Wednesday, January 31, 2007

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Connecticut @ DePaul

January 31, 2007

If ther season ended today Connecticut would find themselves at home for the Big East Toournament. Luckily for the scalpers in New York City and for the Huskies, the season does not end today and UConn has nine games left to pull themselves out of the bottom four.

One of the teams that they are looking to catch is the DePaul Blue Demons, who sit just ahead of UConn at 3-5 in the conference. Much like the Jim Calhoun, this is not the position that Jerry Wainwright expected to be in at the halfway mark of the Big East season. DePaul was picked by many, including myself, to be a team that could surprise with their talent and experience, instead, they continue to be maddening inconsistent and have not looked like they improved in any way from last season much at all.

Here are links to the pregame stories and previews found on the internet this morning:

UConn Men's Scouting Report (Norwich Times)
UConn Men an Image of a Decade Ago (Bristol Press)
Huskies Look to Avoid 5-Game Losing Streak (Hartford Courant)
Calhoun, Huskies Demand Effort (Danbury News Times)
No Guarantee Games Anymore for UConn (New Haven Register)
Win - or Loss - Could Put Huskies in Unique Position in Big East (Norwich Bulletin)
Heat is on for Pair in Big East (Connecticut Post)
Depaul's Problems Run Gamut (Daily Herald)
UConn in Same Boat at DePaul This Time (Chicago Sun-Times)

Click below for our brief preview and prediction on this game and don't forget to leave your prediction in the comments section.


Something has to give tonight as Connecticut, with a four game losing strak, travels to Chicago to meet DePaul, who has a three game losing streak. Both teams have a laundry list of issues that have led to very inconsistent play this season. With Connecticut, a lot of the inconsistency was expected for a team with 8 freshmen and 5 sophomores, but their inability to put together any type of complete game has kept them from winning anything of substance. DePaul is not as inexperienced or young and their inconsistency has led them to some impressive wins, but downright bad losses.

Jom Calhoun no longer wants to hear about the UConn youth as the reason they are losing. They are 20 games into the season and they need to start playing like Big East basketball players, but he is not abondoning his players. He needs to find consistent backcourt play. AJ Price has struggled in running the team and making decisions while Jerome Dyson has been in a shooting slump since Big East play began. Price and Dyson have also been banged up for much of conference play, which has not helped. Doug Wiggins has been able to provide a spark, but seems to be more comfortable in spurts off the bench. Craig Austrie, their best shooter, has seemed to see his action cut drastically.

In the middle, hasheem Thabeet is a presence blocking shots, but he has been manhandled for the most part in Big East play on the baords and offensively. They need his rebounding and him to be a threat offensively. Jeff Adrien continues to bang away inside, but he can get bottled up as the Huskies continue to brick their way from the outside. Calhoun is looking for more consistency on the wing from Stanley Robinson and Marcus Johnson, especially from the offensive side of things.

DePaul has used 11 different players in the starting line-up with only senior Sammy Mejia starting every game. DePaul continues to get inconsistent play from the lead guard spot. Jabari Currie seems to be back as the flavor of the week at the position with Will Walker's time being drastically in the last three games and Cliff Clinkscales continues to be used as a last option among the three. Mejia is the player opponents game plan to stop and he finds little room to get free. Draelon Burns provides an offensive spark, but the Blue Demons need to find some sort of offense from Karron Clark or their post players in some form of consistent matter. Wilson Chandler is the other constant, but he has a total of 4 rebounds in their last two games. He needs to be more of a factor on both ends of the floor.

Tonight is a tough call. One thing is for certain, when Connecticut comes to down, they still have a target on their backs. Everyone knows the reputation of their program, coach and even the much-hyped young players, but this is a new role for their players, being the hunted at this level, and they are having trouble stopping runs once the momentum sides with their opponent. The oddsmakers have made DePaul a 4-pt favorite at home and the Pomeroy Computer has DePaul as a 1-pt winner. The Blue Demons are athletic enough to stick with Connecticut and should have just a little more shooting ability to get the win at home, but it could be a struggle for both.

NBE Blogger Prediction: DePaul 63 Connecticut 57

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Friday, January 26, 2007

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Providence @ Connecticut

January 27, 2007

The Connecticut Huskies have lost six of their last eight games and find themselves at just 2-4 in Big East games. They begin a key stretch that will likely define their season when they host Providence College on Saturday afternoon. The Friars got out of the gate quickly, winning their first two Big East games, but they have lost three of their last four and sit at 3-3 in the Big East.

