Tuesday, February 21, 2006

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Notre Dame @ Connecticut

February 21, 2006

Notre Dame looks to extend their three game winning streak, but the task gets much tougher, as they travel to Hartford to meet the Connecticut Huskies. With wins over Rutgers, South Florida and their first conference road win at Seton Hall over the weekend, the Irish have put themselves in MUCH better position in earning a trip to the Big East tournament. After tonight, they host Marquette and DePaul with a trip to Providence in between to finish out conference play.

UConn remains just one game behind Villanova in the race for the Big East reular season title and will get their chance at the Wildcats this Sunday. But, in the meantime, they must take care of business against Notre Dame tonight and not be looking ahead. The Irish 3-pt shooting firepower can keep them close enough to surprise you.

Here are the pregame stories and previews from around the internet:

Big East Title Still Within UConn's reach (Danbury News Times Live)
Tough Notre Dame Team Comes to Town (Norwich Bulletim)
Academic Clause Causes Irish to Bounce Around
Irish Riding a Fine Line (Elkhart Truth)
Calhoun Counts on Williams in Clutch (Middletown Press)
Huskies Need Hawaiian Punch (Hartford Courant)
Inside Out Swing Puts Huskies on Track (Middletown Press)
Like All Shooters, Falls Can be Quirky (South Bend Tribune)
ND Will Be Back in Black (South Bend Trib)

For our preview and prediction on the game, click below!


Before the Connecticut Men's basketball team can begin to think about Villanova, they must deal with Notre Dame first. At least they will get some practice playing against a guard-orientated perimeter attack. Notre Dame has resorted to the 4-guard philosophy of the Wildcats in hopes of shaking up their season. Tonight, their new look will get its biggest test when they battle the Huskies.

Mike Brey has been using Kyle McAlarney, Chris Quinn, Russell Carter and Colin Falls on the floor together more and more. This group is not nearly as explosive offensively or ball-hawking defensively as the 'Nova quartet of Lowry, Foye, Ray and Nardi, but it does spread the floor and Notre Dame will hit the 3-pt shot as well as anyone in the nation.

Connecticut has the size advantage with Rudy Gay, Hilton Armstrong and Josh Boone and they can slide Gay to a power forward spot and go a little quicker themselves in these types of match-ups. Connecticut has the athletes and inside play that usually is a tough match-up for Notre Dame to handle.

I am not sure how long Notre Dame will be able to use their 4-guard look tonight with the inside dominance of UConn. Torin Francis is going to need help and even if they go bigger with Rick Cornett, Rob Kurz or Luke Zeller, there is not much they will be able to do to slow down the Connecticut inside attack.

Notre Dame has been playing everyone very close and their ability to hit 3-pt shots in bunches will probably draw them reasonably close at times. The line says UConn as 14-pt favorites. They will probably lead comfortably around that number for much of the game.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Connecticut 83 Notre Dame 70

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Friday, February 17, 2006

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Connecticut @ West Virginia

February 18, 2006

Connecticut closes out a daunting three-game road swing with a meeting in the always hostile environmant of Morgantown, West Virginia. This will be a nationally televised game featuring two highly ranked clubs with grand thoughts for March.

This game taks on added importance in the conference seed race with both teams coming off a loss earlier this week, both on the road. The Huskies lost at Villanova on Monday and look to stay within striking distance of the Wildcats in the league standings. West Virginia lost for the 2nd time in three games and will look to stay in front of Pittsburgh for the third spot in the conference.

For our the rest of our preview and prediction on the game, click below!


Connecticut enters the game still as the #1 ranked team in the nation. They saw a 12-pt 2nd half lead evaporate quickly on the road against Villanova as the Wildcats on-the-ball pressure and quickness on offense seemed to take UConn away from what they do best and lose focus on getting the ball inside. West Virginia is a different challenge on defense as they will use 1-3-1 trapping schemes, but are very vulnerable inside. WVU will not hit the boards with UConn, but they will spread out the floor on offense and look to hit the 3-pt shot.

West Virginia will have to contend with the size and athletic ability of Connecticut and try to play their "three-beats-two" game at their best. The only worry I have with UConn is their dedication to defending on every possession. They do seem to get a little lax in chasing players through screens and the WVU offense involves a lot of movement, so I do expect the Mountaineers to get opportunities to hit from 3-pt range.

Marcus Williams will be the focal point in this game. He is bound to get a welcoming that only one can receive from the fans in Morgantown from the time he takes the floor for warm-ups until he leaves the floor after the game. He has been very good at keeping his composure on the floor and seems to thrive a little bit on the heckling he gets. On saturday, how he manages the UConn offense against the 1-3-1 trap, attacking the soft spots, and dishing the ball down low for Hilton Armstrong, Josh Boone and Jeff Adrien or finding Rashad Anderson for an open look beyond the arc and running the break with Rudy Gay in transistion. This is a game where it will all have to go through him.

