Monday, January 28, 2008


January 28, 2008

The XL Center in Hartford is the site of this week's Big Monday contest as Louisville travels to Connecticut to take on the Huskies in a pivotal Big East Conference Showdown. Both teams were in action on Saturday afternoon as Louisville eased past St. John's and a short-handed UConn squad pulled off a big win on the road against Indiana.

Here are the local medial previews and stories on tonight's game:

No Rest for the Weary (New London Day)
Huskies Game Carries Weight for Cards (Louiville Courier-Journal)
Thabeet Blossoming on the Block (Courier-Journal)
U of L Faces Surging UConn (Kentucky.com)
Dyson, Wiggins Wont Play Against Cards (Courier-Journal)
Little Time to Savor Win (Hartfod Courant)
Calhoun Proud of 'Special' Win (Rep-Am)
Underage Huskies Found With Alcohol (Connecticut Post)

Connecticut has been on a roll since they lost at the XL Center to Providence College 11 days ago. Since that game they rolled past Marquette and picked up road wins over Cincinnati and now Indiana. The win over Indiana was particularly impressive as it handed Kelvin Sampson his first loss at home since becomming the Hoosiers head coach. The win also came without Jerome Dyson and Doug Wiggins, suspended prior to the game by UConn coach Jim Calhoun. Late Thursday night the pair was cited by UConn police for possession of alcohol by minors. They remain suspended indefinitely and will not be with the team for tonight's game.

Louisville sits at 5-2 in conference play and has won six of their last seven games overall. The lone loss was on the road to Seton Hall on January 19th. Louisville saw a 14-pt 2nd half lead evaporate in that one. Since then, they have cruised past both South Florida and St. John's and now look to make a statement in the conference that they want to be the challenger of Georgetown's lead in the Big East. So far, anyone who looks like they are positioning themselves to join the Hoyas as separating from the conference pack have been pulled back to the pack, sometimes (see Pitt) in the unlikeliest of ways.

Without Dyson and Wiggins, the Huskies become quite thin in the backcourt. AJ Price remains the starting point guard and is joined in the backcourt by Craig Austrie. Their only backcourt reserve is freshman Donnell Beverly, who was not seeing much time prior to the suspensions.

Louisville does not have much depth in the backcourt either and relies on three guards to play most of their minutes with Edgar Sosa, Jerry Smith and Andre McGee. coach Rick Pitino does have a couple options with freshman Preston Knowles and walk-on Will Scott to go deeper, but often times they are used when Pitino seems exasperated with his other guards.

UConn's depth has been hit throughout the season with the transfer of Marcus Johnson earlier and now the indefinite suspenions of Dyson, their leading scorer, and Wiggins. Stanley Robinson now becomes an even more vital player and must find consistent production from the wing with a ton of potential. The inside combination of strongman Jeff Adrien and 7'3 Hasheem Thabeet is usually enough to intimidate anyone, but the Cardinals bring a talented frontline themselves with seniors David Padgett and Juan Palacios along with sophomores Derrick Caracter and Earl Clark. On the wing, Terrence Williams is the one that makes the Cards go with his all-around play.

We have seen teams band together short-handed and get a short-term lift to overcome the adversity. However, it is often tough to maintain that level. With such a quick turnaround from their trip to Indiana for a tough win and coming home to face a Louisville team that is slowly putting things together, it looks to be a tall order for the Huskies. They still have talent and they still have decent numbers on the roster, but Louisville will be coming with something to prove.