Click below for our brief preview and prediction on this game and don't forget to leave your prediction in the comments section.


Providence has not had much luck away from the Dunkin Donuts Center so far this season. They have lost at Florida (by 18), lost to Florida State in Tampa (by 30) and lost both of their conference road games (Louisville and Seton Hall). They are coming off a home loss to a hot Villanova team on Tuesday night, 82-73, as the Friars were forced into 22 turnovers which offset their 55% shooting in the game.

Since returning from a suspension for violating team rules, Sharaud Curry has averaged 15.8 PPG, but he is shooting just 36% from the floor and has more turnovers (18) than assists (14) in the four games, which they have lost three of the four. He needs to be more effecient with the basketball and continue to allow Herbert Hill, Geoff McDermott and Weyinmi Efejuku to be involved in the offense.

We all know about the youth of the Connecticut Huskies, but that excuse is wearing thin for Jim Calhoun as the inconsistency of their offense and their tendency to go through long stretches where they can not find the basket continues to lead to losses, home or away. The Huskies play hard, and calhoun does not fault them for that, but they are still not doing the little things nor are they playing smart. Shooting has been awful, even from the foul line, and when it looks like a player is ready to step forward, the next game, he looks completely lost again.

With three of their next four at home (PC, Rutgers and SU) for UConn, with a road game with Depaul, the time is now to make their move and get some kind of confidence in what they are trying to do. In order to do so, they are going to have to play strong inside. With Herbert Hill and Geoff McDermott, along with Jonathan Kale and Ray Hall off the bench, the Friars are strong and tough inside. Connecticut can counter with Jeff Adrien, but the rest of the troops are athletic and long, but lack some of the physical physique to battle hard in the Big East. On the perimeter, Jerome Dyson, AJ Price and Doug Wiggins are going to use their quickness to force Providence into turnovers and force them to play uptempo to hopefully forget about their interior advantage. UConn needs to take advantage of the turnovers and convert them into points, whether from the field or the line.

The Pomeroy Computer still gives the Huskies a lot of respect, forecasting them as an 11-pt winner in Saturday's contest. I will go with UConn because I think they are due to hit some shots and play a solid all-around game and the PC road record sticks out to me. However, I do think it will be a tight game as Providence stands toe to toe inside and hits the boards for points in the paint.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Connecticut 69 Providence 64

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Monday, January 22, 2007

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Connecticut @ Louisville

January 22, 2007

Big Monday brings us a big game in the Big East when Connecticut, desperate for a quality win, travels to Louisville, who is trying to solidify themselves as a challenger for one of the Big East Tournament byes.

Connecticut has lost five of their last seven games after starting off 11-0. Two of the losses have come out of conference, including their tough home loss to Indiana on Saturday. Louisville lost last Monday night at home to Marquette, but picked up a solid road win with a 9-pt win over DePaul on the road on Saturday.

Here are all the internet articles on tonight's game:

UConn Rebounding Worries Pitino (Kentucky.com)
UConn at Louisville (Connecticut Post)
Ice-Cold UConn Faces Challenge in Red-Hot Louisville (Danbury News Times)
Urgent Task Tonight (Norwich Bulletin)
Time is of the Essense, So Are Wins (New London Day)
Cards Strutting Home for UConn (Louisville Courier-Journal)
Two-Faces Cards Meet Their Match (Lexington Herald-Leader)
Louisville Finally Getting Healthy (Evansville Courier and Press)
UConn Takes Fight to Freedom (Hartford Courant)
Winning Only Things That Counts at UConn (Connecticut Post)
All is Not Yet Lost for UConn (Norwich Bulletin)
Improving Huskies Seek Big Win Tonight (New Haven Register)
New Line-up Falls Short (New Haven Register)

Click below for our brief preview and prediction on this game and don't forget to leave your prediction in the comments section.


These two teams really do mirror each other in many ways as they depend on several sophomores and freshmen in key roles. No team does so maore than UConn whose entire 13-man roster is made up of freshmen (8) and sophomores (5). With their youth comes a lot of promise, and the Huskies have shown a lot of fight, but they are very inconsistent offensivley in the course of a game.

The Huskies struggle with their shooting and decision making. Doing some of the little things in the tough Big East is still an art that has not been mastered by these pups. They need to do a better job of working to get better shots and stepping up and making the good shots they do get. Also, foul shooting has been very bad for Connecticut, making things even tougher on the road.

