Wednesday, February 28, 2007

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Villanova @ Connecticut

February 28, 2007

Last season this was a battle for the top spot in the conference as both Villanova and Connecticut finished with 14 conference wins and a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This year, things have changed as neither team is over .500 in the Big East through 14 league contests. Villanova is still in the mix for a bid to the NCAA Tournament with their strong RPI rating, but another loss in the conference and they could find themselves behind several other 9-7 Big East bubble teams. Connecticut is just 6-8 in the Big East, so getting to 8-8 is the ultimate goal, but a tough task with Villanova tonight and a trip to Georgetown on Saturday ahead.

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

UConn's Price of Success (Philadelphia Daily News)
Even NIT Berth Looks Grim for UConn (Bristol Press)
Last Gasp for Huskies (Norwich Bulletin)
This Year, Very Different Stakes (Hartford Courant)
'Nova-UConn Remain Intense (Philadelphia Inquirer)
UConn Will Honor Lone Senior Tonight (Norwich Bulletin)

This is definitely a 'bubble watch' game for the NCAA Tournament. Connecticut, at this time, is on the outside looking in, but a win over Villanova and an upset on the road at Georgetown would send the young Huskies to New York city next week with some momentum as they look to make their move in the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. Many people believed that one big win could ignite the Huskies and they have done some things better of late, bu they still look for that complete game. As of now, many have Villanova on the right side of the bubble, mostly due to a high RPI, but they still need to find a couple wins down the stretch. At 7-7 in the conference, there is little room for error.

The line on this game is 'even' and it definitely looks like it will be a nailbiter. Villanova has the experience edge with three seniors in the starting line-up (Curtis Sumpter, Mike Nardi and Will Sheridan) and Scottie Reynolds, a contender for freshman of the year in the conference. They also rotate a couple athletic forwards in Shane Clark and Dante Cunningham, but from there, the Wildcats become very young and inexperienced, like tonight's opponent.

Actually, nobody is as young and inexperienced as Connecticut, and it has shown often this year. With no juniors or seniors on scholarship, the Huskies have gone to battle in the Big East with eight freshman and 5 sophomores, only two (Jeff Adrien and Craig Austrie) with extensive previous experience in the Big East (and they were role players last year). All season long the Huskies have struggled offensively, especially with their shooting and decision-making. Jim Calhoun has been persistent in encouraging his troops to do the little things to help make things easier, but the youngsters seem not ready to grasp those concepts. There is a lot of raw talent, but it needs to be refined and the players need to be stronger, physically and mentally, to compete night in and night out in the Big East.

This game figures to be a tight one. I would be surprised if it is really high scoring. Both teams might play fast, but look for each to defend the perimeter very hard and contest every shot possible. In the end, the Villanova experience and Curtis Sumpter should be enought for the Wildcats to earn the win.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Villanova 62 Connecticut 58

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Connecticut @ Rutgers

February 21, 2007

Believe it or not, even this late in February, tonight's game with Rutgers might go a long way in deciding if Connecticut makes the Big East Tournament. With dates left against Louisville, Villanova and Georgetown, the Huskies can not afford to let this one slip away, even in a tough environment such as the RAC, which will be ready for UConn.

Rutgers is 3-10 in the Big East, so a loss tonight would end their hopes for a Big East Tournament bid as that would give Connecticut (5-7) and St. John's at least six wins each in conference play, making it impossible for the Scarlet Knights to match.

Here are some of the articles and pregame stories on tonight's game:

Rutgers Still Barely Alive for Tourney (Courier News)
Adrian Hill Confident Rutgers Can Pull it Off (Newark Star-Ledger)
Calhoun Getting No Sympathy (Danbury News Times)
UConn Men's Scouting Report (Norwich Bulletin)
Huskies Can Clinch Spot in Big East Tournament with Win at Rutgers (Norwich Bulletin)
Frustrations Mount for UConn's Calhoun (Bristol Press)
UConn's Defense Not the Problem (Connecticut Post)
Even Calhoun Can't Defend Huskies' Offense (Hartford Courant)

Rutgers and Connecticut met 18 days ago in Hartford and, playing without leading scorer and rebounder JR Inman, the Scarlet Knights took the Huskies to overtime, tying the game late in regulation at 47-all. Connecticut prevailed, outscoring Rutgers 14-3 in overtime and scoring all 14 points from the line in the extra five minute session, including the last 12 of the game.