Connecticut is a slight home favorite in the early lines, but look for Louisville to be just a little too deep and to continue their defensive improvement to get a tight win on the road.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Louisville 67 Connecticut 64


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Sunday, January 27, 2008


January 27, 2008

VERBAL COMMITMENT ALERT: Scottie Haralson (SG), Jackson (MI)

Projected 2008-2009 Roster:

Seniors: AJ Price (G), Jeff Adrien (F), Craig Austrie (G).
Juniors: Curtis Kelly (BF/C), Jerome Dyson (G), Jonathan Mandeldove (C), Stanley Robinson (F), Doug Wiggins (PG), Gavin Edwards (PF/C), Hasheem Thabeet (C)
Sophomores: Donnell Beverly (G)
Freshmen: Nate Miles (G/F), Kemba Walker (PG), Scottie Haralson (SG)
2009 Commitments: Alex Oriakhi (C), Jamal Coombs (F)

The Nate Miles saga will continue as he tries to gain clearance from the NCAA Clearinghouse to join the Connecticut program either this spring or next fall. In the meantime, Jim Calhoun and the UConn staff gained a commitment Friday from 6'4 guard Scottie Haralson from Jackson (MI) and Provine High School. Provine's Haralson Commits to UConn (Jackson Clarion Ledger) and was targeted for his ability to shoot the basketball.

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Around the holidays, UConn headed to Florida to play UCF and also to do some recruiting. One player that caught their eye was Provine High School's Scottie Haralson who put together four high-scoring outings at the talent-laden Amare Stoudemire Invitational Classic in Florida. The sharp-shooting 6'4 guard is averaging over 22 pts/game for coach Luther Riley. Provine High School is 16-7 on the season. He had a scholarship offer from Auburn and schools like Providence, Wake Forest and others were showing interest.

Haralson plans to sign in April and expects to make an official visit to Storrs later this winter. He will definitely join NYC Rice point guard Kemba Walker in the 2008 UConn class. Things are still up in the air at this point on Nate Miles. Miles, a 6'7 swingman from Toledo, Ohio, is awaiting word from the NCAA Claringhouse. He had hoped to enroll at UConn for the current semester, which began this week. To begin this semester, Miles would need a decision from the Clearinghouse by February 4th. Miles has obtained a diploma from The Patterson Schools (Lenoir, N.C.) and has received a qualifying score on the ACT. But he has also attended six high schools in the last five years and a preliminary decision from the NCAA was not in his favor. Also, UConn would have to accept him as a student as well.

With Miles, that would make 14 on paper for the Huskies in 2008. Of course, most expect 7'3 sophomore C Hasheem Thabeet to make himself available for the NBA Draft. The Huskies already have a pair of 2009 commitments from Alex Oriakhi (C) and Jamal Coombs (F). It will be interesting if the Huskies get involved with another big man this spring for 2008.


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June 16, 2007

VERBAL COMMITMENT ALERT: Kemba Walker (PG), Rice High School (NYC)

Projected 2007-2008 Roster:

Juniors: AJ Price (G), Marcus Johnson (WG), Jeff Adrien (F), Craig Austrie (G).
Sophomores: Curtis Kelly (BF/C), Jerome Dyson (G), Jonathan Mandeldove (C), Stanley Robinson (F), Doug Wiggins (PG), Gavin Edwards (PF/C), Hasheem Thabeet (C)
Freshmen: Donnell Beverly (G)
2008 Commitment: Nate Miles (G/F), Kemba Walker (PG)
2009 Commitments: Alex Oriakhi (C), Jamal Coombs (F)

As his recruitment began to blow up this spring with a string of impressive performances with the NY Gauchos, Kemba Walker maintained his preference to play in the Big East and this weekend he made that a reality as Walker Makes Commitment to UConn (Hartford Courant) over Cincinnati and St. John's, among others.

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Kemba Walker, a point guard from Rice High School in New York, made an oral commitment to attend UConn. The 6'2 Rice High School standout has shot up the recruiting boards of many this spring with storng AAU performances, including the Cactus Classic in Phoenix, where he led the New York Gauchos to the championship and was named MVP. Walker made an unofficial visit to UConn last week and decided on UConn shortly after.

Walker joins guard/forward Nate Miles from Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburgh, Mass., as high school seniors-to-be who have committed to UConn. The Huskies have no more scholarships to award. After missing out on Brandon Jennings and Samardo Samuels, UConn got some good recruiting news and hopes the momentum will follow with Ed Davis, a 6-foot-8 forward from Mechanicsville, Va. Davis' Thursday visit to Storrs was his latest unofficial visit - and perhaps his last. Davis, who plays both forward positions, said there is no front-runner among his final three schools, UConn, North Carolina and Virginia. While he hasn't closed the door on any school, he said he is unlikely to make another visit before deciding by the end of July.