West Virginia will need Mike Gansey to play like a Big East conference player of the year candidate. In the first seven league games, he was doing just that. However, little swoon has seen his 3-pt shot fall a little less frequency and the pinch on the Mountaineers to score points has followed. They are very dependent on Gansey scoring, along with Kevin Pittsnogle, and everyone else can fall into place. To keep up with the Connecticut firepower, WVU will need both their scorers at the top of their games.

Coming off a loss, the Huskies want to make sure they are in position to battle Villanova for the league crown. They should come into this game with a renewed focus on what they need to do on offense and defense, a very big key to playing WVU, and exert their power. They are deeper than the Mountaineers and their size and ability to run, run, run should wear down WVU, even at home.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Connecticut 75 West Virginia 67

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Monday, February 13, 2006

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Connecticut @ Villanova

February 13, 2006

Big Monday tonight in the Big East means Connecticut and Villanova will battle it out for conference supremecy. Both teams enter the game with 9-1 conference records and part of a three-way tie for 1st place in the conference. Both teams are coming off road wins, UConn 99-57 at Seton Hall and Villanova 61-51 at DePaul. A couple of long winning streaks are on the line tonight. Here are many of the pregame stories and previews from around the internet:

Fiery Talks Spur Gay into Action (Philly Inquirer).
UConn Hitting Crossroads in Philadelphia (Waterbury Rep Am).
On Guard: Villanova a Unique Challenge )Register Citizen)
Huskies Acclimated to Conditions (Hartford Courant)
Nova Has Waited for This One (Hartford Courant)
Contrasting Styles: Quick & Powerful (Connecticut Post)
UConn Set to Battle Villanova (Danbury News Times Live).
Tough Test Against Villanova Tonight (Norwich Bulletin).
Gay Turning the Corner (Norwich Bulletin).

For our preview and prediction on the game, click below!


From the outset, Villanova/Connecticut was the circled game on the Big East schedule and their first of two meetings this season takes place tonight in Philadelphia. As expected, the stakes are high with both teams 9-1 in the conference and ranked in the top 5 in the nation. Connecticut has won eleven straight games and Villanova has won eight straight themselves.

This will be Connecticut's first look live at the Villanova 4-guard line-up. Mike Nardi missed the last two games for Villanova because he was sick, but he will be back in the line-up tonight. Villanova is definitely due for a good shooting game, but it will have to come against one of the toughest defenses they will face on the season. UConn holds opponents to 36.6% from the floor and just 28.5% from 3-pt range on the season. Of course, as usual, they also lead the nation in blocked shots per game as well.

Villanova is known for their 3-pt shooting, but in their last three games, they have gone just 16-60 (26.7%) from beyond the arc. To their credit, they have continued to find a way to win even when they are off. Excellent on the ball pressure has disrupted opponent's offeses and when the game is close and comes down to a possession by possession game, the Wildcats are tough to stop from scoring because they can isolate any of their four guards in a spread the floor set that really pressures the defense, because it is tough to help and leave one of their excellent shooters free. The experience of their senior guards, Allan Ray and Randy Foye, have also made them tough down the stretch as they have been through it all.

On the other hand, Connecticut is long and lean with as many athletes as some NBA teams. Their starting front court of Rudy Gay, Josh Boone and Hilton Armstrong could all see their names called in the 1st round of this year's NBA draft and they have depth with freshmen Jeff Adrien and senior Ed Nelson. Their backcourt is not too shabby either with Marcus Williams, Rashad Anderson, Denham Brown and Craig Austrie getting most of the time, but they are often overlooked with the strength of their front court, but they will be tested tonight, offensively and defensively by the guards of Villanova.

Looking at this game, it really hinges on one player: Marcus Williams. If he is successfully able to get Connecticut into their offense and into their comfort zones, they could really exert their strength's against Villanova. Williams will also have to contend with the Villanova guards on defense and be up to the athletic challenge they will pose. When Williams is motivated and challenged, he usually reponds with some added intensity that makes his game better.

Villanova is going to have to be "on" from beyond the arc tonight. If they are successfully breaking down the UConn guards, they need to make them pay when they kick it back out to the shooters and hit their shots. If they can do this at a good clip, it could force the Huskies to shuffle their line-up a little to match up with their quickness on the perimeter, which would negate some of UConn's advantages inside.

The way UConn has been playing in their 11-game win streak has been IMPRESSIVE. With Rudy Gay asserting himself as the go-to guy and Josh Boone picking it up on the offensive end and getting key contributions from just about everyone else in timely intervals, the Huskies have exerted themselves as the nation's #1 team. Villanova is not going to lay down before the mighty Huskies, however. Their guards are confident and Kyle Lowry brings them a fearless attitude. However, in their 8-game win streak, I just haven't seen them be consistently at the level of the Huskies. Some injuries in that time and sickness might be the reason, however, the UConn depth might be the difference in this one. In one of the biggest variations I have seen, the Pomeroy Computer rankings give Villanvoa a 3-pt edge, however, the oddsmakers have made Connecticut the 3-pt favorite.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Connecticut 76 Villanova 71

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Friday, February 10, 2006

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Connecticut @ Seton Hall

February 11, 2006

The Seton Hall Pirates, winners of six straight games, including five Big East games, suddenly find themselves talking about the NCAA Tournament, let alone doubting they would be good enough for the Big East tournament, get their biggest test yet as the 1st place Connecticut Huskies come to the Meadowlands. Seton Hall begins a three-game homestand against Connecticut, West Virginia and Notre Dame. Finding a way to win at least one of these games will go a long way in legitimizing their bid to be one of the teams representing the Big East in the NCAA's come March.

