Tuesday, February 26, 2008


February 26, 2008

Connecticut had been finding ways to win as they built a 10-game winning streak. However, on Saturday, they could not find a way to win at Villanova, who ended their streak at 10 games with a 67-65 win over the Huskies. Rutgers, on the other hand, is limping home at 2-13 in the conference, losing their last seven, including a 30-pt loss to Marquette in their last outing.

UConn is expected to get deeper with the return of Jerome Dyson, who has missed the last nine games since being suspended for a failed drug test. Here are the local media game stories and previews on tonight's contest:

Huskies Expect Adjustment Period as Dyson Returns (New London Day)
How is Dyson's Return Game? (Hartford Courant)
Dyson in the Plans for UConn Men (Connecticut Post)
Dyson Returns to Different UConn Team (Rep-Am)
Inman Focuses in his Actions, not Reactions (Star-Ledger)
Thabeet, N'Diaye Take center Stage Tonight (Courier News)
Rutgers-UConn Scouting Report (Courier News)

In his last game, Jerome Dyson scored 20 pts in UConn's thrilling 84-83 win at Cincinnati. A few days later, Dyson and teammate doug Wiggins were cited on campus with possession of alcohol as minors and had to submit drug tests. Dyson's test came back positive and he was suspended from the team for 30 days. The Huskies rallied and ran off 8 straight wins, including victories at Indiana, home against Louisville, Pittsburgh, at Syracuse and against Notre Dame. They seemed to be falling off just a bit, but doing what they needed to do to win at South Florida and home against DePaul. It all finally caught up to them against Villanova last weekend. It seems, Dyson could not be coming back at a better time.

Since Dyson has bene out of the line-up, AJ Price has taken control of the team as their leader on the floor and the source of big baskets when the game is on the line. His growth and maturation in this time has been astounding and he has become the player many expected him to be when he chose UConn as a highly coveted recruit. Also, the shortened rotation as allowed Craig Austrie to become comfortable as the full-time two-guard and that importance was never bigger than when he drove coast to coast after a USF made basket to drill the game winner with 0:00.2 to lift UConn over USF in overtime. Stanley Robinson has also shown growth in this timeframe with consistent touches on offense and playing time.

So, where will Dyson fit back into the mix. When he left, he was the etam's leading scorer and top perimeter defender. He will likely begin in a supplemental role, but the added depth might be the biggest help in the short-term. Getting his legs under him in game situations may take a little time, but he shoudl be at full speed when we hit New York City for the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden.

For Rutgers, it has not been a very pretty season. The offensively-challenged Scarlet Knights gave fans a glimmer of hope with wins over Villanova and on the road against Pittsburgh in mid-January, but they have not won since. Freshman guards Mike Coburn and Corey Chandler definitely look promising for the future, but their junior class continues to underwhelm in their performance. JR Inman, Jaron Griffin and Anthony Farmer were supposed to take a step forward this season, but inconsistent performances have continued to plague the trio and as a result, the Scarlet Knights struggle offensively nearly every time out. They will be challenged by UConn inside and out as Hasheem Thabeet will make it very difficult to score inside and their inconsistent perimeter touch will make life tough outside.

UConn is a 9.5-pt road favorite and Rutgers will bring a strong effort as everyone likes to take a shot at the Huskies. However, coming off a loss in their last outing and their ability to make scoring tough on opponents inside and out, I do not see RU scoring enough to keep up the pace with UConn for 40 minutes.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Connecticut 71 Rutgers 59


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Tuesday, February 19, 2008


February 19, 2008

Connecticut looks to continue their run of winning when they return home to host DePaul Tuesday night. The Huskies have won nine games in a row, seven in the Big East to put them in position for a run at the conference's regular season title. In those nine wins, eight of them have come with the game in the balance in the last four minutes, including their thrilling OT win at South Florida on Saturday afternoon.

DePaul has lost five of six and find themselves fighting for their Big East Tournament lives as we head down the stretch. Their upcoming schedule does not do them any favors with four of their last six games on the road and home dates with West Virginia and Notre Dame mixed in.