With no seniors on their 12-player roster and two verbal for 2008 and 2009, there does not seem to be a lot of action ahead, but UConn always has some irons in the fire.


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Wednesday, January 23, 2008


January 23, 2008

Connecticut will look to gain some momentum following their 89-73 victory over Marquette on Sunday. They will look to do so on the road at a place where Syracuse, Villanov and Pittsburgh all failed previously, at Cincinnati.

Here are the local media previews of the game:

UConn Takes Notice (Hartford Courant)
Seniors Put 'D' First (Cincinnati Enquirer)
UConn Faces Tough Test in Cincy (Connecticut Post)
UConn Faces Critical Road test Against Improved Bearcats (Rep-Am)

Cincinnati is definitely the surprise team of the Big East. The Bearcats have won at Louisville and also own home victories against Syracuse, Villanova and Pittsburgh. Their four league wins have been marked by excellent defense and improved work on the glass. The Bearcats have solid athleticism at every position and the veterans are meshing well with the younger talent. Mick Cronin has gotten his team to believe in the philosophy that defense wins basketball games.

Point guard Jamual Warren has been steady with the basketball and shooting guard Deonta Vaughn gives the Bearcats the offensive punch they need to pull out wins. Warren's play has solidified the point guard position freeing up Vaughn to be the scorer on the club. This is a VERY important dynamic on a team that will look to slow the pace and keep the score from getting much past 60. Inside, Adam Hrycaniuk and Anthony McClain compliment each other well in the post and John Williamson is one of the seniors who have bought in fully to the defensive and rebounding philosophy that Mick Cronin has gotten his team to accept. The wings are led by Marvin Gentry off th ebench with the threat of instant offense and starting wing Rashad Bishop, a freshman with the knack for the big play.

I think Cincinnati's early success will be put to the greatest test yet by the Connecticut Huskies. UConn got a MUCH needed win over the weekend, beating Marquette in a contest that was never close, 89-73. Coming off a heart-breaking loss at Georgetown and a bad home loss to Providence, UConn could not afford a three-game losing streak in the conference with the potential to get ugly. They played inspired on defense and dominated the boards as expected.

While UC beat Syracuse and Pitt, quality teams no doubt, neither had the deep collection of athletes of the Huskies. UConn can run, run, and run some more behind AJ Price, Jerome Dyson, Doug Wiggins and Craig Austrie in the backcourt. They have the defensive presence in Hasheem Thabeet to take away much in the paint, something the three previous victims against UC lacked and with forwards like Stanley Robinson and Jeff Adrien, they are strong, athletic and big, trumping any advantages UC had against other teams.

Cincinnati will try to keep the score down, but this might be a tall order. UConn will test the commitment to a slower pace and their athletes could exert thier talents in this contest. The home crowd will be fired up and the Bearcats will be confident, but even with their previous success, they are still a 2.5-pt underdog. Look for UConn to end Cincinnati's home winning streak in conferenc play.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Connecticut 74 Cincinnati 67


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Thursday, January 17, 2008


January 17, 2008

The Big East's version of the battle of New England pits two original conference members against one another at the Hatford Civic Center. Each team comes in with identical Big East records of 2-2 and the Huskies will look to end a series streak of the road team winning these match-ups.

Here are the local media previews found on the internet this morning:

UConn Eager to Put Providence Loss in Past (Connecticut Post)
Friars Another Measuring Stick for UConn Men (Waterbury Rep-Am)
Friars, Huskies Expect Usual Barn-Burner (Providence Journal)
Game Preview: PC @ UConn (Providence Journal)
Calhoun Back With Huskies (Hartford Courant)

We are just 22% into the Big East schedule, but this is a very important game for both teams. The Providence Friars always bring one of their better efforts to the table when they play Connecticut, and this trip to hartford should be no different. The Friars are 2-0 at home in conference play (beating RU, USF) and 0-2 on the road (losing to Marquette, DePaul). The Friars hit a rough patch with Sharaud Curry and Dwain Williams out, their lone point guards, and started conference play 0-2. Williams is back and gives the offense some more direction and allows a talented perimeter group including Weyinmi Efejuku, Brian McKenzie and Jeff Xavier freedom to produce points.