For Connecticut, they find themselves in a 3-way tie for 1st place in the conference with Villanova and West Virginia and have a Big Monday date with Villanova shortly after this one. Coming on the heels of their Rivalry Week match-up with Syracuse, could there be a letdown for Jim Calhoun's bunch?

For our the rest of our preview and prediction on the game, click below!


This probably is not the best match-up for Seton Hall. Connecticut is deeper, more athletic and just as strong inside. However, Seton Hall has been getting it done of late, including their surprisingly easy win at NC St, but this is the biggest test of them all, meeting UConn.

During the Seton Hall run, they have been getting pretty solid performances nearly every night out from Donald Copeland, Jamar Nutter and Kelly Whitney. On most nights, all three have been very productive and if not, usually tow of them are on the top of their game. They will need all three to be on top of their game on Saturday, and that still could leave them in trouble if they do not control the talent on the other side.

Rudy Gay has really stepped up of late and has begun to look, more consistently, like the player the coaches tabbed as the pre-season conference player of the year. Along with Gay, Josh Boone has begun to find his offense and, with an off game against Syracuse, you can expect Rashad Anderson to be on in this one. However, the talent doesn't stop there as Hilton Armstrong, Jeff Adrien and Denham Brown are all capable of piling up points and rebounds and anything else the Huskies need.

Sometimes I think they Huskies can get a little lax on defense and if they are looking ahead just a little bit, that could happen here. However, with Villanova around the corner, I expect Jim Calhoun to be very demanding of his team in this one. That could lead to mass substitutions that can hurt their flow, but in the end, he will get the effort he is looking for, especially on defense and on the boards.

NBE Blogger prediction:

Connecticut 71 Seton Hall 59

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Syracuse @ Connecticut

February 8, 2006

The struggles of the Syracuse Orange have been well documented of late, as they have lost four of their last five games and needed a near miracle-shot to pull out an overtime win against Rutgers to prevent a five game losing streak in their last game.

Connecticut is starting to look like the machine many predicted they would be. The Huskies have won nine straight since dropping their Big East opener at Marquette, including seven conference games and non-league contests against LSU and at Indiana. The Huskies have shown they can play tough as well as being the normal stable of athletes that will run and jump with anyone.

Here are many of the pregame stories and previews found on the internet:

Adrien's Energy Spurring Huskies (Danbury News Times Live)
Huskies Looking to Play a Full 40 (Record Journal)
UConn Hits Season Rough Spot (Norwich Bulletin)
UConn Begins Difficult Stretch (Waterbury Rep Am).
Focus on Mental Toughness as Orange in Town (Register-Citizen)
Orange Will Be on Guard (Hartford Courant)
Williams WIll Pass on SU Zone (Courant)
Gay Starting to Reach Lofty Expectations (Middletown Press)
Better 1st Half Required (Syracuse Post-Standard)
UConn Scouting Report (Post-Standard)

For our preview and prediction on the game, click below!


Rivalry week continues on ESPN and tonight's highlighted game is the Big East conference match-up with Syracuse and Connecticut. Earlier this season, the two teams met on a "Big Monday" and the Prange were run out of their own building early by the Huskies, but made it look better than it was with a late run before losing 88-80.

Things have also gotten a little dicey around the Orange team as key reserve Louie McCroskey does not appear to be currently with the team after supposedly being involved with a locker room confrontation with Jim Boeheim after Syracuse's last game, an overtime win over Rutgers. At this point in the season, distractions like these could really tear apart a team. Syracuse has seen these distractions (Deshaun Williams, Billy Edelin) be very detrimental in previous seasons, but Jim Boeheim has also been able to pull his team together. I think he will, but they just might have to hit a bottom as a group first...and, it would not surprise me to see that happen tonight.

Connecticut is never an easy match-up for the Orange. They have the athletic and tall perimeter players that usually make for a long night for Gerry McNamara shooting over them. His career struggles against UConn have been well documented and, if he struggles again, and he could be hampered by a thigh injury, the Orange chances turn as cold as a Connecticut winter's night.

With their tall, athletic and more physical front court and superior depth, Connecticut should be too much for Syracuse. Also, aided by the ESPN buzz and 9 PM tip-off, the atmosphere should be tremendous as the Husky fans will be ready to selcome Syracuse to town.

The 12-pt favored Huskies will look to play inspired for 40 minutes. This could be the low point of the Syracuse season and they can look to build back up from here.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Connecticut 85 Syracuse 67

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