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

Past Drives UConn (Hartford Courant)
No. 13 UConn Setting Lofty Goals (Republican-American)
UConn Puts 9-Game Win Streak On Line vs. DePaul (Chicago Tribune)
UConn's Goal: Keep Winning, Play Better (Connecticut Post)

Here are two teams heading in opposite directions, but the game is very important to each team. DePaul, sitting at 5-7, is in a dogfight with Villanova and Seton Hall for the last spot in the Big East Tournament. Each team has five victories, which is just one game in front of St. John's for 14th place. Of the four teams, two will be in and two will be out of the party at Madison Square Garden.

Connecticut is 9-3 in the Big East and their three losses is the least in the conference, joined by Georgetown, Louisville and Notre Dame. These four teams have separated themselves from the middle of the pack and look to be in pretty good shape for a bye in the conference tournament.

UConn's hot streak has been without the player many expected to be their top threat this season, Jerome Dyson, who has been suspended indefinitely by the University for a positive drug test following an alcohol-related citation on the UConn campus. Since that time, AJ Price has elevated his game into consideration for Big East Player of the Year, running the team flawlessly and scoring points when needed. The role for Craig Austrie has also expanded and the new found confidence gained with that role was never more obvious than his coast to coast drive that resulted in the 14-foot floater to beat USF on Saturday with 0:00.2 left on the clock in OT.

Like all Connecticut teams of the recent past, they still are big and athletic in the frontcourt with 7'3 Hasheem Thabeet blocking and changing shots, Jeff Adrien bullying his way to double-doubles and the 6'9, long, lean and athletic wing Stanley Robinson just waiting to bust out as a top player.

After struggling throug a tough out of conference schedule, DePaul made some noise by winning three of their first four in the Big East, however, their recent struggles have pushed the Blue Demons back towards the bottom of the pack in the conference. DePaul has some impressive athletes, but consistency in ballhandling and shooting continues to plague them and prevents them from finding any solid footing in the Big East. Their freshman duo of Dar Tucker and Mac Koshwal is very impressive, but against a team like UConn, they will find producing points very tough. Look for Austrie to have the assignment of guarding leading scorer Draelon Burns and making it difficult for Burns to find anything uncontested from the perimeter. Limiting Burns ability for easy baskets will force the Depaul offense to work hard for anything they get, which usually leads to the Blue Demons breaking down on offense.

UConn is a 13-pt favorite, where in many instances, Depaul can make up for their shortcoming by matching up athletically, they will be severely challenged in that end today as well.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Connecticut 81 DePaul 65


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Wednesday, February 13, 2008


February 13, 2008

The feature game on the schedule tonight pits two Big East championship contenders as Notre Dame travels to Connecticut to meet the Huskies in a rematch from an early January contest. Notre Dame jumped out early on UConn in the first meeting, lost the lead, but rallied behind Kyle McAlarney's career night to earn a tough victory in their first meeting. Connecticut will look for revenge tonight...

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

Anonymity Getting is Getting Tougher for Irish (Journal Gazette)
Huskies Will Hound McAlarney (South Bend Tribune)
Ayers Shows He Has Something in Reserve (Chicago Tribune)
Harangody Takes Over for Irish (Hartford Courant)
Notre Dame Has Tough 1-2 Punch (Connecticut Post)
Thabeet, Price Will Be Targeted (Journal Inquirer)

Back in early January, Kyle McAlarney lit up Connecticut for 32 points in a 73-67 Notre Dame win over UConn. The Irish led by 15 points at the half (and, much more earlier in the 1st half) before UConn stormed back to take the lead. However, big baskets by McAlarney and Rob Kurz put the Irish over the top in that game.

Look for the Huskies to throw everything they can at McAalarney on the perimeter to see if anyone else can hurt them from the outside. Inside, Hasheen Thabeet was definitely in the head of Irish star Luke Harangody as Thabeet blocked 10 shots in the game and Harangody shot just 5-23 from the field. While I find it hard to beleive Harangody will have a similar shooting effor, it is a tough match-up for the Irish bruiser. Thabeets size and length, and his increasing comfort in playing physical, is likely to cause difficulties again for Harangody.

Connecticut is quite a different team from the one that came up short in South Bend. The Huskies are on an impressive winning streak where they have shown the ability to win tough games. They have also shown they can handle adversity. AJ Price has grown by leaps and bounds as the leader from the point guard position. Thabeet and Jeff Adrien are as tough as any duo in the paint and Craig Austrie has settled into the shooting guard position with the suspension of Jerome Dyson.