The Huskies have won three of their last four in the conference, but are still just 1-5 away from Connecticut in conference play. Rutgers has not fared much better at home this season, just 2-4 at the RAC, but expect the cozy building to be ready to welcome the young Connecticut team in their own special way.

Jim Calhoun is still looking for offense from his team. Jerome Dyson has averaged nearly 21 PPG in their last three outings, taking the most steps towards becoming a go-to source of offense, however, he is shooting just 33% (19-57) in those three games. As a team, UConn shoots a conference-worst 37.6% in Big East games. They don't have to look too far up in the statistics to find Rutgers, however, who is 15th (out of the 16 teams) with a 38% shooting percentage in conference games. Maybe, by the time this game is done, a new building could be constructed on the Rutgers campus with all the bricks hoisted up between the two teams. In their first meeting, the teams combined to shoot 34-108 (31.5%) from the field...ouch!

Each team, in my opinion, should be better than that. Yes, Connecticut is young, but they have talent, but for whatever reason, that talent is not close to clicking offensively. Jim Calhoun has remarked often that nobody on his team does the little things to help others score. That is a trait most experienced teams learn, but Connecticut has yet to see improvement in thos little things.

Rutgers lost Quincy Douby from last year's team, but expectations for their three sophomores in JR Inman, Anthany Farmer and Jaron Griffin were high, along with senior Marquis Webb. Adding transfer Courtney Nelson, freshman Hamady N'Diaye and some complimentary pieces such as Adrian Hill, Ollie Bailey, etc should be enough for Rutgers to have wins over more than just Cincinnati (twice) and an OT win over Seton Hall, a pair of teams at the bottom of the conference like RU.

Tonight looks like another struggle to score points. I do think Connecticut is the better defensive and rebounding team. They have potential to score in transition when the opportunity is there and take advantage of their defense to turn that into offense better than Rutgers.

Connecticut is a 3.5-pt road favorite, and they should get it done tonight.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Connecticut 60 Rutgers 53


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Friday, February 16, 2007

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Connecticut @ Syracuse

February 17, 2007

Before the season got started, we might have looked at the schedule and highlighted this as a key game in the Big East season. However, at this point in time, Syracuse and Connecticut just does not have the same meaning as we anticipated. Prior to their recent three game conference surge, Connecticut was in grave danger of missing ghe Big East Tournament. Syracuse still has NCAA Tournament hopes, but they still have some work to do to get there.

Twelve days ago Connecticut dealt Syracuse a tough loss as the Orange once again wilted down the stretch in defeat at Connecticut. The young Huskies made the plays they needed to and earned the win. Now, UConn will have to travel to the 'Loud House' and take on a Syracuse team looking for revenge.

Syracuse has the experience with three senior starters in the frontcourt. In the first meeting, Terrence Roberts and Darryl Watkins were left almost useless by foul problems against their young counterparts. Syracuse needs to get the better of the interior match-up and give Demetris Nichols room to fire-away from the outside in the Dome.

The young UConn guards will have to face the Syracuse 2-3 zone in the cavernous Carrier Dome shooting environment. Not a very good shooting team to begin with, this will definitely challenge the Huskies perimeter talents. This will make it even more important for the Orange to hit the boards, because you know UConn will come after it on the glass.

At home, I think Demetris Nichols has a little too much for the Huskies, but it will be a struggle as the harassing UConn guards and tough rebounders will not let Syracuse get too far ahead of them. The UConn strengths can take advantage of some Syracuse weaknesses, but the Orange and the Dome crowd will look to have a big effort for a February afternoon.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Syracuse 67 Connecticut 63

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Seton Hall @ Connecticut

February 14, 2007

Last year this was a match-up of a pair of NCAA Tournament teams. This year, it is likely that only one of the two will make the Big East Tournament. The Connecticut Huskies have won two conference games in a row to move to 4-6 in the Big East and one-game ahead of Seton Hall, 3-7 in the Big East, for the 12th and final Big East Tournament spot. Last year, UConn was a 42-pt winner at Seton Hall, but this Connecticut team has a lot of trouble scoring points.