Where Providence can struggle is along the front line. Randall Hanke is effecient on offense when he gets the ball in position to score, but he can struggle mightily with bigger, stronger player. That is exactly what he will see tonight when matched up against Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien in the post. Geoff McDermott will battle from tip to horn, but the lack of confidence the Friars have in their post play will likely push them to play smaller and press. Unfortunately, UConn loves to see the tempo revved up and this could play into their hands as well.

The Huskies are 2-2 in Big East play. They have played three of their four games in conference play on the road, winning at Seton Hall and dropping tough games at Notre Dame, where a huge second half rally was thwarted by the Irish, and Georgetown, where Roy Hibbert hit a game-winning three-pointer in the waning seconds. Their lone home contest in league play resulted in an easy win over St. John's.

The Huskies are led offensively by the much improved AJ Price and the strong two-guard Jerome Dyson. Inside, Jeff Adrien can still bull his way to a double-double nearly every night, but improvements on offense by Hasheem Thabeet has complimented his game. They are still waiting for Stanley Robinson to use his tremendous talents to become a consistent threat offensively. Like most Husky squads under Jim Calhoun, this rendition is athletic, tall and loves to push the tempo. They can still hit some rough patches, but this year, led by Price, they do not have droughts for as long of periods of time on offense as the execution has improves. Defensively, the effort is improving each time out and the team keeps improving.

Connecticut still lacks a 'big win' on the season, and a home game against Providence would hardly qualify as such at season's end, but the Huskies need to win all of their games like this. The Friars are in need of a big win and road wins in general for them to make an argument for inclusion in the Field of 65 this March.

This seems like a game that Connecticut will try to make a statement in. After the sting of a disappointing loss at Georgetown and with the return from illness of Jim Calhoun, look for the Huskies, as 9-pt favorites, to put things together tonight and flex some muscles.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Connecticut 82 Providence 69


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Friday, January 11, 2008


January 12, 2008

A classic Big East battle commences at the MCI Center on Saturday afternnon when Georgetown hosts the Connecticut Huskies. The Hoyas are 2-0 in the conference, cruising past both DePaul and Rutgers on the road, now they return home to host a UConn team looking to make a statement.

Here are the local media previews on the contest:

Hoyas on the Rebound (Washington Times)
Hoyas Swap Places with Connecticut (Washington Post)
Chance to Send Instant Message (Hartford Courant)
Thabeet Eager for Hibbert, Georgetown (Connecticut Post)

The Huskies have opened conference play with wins over Seton Hall and St. John's which bookend a loss to Notre Dame. Against the Irish, UConn found themselves down 19 at the half and rallied to take a 2nd half lead, but the Irish made big plays down the stretch to save the win.

The Hoyas have a little bit of everything, with 7'2 ROy Hibbert nearly matching the height of UConn's 7'3 Hasheem Thabeet. Patrick Ewing Jr and Vernon Macklin also add size and athletic ability to the mix. Multi-dimensional Dajuan Summers plays both forward spots and cool and steady lead guard Jonathan Wallace adds experience and dead-eye shooting to the Hoya mix.

Georgetown also has another element this season with freshmen Austin Freeman and Chris Wright joining junior Jesse Sapp as players who can excelt in the open court as well. If UConn is successful in pushin tempo, Georgetown adds more weapons to their traditional Princeton-style attack.

The patience and high effeciency execution that trademarks Georgetown is a touch match-up for UConn, especially this group that is still coming together as a team. The Huskies tend to lose focus at times, but their improvement has been steady and Jim Calhoun has been harping on 40-minutes of effort from this squad. The Huskies like to play fast and Georgetown is very good at preventing teams from playing at their preferred tempo.

