-year-old affable Italian from Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Their personalities, at least off the court, are pretty different. Veteran UConn beat writers still talk about the time when, the night before a UConn-Michigan State game nine years ago out in East Lansing, Izzo broke away from a boosters event at a local restaurant to shoot the breeze with the enemy reporters for a short time. That's not exactly something Calhoun would be wont to do.

Still, it's safe to say that Izzo is one of Calhoun's best friends in the coaching fraternity.

"I couldn't have more respect for him," said Calhoun. "I consider him a dear friend."

Now, Calhoun has been known to overstate his friendships with other coaches. If nothing else, Izzo certainly upholds the mutual admiration society going on between the two coaches.

"I've always appreciated guys who are demanding, who hold people accountable," Izzo said. "Every year I call him a couple off times. I just love the way his teams play, love the way he develops players. He gets so many guys where you're like, 'God, where did he come from? He wasn't on any All-America list.' He's a very good judge of talent. Like all coaches in my world, I try to learn from them. He's one that's been successful."

Read more in tomorrow's Register …

***Prior to the loss at Pittsburgh on March 7, Jerome Dyson told me – with straight face – that he could return to action if the Huskies make it to the Final Four.

"It's not gonna happen," Calhoun said on Monday.

Not without some minor protestations from Dyson, however.

"I still do feel like that. I feel good," he said. "The doctors told me that if this was my last year or something like that, there would still be a chance of me playing. But the risks outweigh the positives at this point – not going out there and risking tearing it again over having a full year to do my thing next year.

"I don't have any say in it. If they don't want me to play, I'm not going to play."

***Calhoun is playing up the fact that the Spartans could have a huge homecourt advantage, with Saturday's game being played at Ford Field, about 90 miles from East Lansing.

"We’ll have the white (or gray) uniforms on, that’s the closest we’ll be to being the home team, I think," he said. "It's just a fact of life we're going to have to face. I'm treating it like a road game, to be honest with you … I guess when the 50,000 people start screaming, it's going to matter because I can't talk to my team. Will it be more like a road game? Sure it will be."

Still, only 3,750 tickets are dispersed to each team. The rest have probably all been sold, and it's a safe bet not a lot of Michigan State fans bought them, fully expecting to be in the Final Four. Sure, there will be more Spartan fans than Husky fans in Detroit (like there were at least twice as many Mizzou fans as UConn fans in Glendale on Saturday). But 50,000 MSU fans? Doubt it.

***I'm more old-school when it comes to rap (Public Enemy, BDP, Beastie Boys), but today's music quiz question: Who performed the song "H to the Izzo"?

***Stanley Robinson wasn't available for today's media availability. Seems Sticks wasn't pleased with how his hair looked.

***Jeff Adrien warmed up and stretched with the team and shot free throws, but didn't participate fully in practice due to tendonitis in his right knee. He'll be fine for Saturday. Hasheem Thabeet (left index finger) practiced and is fine.

***Rashad Anderson called A.J. Price the other day.

"He told us, it's something special, you're going to remember it, and we need to go there and make the most of it and try to finish this thing off," Price said.

Thirty years ago, A.J.'s dad, Tony, played in the Final Four with Penn. The Quakers lost to Magic Johnson's Michigan State, who went on to beat Larry Bird and Indiana State.

"We found it kind of ironic, going to the Final Four and playing the same team."

***UConn will leave for Detroit after practice Wednesday in Storrs. They'll get to practice twice inside Ford Field – for about an hour, 45 minutes on Thursday in a closed practice, and again in an open practice on Friday. That's new this year: in the past, teams only had one open practice, and that was it. This will help the Huskies get used to the cavernous background of Ford Field.

***The burgeoning question of the day: How will Calhoun react to the raised court at Ford Field?
"That's a very interesting, deep question," he said, with a smile. "I didn't like Purdue, I didn't like Minnesota, I didn’t like being below, because it's hard to get at people that way. I used to be able to. George (Blaney) might like it a lot better."

Indeed, Blaney is often the target of Calhoun's in-game rants.

Huskies "'Beet" Up a Bit

Both Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien could be a little banged up in practice over the next few days, but they should be fine for Saturday's Final Four bout with Michigan State.

Thabeet suffered a bruised left ring finer and a slight sprain of the ring and middle finger on his left hand after diving for a loose ball in Saturday's Elite Eight win over Missouri.

"It's on his off hand, but he does block a lot of shots with that hand," Jim Calhoun noted. "He's got a pretty good-sized contusion there. I don't think it will effect him at gametime, but it may effect him the next couple of days in practice."

Adrien, meanwhile, has tendonitis (Calhoun didn't specify where) and may sit out practice today. Calhoun expects him to be fine on Saturday, as well.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Detroit: It's Not Terrible

O.K., that's not exactly a Chamber of Commerce, ringing endorsement for the Motor City. But for those who think Detroit is nothing but urban blight and Devil's Night ... well, it's not all that bad. At least the area around Ford Field, where UConn will be playing Michigan State on Saturday at 6:07 p.m. in the Final Four. Step outside this general area at your own risk.

I stayed in Detroit a few times while on the Red Sox beat, always at a hotel near Comerica Field (which practically abuts Ford Field). I'd usually stay at the Courtyard Marriott that's a few blocks away from Comerica. I'd walk to the ballpark each day and never once feared for my life -- which is more than some of the veteran beat guys could say in their days covering games at Tiger Stadium. (Again, not exactly a ringing endorsement, I know). There's also a People Mover to get you around the downtown area.

Anyway, right across the street from Comerica is the Hockeytown Cafe, a big, two-story sports bar. You don't have to be a hockey fan to enjoy this place, just a beer fan. There's lots of it, and lots of TVs to watch sports. Real cool place.

There are some other bars and restaurants in the area that are decent, as well. Walk a few more blocks (towards the hotels) and you hit Greektown, which is a cool little area. There's a casino (if you like to gamble) and plenty of decent restaurants and bars.

And right across the river, in Windsor, Ont., there are plenty more casinos. I've still got a $2.50 chip I need to redeem there from the last time I went, in 2006. No idea why I still have it.
When you add in the fact that the NCAA will surely have plenty of events going on in the area for Final Four fans, I would certainly recommend a trip to the city, if you can afford it. It's not Vegas -- it's not even Phoenix, certainly not weather-wise -- but it's not too bad.
So there you have it: Detroit, It's Not Terrible. Quite a slogan, eh?

Thabeet's Finger Bruised

Hasheem Thabeet has a bruised left ring finger and a slight sprain of the ring and middle finger on his left hand from yesterday's game.

UConn athletic trainer James Doran expects him participate fully in practice tomorrow and does not expect him to be limited at all.

The team traveled home right after the game Saturday and arrived back in Connecticut at 4 a.m. (about five hours before I arrived). There was a brief team meeting this afternoon, but no practice.