Louisville has shown signs of life, mostly with a smaller, quick line-up, but after Juan Palacios' big game against DePaul, he will re-enter the starting line-up tonight against the bigger Huskies. Palacios and David Padgett will have to play big and tough underneath as Jeff Adrien and Hasheem Thabeet bring size to the paint for UConn. The Huskies are also likely to go with Stanley Robinson on the wing while Terrence Williams, the high-flying sophomore, leads the way for Louisville on the wing. Whichever team can get their frontcourt to establish themselves will likely claim victory tonight.

The backcourts are often in a state of flux for each team, but both are limited in experience. Brandon Jenkins is a senior starter for the Cards, but he is battling a thumb injury and he is questionable for the game. Freshmen Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith have been solid this season, and might be playin a bit better than their more highly rated counterparts on the UConn side, Jerome Dyson and AJ Price. Doug Wiggins has been getting more and more time, even starting their last game, in place of Price, who has been very inconsistent at the point. I think these units will balance each other out in this game.

Off the bench, Louisville has numbers, but sometimes very little production. Terrence Farley and Derrick Caracter offer nice depth in the post, but you never know what to count on when it comes to Caracter. Earl Clark can play big minutes one game and none the next, so the inconsistency of the roles for the Cards has been frustrating. The injury to Andre McGee has limited the backcourt depth for UL, so that is something to watch because the Huskies will play aggressive defense on the perimeter, especially Dyson. Connecticut has depth with Craig Austrie in the backcourt, Marcus Johnson on the wing and Curtis Kelly and Jonathan Mandeldove in the post. Jim Calhoun is still trying to pin down a rotation and consistent roles for his players, so you never really know what their team will look like each game.

This game is a tough call. For one, I think Connecticut is due, but on the road in front a national TV audience and big crowd, I think Louisville has just enough experience and enough of a comfort zone to hold off the youthful Huskies. The oddsmakers has pegged Louisville as a 3-pt favorite, although Pomeroy's Computer rankins still have UConn as a projected 1-pt winner.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Louisville 64 Connecticut 62

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Connecticut @ Pittsburgh

January 16, 2007

Over the last five seasons, there has not been a better rivalry in the Big East other than Pittsburgh and Connecticut. Each game has been thrilling, starting with the epic Big East Tournament title game of 2002 in which Connecticut won in overtime. Since then, they split another pair of Big East Tournament championships and split six regular season meetings, each played with top of the conference implications.

This time it is the Panthers on top of the conference at 4-0 while the young Huskies are looking for a big win to jumpstart their careers and nothing would be bigger than winning at Pittsburgh. Here are the pregame stories and previews from around the internet:

Huskies Look for Second Straight Road Win (Danbury News Times)
Tonight, Spotlight is on the Big Guys (Norwich Bulletin)
Tall Task Ahead for Thabeet (New Haven Register)
All Eyes on Thabeet (Hartford Courant)
UConn at No. 6 Pittsburgh (Hartford Courant)
UConn vs Pitt: The Match-up (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
Pitt-UConn: The Beast of Big East Rivalries (Post-Gazette)
Pitt-UConn Have Played Some Thrillers (Connecticut Post)
Unranked Huskies Remain Pivotal Hurdle for Pitt (Tribune-Review)
Pitt's Gray Has Someone to Look Up To (Beaver County Times)

Click below for our brief preview and prediction on this game and don't forget to leave your prediction in the comments section.


Currently the Panthers check in as 7.5-pt favorites tonight, but the Pomeroy Computer sees this as a much closer game, picking the Panthers to win by three points on their home floor. The one area to watch tonight is rebounding. With Jeff Adrien and 7'3 Hasheem Thabeet on the floor together a lot, the Huskies can be very tough on the glass, as evidenced by their +11 rebounding marking on the season. Pitt is a good rebounding team, at +6 on the season, but in their two losses they were beaten soundly on the offensive glass against Wisconsin and Oklahoma State, this is an area UConn can possibly hurt the Panthers.

Connecticut is coming off a road victory against St. John's in which two of the youngest Huskies made their impacts felt more than in any other Big East game so far. Thabeet scored 12 pts, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked 7 shots in 36 minutes. If he can stay on the floor that long against Pitt's Aaron Gray, that would be a huge key in favor of the Huskies. Also, Stanley Robinson, making his first career start, scored 13 pts and grabbed 12 rebounds (11 on the defense end) in 29 minutes, giving UConn another 6'9 wing that causes match-up problems for the opponent. With the length and athleticism of Robinson and Thabeet and the toughness of Jeff Adrien, the Huskies have the makings of a very good (although young and raw) frontline. Against St. John's they went to a zone defense and their physical abilities do play well in a zone.