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

Calhoun Looks to Past for Answers (Danbury News Times)
Huskies Have Endured Hard Times, Hoping Experience Will Help Freshmen (Stamford Advocate)
SHU/UConn Scouting Report (Norwich Bulletin)
Win Can Relieve UConn (Norwich Bulletin)
Playing for the Now at UConn (Bristol Press)
Need for Points by Thabeet Heightened (Hartford Courant)
Freshmen Find their Footing (Hartford Courant)
Seton Hall at UConn (Courant)
Hall's Big East Spot on the Line (Newark Star-Ledger)
Calhoun Worried Huskies Lack Confidence (Connecticut Post)
Seton Hall-Connecticut Scouting Report (Courier News)

Connecticut enters the game as a 10.5-pt favorite, but they hold just a precarious one-game lead over Seton Hall in the race for the 12th and final Big East Tournament spot. Seton Hall has lost five consecutive Big East games, dropping them to 3-7 in the league and they are 0-5 on the road in conference play. Connecticut has won two in a row in the Big East, beating Rutgers (in OT) and Syracuse at home to move to 4-6 in league play and have beaten SHU 19 times in their last 21 meetings, including last year's 42-pt blowout.

Both teams play at a quick pace and there will be a lot of up and down action and, likely, a lot of trips to the foul line. Seton Hall will press all game to make up for their lack of size and depth in the frontcourt. This could take the young UConn guards out of their objective to feed the ball inside where Connecticut has a massive size advantage. The Huskies shoot poorly and if they take quick shots against the SHU pressure, they could play right into the hands of SHU.

Seton Hall is not a great shooting team, either. They do have the potential to get hot with Jamar Nutter and Paul Gause coming off the bench. Freshmen Larry Davis and Eugene Harvey will have plenty of motivation going up against the highly regarded classmates on the UConn side in Dougie Wiggins and Jerome Dyson, as wll as AJ Price. It will be an interesting sidebar to keep an eye on, especially if one side begins to press and try to do too much on their own.

In the end, I think UConn's size will win out as Jeff Adrien will dominate the glass and Hasheem Thabeet and Stanley Robinson will change too many shots inside for the Pirates. However, expect SHU to keep coming at them and make this game very close, especially the way UConn shoots foul shots.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Connecticut 68 Seton Hall 65

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Monday, February 05, 2007

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Syracuse @ Connecticut

February 5, 2007

ESPN's College basketball version of Rivalry Week tips off tonight with Syracuse and Connecticut hooking up in Connecticut. The Orange snapped their three-game losing streak on Saturday by outlasting DePaul 75-69. Syracuse saw their 20-point 2nd half lead shrink to three late, but they held on and moved to 5-4 in the Big East.

Connecticut finally halted their five-game losing streak, but it was a struggle as the Huskies needed to work overtime to beat a short-handed Rutgers, 61-50. All 14 of UConn's points in overtime came from the foul line as they closed out the contest on a 12-0 run.

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

UConn Basketball Preview (Danbury News Times)
UConn Men's Scouting Report (Norwich Bulletin)
Syracuse, Like UConn, Trying to Dig Out of Holes it has Dug (Connecticut Post)
Huskies in Must-Win vs Orange (Danbury News Times)
Huskies Take Win...Little Else from Rutgers (Hartford Courant)
With Syracuse in Town, Huskies Hoping to Return Honor to Season (Waterbury Rep-Am)
After Quick Break, UConn Takes out Syracuse (Stamford Advocate)
Huskies State of Mind Better (Register Citizen)
UConn Men's Notebook (Connecticut Post)
Records Aside, Rivalry is Hot (syracuse Post-Standard)
Syracuse Hits the Road to face Desperate UConn (Rochester Democrat & Chronicle)

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


With their overtime win over Rutgers on Saturday, Connecticut finds themselves in a three-way tie for the last Big East Tournament spot with South Florida and Seton Hall. With a much tougher schedule ahead than the other two, winning at home is imperative and when rival Syracuse comes to townm tonight, the Huskies will be desperate for a win. Offensively, UConn continues to struggle as they managed just 47 points in regulation against Rutgers on Saturday, shooting just 34% from the floor. They outscored Rutgers 24-8 from the foul line and scored all 14 of their overtime points from the line to secure a win on Saturday.