For UConn to win this game, AJ Price is going to have to be at his very best, especially when the game slows down and UConn is forced to play in the halfcourt. Price will need to get the big men in position to score. Despite several exceptional athletes, UConn does have trouble with players being able to create their own offense in a halfcourt setting. Outside of Price and Jerome Dyson, the rest in the regular line-up are much more capable in transition or picking up baskets on the offensive glass. The presence of Hibbert will limit the advantage that Thabeet has over most teams. The Hoya depth should also be able to battle Jeff Adrien in the paint and Georgetown's experience migh be a stiff challenge for Stanley Robinson.

This should be a great learning tool for Connecticut as they still have to learn to fight through a game against a good opponent that will force them to play out of their element. I think the Huskies match-up well, but until they have road success playing teams of a different style, I am going to wait on them before predicting they spring an upset.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Georgetown 76 UConn 68


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Tuesday, January 08, 2008


January 8, 2008

Connecticut and St. John's enter tonight's Big East contest both at 1-1 in conference play. The Redstorm split last week with a loss at Syracuse and a home win over Cincinnati. The Huskies earned a road win ovr Seton Hall before dropping a tough one at Notre Dame.

UConn has the advantage in this game in nearly every category, but the Redstorm will scrap and claw on the defensive end for the full forty minutes. They will have to find the right combination of scoring inside and out to keep pace with the high octane Huskies, so look for them to try to slow the pace down and force the game to be played in a halfcourt setting.

The Huskies want to run, run and run some more. AJ Price and Jerome Dyson are a guard combination that fits that style of play really well. Their size, strength and athletic ability in the frontcourt will be tough to match for the Redstorm.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Connecticut 80 St. John's 64


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Friday, January 04, 2008


January 5, 2007

Capping off our first Saturday of conference action will be Notre Dame and Connecticut in what should be a very good game in a great atmosphere on the Notre Dame campus in South Bend. Both teams did what they had to in their opening conference games and now they will try to put a stamp on their contending status in the first week of play.

Connecticut earned a road win with a 98-86 win at Seton Hall behind Jerome Dyson's 27 points. Unlike against Seton Hall, the Huskies will have to contend with an inside horse that will put some pressure on the UConn bigs around the basket.

Notre Dame held serve at home with an impressive win over West Virginia Thursday night. Luke Harangody dominated the paint against WVU with a 29-pt, 16-rebound performance. He will find the competition stronger (in Jeff Adrien) and taller (in Hasheem Thabeet) against Connecticut than he did against the Mountaineers.

For the Irish, they will need to take better care of the basketball. Against WVU, Tory Jackson did score 12 points, but turned the ball over 6 times in 24 minutes. The Irish had 20 turnovers as a team. Kyle McAlarney did a better job distributing and taking care of the ball, but against UConn they will need him to be able to make shots as a beneficiary of Jackson's ability to break down the defense. The UConn guards, Dyson and AJ Price, are capable of putting a lot of pressure on the ball defensively, so this is a match-up to watch.

For Connecticut, they need to stay in control. Jim Calhoun wants his team to push, push, push on offense, but against SHU they seemed to get into a contest where they were more concerned about running and forgot to play defense. Notre Dame will unliekly be able to turn the game into such a ragged affair, but Connecticut also needs to realize where their advantages are and try to go to the boards and score inside.

Notre Dame needs to be dialed in from 3-pt range in this game. McAlarney, Ryan Ayers and Rob Kurz all hit the long ball at a very high percentage and they will need to be knocking them down to draw the Husky defenders out of th elane to isolate Harangody inside. Harangody uses excellent foot work and technique inside that he could find the Huskies in foul trouble if he is given space to operate. But, if ND is not making UConn come out of the paint, Harangody could struggle against the bigger Huskies.