AJ Price, Jerome Dyson and Doug Wiggins rotate for the most part in the backcourt. The trio is extremely quick, but still learning to value the basketball and little things like making the extra pass to get the best shot. Pittsburgh excels in getting opponents to play at their preferred pace, something that could frustrate a young Connecticut squad that really likes to get out in the open floor. Shot selection is key for this trip and delivering the ball in position for others to score is a big key against Pitt's defense. Craig Austrie and Marcus Johnson have some experience off the bench and they will also dig a little deeper with Curtis Kelly and Jonathan Mandeldove up front to battle Pitt's frontline.

Agianst St. John's, Thabeet was allowed to catch the ball deep in the lane, expect Aaron Gray to make that very difficult for Thabeet to accomplish. Gray thrives on establishing position on the offensive end himself, and understands the importance of forcing his counterpart to catch the ball out of their offensive comfort zone. His expereince and strength will likely make things tough on Thabeet. The Panthers are coming off a game where tey faced 7'2 Roy Hibbert, so they will be comfortable facing a big man in the middle.

Against Georgetown the Pittsburgh offense was clicking on all cylinders, shooting nearly 60% the entire game. The move the ball better than any team I have seen in the country and lead the nation in assist to turnover ratio and showed why against the Hoyas, getting 22 assists against just 7 turnovers. Pitt has been able to dissect a zone and exploit a man to man because they look to make the extra pass and they have scoring threats all over the court that can face up and make jumpshots. To make it even more difficult, Levance Fields is taking control of the team and pushing all the right buttons at the point guard position, this team is much more comfortable in the last 10 seconds of the shot clock than any of their previous couple editions, and when your a team that likes to run 25+ seconds of shot clock in the halfcourt, that is HUGE.

Playing at home the Panthers are really in their comfort zone. They feed off the energy of the Oakland Zoo and with ESPN showcasing the Zoo as part of Spirit Week, look for the Peterson Events Center to be just as jazzed as it was on Saturday night, afterall, even though they are young and full of new players, it is still Jim Calhoun and Connecticut.

The athletic ability of UConn will cause Pitt some problems on the glass and in transition, but Pitt limits transition better than anyone, I can see a few UConn runs making this game closer, but Pitt will frustrate UConn with their patient style and precision passing. Depending on when UConn's last run comes will determine if it is a close win or a comfortable win, but I think Pitt makes the plays at home, like they always usually do.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Pittsburgh 75 Connecticut 67

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Marquette @ Connecticut

January 10, 2007

A couple of teams in need of something good to happen meet tonight as Connecticut welcomes Marquette to town. The Golden Eagles, expeced by many to challenge for the conference title, had a tough opening week in Big East play, losing to Providence and Syracuse (at home) to start out 0-2. Connecticut, who has had much made of their pre-conference schedule, has dropped two of their last three games when they lost at West Virginia to open conference play and fell on Saturday night at LSU in a non-conference game. I am a little surprised that the oddsmakers have made Marquette a 9-pt underdog...but, lets take a closer look at the match-ups:

Here are the pregame stories and previews from the beat writers covering the game:

Calhoun Considers Shake-up
Starting With a Question
Calhoun Waffles on Starters (Danbury Times)
UConn Men's Basketball Scouting Report (Norwich Times)
Win at Home is Crucial Now (Norwich Bulletin)
Marquette May See New Faces (New Haven Register)
Calhoun Not Ready to Panic (Connecticut Post)
UConn Players Aren't Slacking, They're Struggling (Sporting News)
A Little Off-Kilter (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
Bigger Footsteps (Hartford Courant story on MU's Wes Mathews)

Click below for our brief preview and prediction on this game and don't forget to leave your prediction in the comments section.


The Huskies are 9-pt favorites tonight and the Pomeroy computer still loves the young Connecticut squad, picking them as an 11-pt victor in tonight's contest at Gampel Pavilion on UConn's campus (a key factor). Jim Calhoun is not used to his team scoring under 50-pts like they did against LSU on Saturday night and his initial reactions this week seemed to be changing his starting line-up to find more offense. In the end, I expect the same UConn starters who began the first 14 games to hit the floor for the opening tap tonight as well. I doubt he is going to find much more offense from those not starting, with the exception of Doug Wiggins, but AJ Price and Jerome Dyson are not likely to begin the game on the bench.