Syracuse got a career-high 27 pts from Eric Devendorf and 18 from Andy Rautins to hold off DePaul, 75-69. The Orange led 52-32 in the second half and saw that lead get cut to 68-65 with 1:47 left before Devendorf hit a driving lay-up and the important free throws to secure the win.

Connecticut is a 3.5-pt favorite in tonight's contest. Syracuse has the definite edge in experience with a starting frontcourt of three seniors: Darryl Watkins, Terrence Roberts and Demetris Nichols. They will be matched-up against freshmen Stanley Roberts and Hasheem Thabeet and sophomore Jeff Adrien. The Orange MUST win this match-up and use their experience and strength to their advantage. In the backcourt, UConn will try to use their quickness in Jerome Dyson, Doug Wiggins and AJ Price to disrupt Josh Wright and Eric Devendorf and force the Orange ballhandlers into bad decisions and poor passes to the post. They will need to force the Orange to turn it over and have Wright and Devendorf settle for perimeter jumpers as their offense.

Connecticut has the endge in depth, mostly in sheer numbers, but Paul Harris, Andy Rautins and Matt Gorman can provide a little bit of everything off the bench for the Orange. Marcus Johnson and Craig Austrie bring some experience for UConn off the bench, but the rest of the cast seems to change daily.

I still think this is Syracuse's game to lose. The Orange have the experience and I am still waiting for them to put it together for more than a flash here or there. This game is unlikely to be pretty, but the Orange have more offense and their zone is the best defense to stifle UConn's poor shooting line-up.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Syracuse 67 Connecticut 61

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Friday, February 02, 2007

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Rutgers @ Connecticut

February 3, 2007

Connecticut returns how as the try and stop the downward spiral of their season. There were many questions on the young Huskies even as they raced out to an 11-0 start with easy home win after easy home win. However, they have dropped eight of their last 10 games, including five in a row and are now in the dangerous position of 13th in the conference. As we all know, only 12 teams head to Madison Square Garden for the Big East Conference Tournament in March.

Rutgers has had their share of struggles this season and it was just a week ago that they stopped their own five game losing streak with a come-from-behind 2 OT win over rival Seton Hall last weekend. Their brief two-game homestand ended with a loss on Wednesday as they scored a season-high 83 points, but it was not enough as they fell to West Virginia.

It is very strange seeing Connecticut involved in a key game at this stage for qualifying for the Big East Tournament. This is a must-win game for the Huskies because they have Syracuse twice, along with Villanova, Georgetown and Louisville among their last seven conference games as well as an out of conference trip to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech. They desperately need to find some momentum and consistency in a hurry.

Rutgers will definitely be without one starter as JR Inman will miss the game as he attends the funeral of his grandmother. Adrian Hill injured his left knee in practice yesterday in what he calls a mild sprain. The 5th year senior has given the Scarlet Knights a big lift against a couple of the softest interior teams (Seton Hall and West Virginia) over the last two games with a combined 33 pts and 27 rebounds in the two contests. They will need him inside against UConn's Jeff Adrien and Hasheem Thabeet, especially without Inman who leads RU on the season in scoring and rebounding.

Honestly, without Inman I do not give the Scarlet Knights much of a chance. I think Marquis Webb will do a good job defensively on the inexperienced UConn backcourt, but the Huskies will be too deep and too strong inside. Neither team will shoot the ball very well, but UConn's lenght and athletic defense at the wings, led by Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson and Marcus Johnson, along with the superior quickness of guards Doug Wiggins and AJ Price will cause the RU offense tremendous problems. Without Inman to help bail them out, this will be a very tough game for Rutgers.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Connecticut 69 Rutgers 53

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