Except for a repeat performance by McAlarney, I feel UConn is a tough match-up for the Irish to get a win on the road. Notre Dame is playing well and confident, but the Huskies will have revenge on their minds and they are one of th efew teams that have the bodies inside to make life difficult for Harangody.

UConn is a 5.5-point favorite and their win streak should continue tonight.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Connecticut 75 Notre Dame 67


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Friday, February 01, 2008


February 2, 2008

Over the last half-dozen years or so, no game on the schedule has seemed to mean as much as one between Pittsburgh and Connecticut in the Big East conference. They have played some classic thrillers in the regular season or in Madison Square Garden in the Big East Tournament. Jim Calhoun seems to use the Pitt game as a measuring stick for the toughness of his ballclub. The Panthers seem to relish the role of battling the Big East stalwart program of the last decade or so, hoping to achieve continued success to some day take that crown.

This year promises to be no different as both teams enter the contest at 5-3 in Big East conference play. Connecticut has rebounded from a surprising home loss to Providence to win four games in a row. One of those games was a non-conference road match-up at Indiana, who was ranked in the top 10 in the country. Their latest win was a thrilled over Louisville on Monday night. Making those wins even more impressive was they did them without the services of leading scorer Jerome Dyson and 6th man Doug Wiggins as both had been suspended for possession of alcohol on the UConn campus while under 21.

Dyson has now been suspended for a mandatory 30 days by the University because he failed a drug test in the aftermath of the incident, a process that has caused an additional rift between coach Calhoun and his athletic director. Wiggins passed his drug test. Wiggins had failed one earlier this year which resulted in him being away from the program for 30 days, so another failed test would have meant a suspension for the remainder of the season. A decision has not been made public, but Wiggins did return to practice yesterday and there are signs he will be available this Saturday, but that has yet to be confirmed.

In the absence of Wiggins and Dyson, AJ Price has continued to strenghten his role of on-court leader of the Huskies and continues to mature into one of the finest players in the conference. Added responsibility in the offense for Stanley Robinson has allowed him to find comfort and produce a pair of double-doubles in the impressive wins. Jeff Adrien continues to supply energy and emotion with his trademark toughness inside and Hasheem Thabeet continues to evolve as an offensive threat while changing everyone's game plan on the offensive side.

Pittsburgh is not going to feel sorry for the Huskies being short-handed. The Panthers have already lost Mike Cook and Austin Wallace for the season and Levance Fields has missed the last nine and a half games with a broken foot. The Panthers have held things together to post a 5-3 record in conference play which includes a win against Georgetown. They have also won on the road, beating South Florida and St. John's, but a few cracks in their usual toughness and effort have been detected recently as they lost at Cincinnati and were shocked at home agianst Rutgers. In both games, freshman DeJuan Blair found himself in some foul trouble and the consistent characteristics that have personified Pitt over the years were missing. With four freshmen in the eight-man rotation that has been diced because of the injuries, the up and down nature is to be expected.

There are some match-ups that Pittsburgh will have trouble with right from the get-go, but they match-up pretty well with UConn. Sam Young and Gilbert Brown give the Panthers an extremely athletic duo at the forward position and Keith Benjamin and Ronald Ramon are a pair of steady senior gaurds who have been through it all before. An area that sticks out right away is the height differential between the 7'3 Thabeet and the 6'7 Blair in the middle. However, knowing Pitt was able to overcome that match-up while beating Georgetown gives Pitt confidence heading to the XL Center in this one.

The way the Big East has gone, once a team seems to be gaining some momentum, the BE(ast) pulls them back to the pack. Connecticut really has a chance to solidify themselves as a clear challenger in the conference with a win this weekend. However, you wonder if the Dyson/Wiggins situation, now that the unknown is settled, will allow the team to relax just a bit. While they played with an edge in their last two games, can they keep that edge sharpended for a third?

Pittsburgh will likely come in with a nothing to lose attitude, but with the confidence that they have knocked off Georgetown in a similar situation, although it was at home. The way the conference is...I wouldn't be surprised to see UConn get pulled back into the pack.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Pittsburgh 68 Connecticut 66


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