Connecticut, as we all know, is super-young. With 13 freshman and inexperienced sophomores, they are going to struggle when the game is not being played in a style that is in their comfort zone. They struggle in the halfcourt and seem to be playing in a hurry too much, which leads to poor decisions and hurried shots. The game has yet to slow down for UConn.

Marquette is a team that can really make you play in a hurry. With a trio of guards that like to pressure the ball and create turnovers with their lightning quick hands, Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Mathews will make the Golden Eagles very dangerous in any circumstance. Marquette's problem has also been putting the ball in the basket. None of those three would be considered strong perimeter shooting threats and with their lack of post offense, teams can fall back and zone the Eagles to cut off their penetration.

Both teams are carelss with the basketball, averaging over 15 turnovers a game each and Marquette is coming off a game in which they turned the ball over 23 times against Syracuse's zone defense. Connecticut is not much of a zone team, so that plays into Marquette's hands, but Marquette does not seem to be a team that will try to force a halfcourt game onto UConn, so they both look to play into the pace the other prefers. It might come down to which team decides to take advantage of the other's weakness...at 0-2, I think Marquette might be a little more careful with the ball and look to slow it down and run when they create turnovers on the perimeter.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Marquette 66 Connecticut 62

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: South Florida @ Connecticut

January 2, 2007

The young Connecticut pups have to deal with their first taste of adversity coming off their Big East opening 10-pt loss at West Virginia over the weekend. They do not have a lot of time to wallow in self pity as they are back in action tonight when they host South Florida in a Big East conference game at the Hartford Civic Center. The Bulls are coming off a 1-15 conference seasons last year and will look to get off on the right foot this season.

Here is a round-up of the preview articles from sources around the internet:

Husky Men Need Leaders to Provide Spark (New London Day)
Calhoun Wants More from Adrien, Price (Danbury News-Times)
Adrien Draws calhoun's Ire (Norwich Times)
Huskies Leadership Role Remains Up for Grabs (New Haven Register)
USF Faces Stiff Test on Road Vs UConn (Tampa Trib)
Bulls Face a Challenge in Opening Big East Run (St. Pete Times)
USF @ UConn Scouting Report (St. Pete Times)
Huskies Regroup for Next Test (Connecticut Post)
Huskies Looking for Leadership (Waterbury Republican-American)
Adrien Still a Sore Spot (Hartford Courant)
USF @ UConn Scouting Report (Hartford Courant)


Connecticut enters tonight's Big East game as a 19-pt favorite over the Bulls of South Florida and the Pomeroy Computer Forecast has UConn winning by 23-pts. That just seems like a lot of points to me...

As you can tell from the articles linked above, Jim Calhoun is not happy with the leadership his young team is getting on the floor. With a team of 8 freshmen and 5 sophomores (only a coupld have maningful Big East experience), this can not be that big of a surprise to him. Sophomore forward Jeff Adrien has taken most of the criticism, much of it publicly, for his lack of production in their Big East opening loss to West Virginia on Saturday. Adrien scored just 7 pts and grabbed 8 rebounds and was joined by AJ Price as the pair subjected to Calhoun's ire since Saturday. Price, playing in his first Big East contest, scored just 6 pts on 2-9 shooting against the Mountaineers. Freshman Doug Wiggins led UConn with 20 pts and sophomore Marcus Johnson added 16. The Huskies did not help themselves, shooting 13-27 from the foul line.

After losing four straight, South Florida has bounced back with a pair of wins, beating Wake Forest of the ACC 75-67 and pummelling Bethune-Cookman 82-49. Against Wake Forest, USF placed 4 players in double figures, led by big transfer Kenrtell Gransberry's 17 pts and 15 rebounds in just 22 minutes. Another transfer, Jesus Verdejo, added 15, as did senior Melvin Buckley and freshman Solomon Bozeman. The Bulls have a solid starting five, led by Gransberry, Verdejo, Buckley, Bozeman and McHugh Mattis, but very little depth due to injuries. Chris Howard, Chris Capko, Dante Curry and Zaronn Cann are all Bulls on the shelf.

I fully expect the Huskies to bounce back with a high level of effort, but I expect it to still be rather inconsistent, allowing USF to stay within shouting distance for much of the game. UConn will utilize their depth to overwhelm the Bulls at times athletically, but this edition of the Bulls is better than last season and will play with something to prove.

NBE BLogger Prediction: Connecticut 74 USF 61

Last season, the NBE Blogger was 82-34 picking games outright and 60-51-5 against the spread in the regular season.

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