I am not sure why, but I see Connecticut stealing a game on the road in this one. I just think their size inside is going to make things very tough on Harangody and they have enough athleticism to cover the 3-pt shooters of the Irish. It probably will come down to the last few possessions, so the maturation of the Huskies will dtermine if they can win this or lose it. I am thinking they have enough improvement to come up with an impressive win against a good Notre Dame team.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Connecticut 80 Notre Dame 78


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Thursday, January 03, 2008


January 3, 2007

An intriguing contest at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ as Connecticut makes the trek to battle Seton Hall. We should learn a lot about each team from this game as the local media beat writers are also anxiously waiting to gain new insight on each club:

Time to Turn it Up a Notch (New London Day)
Time to Turn it Up (Hartford Courant)
UConn Trying to Shed Travelling Blues (Connecticut Post)
UConn Men Hit Road for Big East Opener (Waterbury Rep-Am)
Seton Hall a Mystery (Star-Ledger)
Pirates' Davis Makes the Grade (Courier News)
Seton Hall-UConn Scouting Report (Courier News)

This will be a game to see how much better Connecticut is this year compared to last. A year ago, the UConn season came undone quickly once leage play started and they had to hit the road, an experience very new to their young squad. Thsi year, they have played a few games out of Connecticut and tuned up with a true road game against Central Florida last week.

Seton Hall prefers to play a frantic style of basketball that will try to force quick decisions upon their opponents. Last year, UConn made bad decisions throughout their conference games and once adversity set in, those decisions snowballed and the had some LONG offensive droughts.

This year, they are hoping that AJ Price has taken control of the ship as the point guard. Last year they appeared rudderless too often. Price is averaging 12.6 PPG and has an assist to turnover ratio of greater than three to one. He is showing to be much more effecient with the basketball and becoming the floor leader they lacked last season.

UConn has a decided height advantage and they do not lose any athletic ability with the enourmous frontline of Stanley Robinson (12 PPG, 6 rebounds), Jeff Adrien (13 pts and 9 rebounds/game) and Hasheem Thabeet (10.5 PPG, 8 rebounds and 3.5 blks a contest). On the wing, one of the best all around guards in the Big East, Jerome Dyson (15 PPG), is also a tough match-up.

The Huskies like to run, run and run some more. Jim Calhoun will plead his troops to push the ball at every opportunity, but they also must realize when it is not there to be patient and take advantage of the huge height disparity between the two teams and work that to their advantage.

Seton Hall is a team that is tough to figure. You know they are going to come out and fly all over the court. What they need more of is controlled chaos in their Big East contests as too often their game resembled chaos. When your playing Robert Morris or James Madison and needing to come back from a 20-pt defecit, that might work, but in the Big East, the opponents will take advantage of that situation.

The Pirates really struggle in the halfcourt game. That might not be too much of an issue tonight as the game is expected to be played at an exciting pace. The Pirates best offense is usually generated from their defense and they will try and pressure the UConn guards from tip to horn tonight. Their hope is that the Huskies are still not ready to manage the game to their strengths and they get caught up in the frantic pace of the action.

The biggest challenges for SHU will be converting offensively against the athletic and much taller Huskies. Eugene Harvey (17.4 PPG) likes to drive to the rim and 6'5Brian Laing (20.5) does most of his work in the vicinity of the paint playing as the Pirates power forward, those two will have a tough time scoring over Thabeet and Adrien. Harvey does a remarkable job of drawing fouls and getting to the line, but playing guards more closely resembling his strength and quickness in this contest could make that a more difficult chore.

After the big two, Seton Hall will have to find someone to be a consistent threat. Freshman Jeremy Hazell is a deep threat and Jamar Nutter has been through these games many times before. Paul Gause will generate his offense through his defensive prowess, but the new Pirate frontline is really going to be under the spotlight as John Garcia, Augustine Okosun and Mike Davis will face their biggst challenge of their careers.

I find this a very difficult match-up for the Pirates, and if UConn takes care of the ball, the Pirates will have a long night on their home court.

The oddsmakers still are a little worrisome of the Huskies recent road woes, making them a slight 2-pt favorite. I think SHU will make a spirited effort, but they will come up short and the Huskies will make it 21 of 23 against the Pirates in the series.

NBE Blogger Prediction: UConn 89 Seton Hall 77


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