Monday, March 30, 2009


March 30, 2009

VERBAL COMMITMENT ALERT: Darius Smith, 6'2 PG from Chicago (IL) Marshall HS

Projected 2009-2010 Roster:

Seniors: Jerome Dyson (G), Jonathan Mandeldove (C), Stanley Robinson (F), Gavin Edwards (PF/C), Hasheem Thabeet (C)
Juniors: Donnell Beverly (G), Chukwuma "Charles" Okwandu (C)
Sophomores: Kemba Walker (PG), Scottie Haralson
Freshmen: Alex Oriakhi (C), Jamal Coombs-McDaniel (F), Jamaal Trice (SG), Darius Smith (PG)

One of the strangest recruiting sagas out of the Windy City has come to a close as standout Marshall High School guard Darius Smith is a Husky (Hartford Courant) as the 6'2 prospect surprises many following his recruitment by picking Connecticut over Marquette, DePaul, Cincinnati, Missouri and Indiana.

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As the UConn Huskies are preparing for the 2009 Final Four, coach Jim Calhoun and his staff struck on the recruiting trail by plucking one of the top unsigned seniors in the country remaining in the class of 2009 as they received a verbal commitment from Darius Smith of Marshall HS in the city of Chicago.

Smith has had an excellent senior season which only enhanced his status as one of the top players in the 2009 class. His senior season performance with the Commandos had him as the near unanimous pick of Windy City analysts as the top player in the Chicago-land area in the 2009 class.

Smith can get it done on both ends of the floor as an excellent on the ball defender with athletic ability and length and he can also score points from his lead guard position. While playing with the Illinois Warriors Smith showed the ability to be a ball-hawking defender with quick hands and playing defense with intensity.

With AJ Price graduating and Kemba Walker assuming the key role next season, Smith has the ability to play both guard positions with a player like Walker and run the show after he moves on. Smith is expected to sign a letter of intent in the spring signing period which will begin in two weeks.

For more on Smith's commitment and his recruitment, Illinois Prep Bulls-eye is a tremendous resource to check out.

Jamaal Trice finished up a high school career at powerful Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana (CA) and headed off to do a year of prep basketball at Mt. Zion Christian Academy in Durham (NC). It looks like the move paid off as Trice is now a committed player in the class of 2009 for the Connecticut Huskies and is expected to sign a LOI with Smith this spring.

Trice played on an always loaded mater Dei team in 2007-2008 and averaged around 10 points a game. Trice and Smith will join Tilton School teammates Alex Oriakhi and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel as 2009-2010 freshmen for the Huskies.

Some of UConn's recruiting needs and priorities have been scrambled a bit since the fall as Nate Miles, a 6'7 wing, and 6'10 forward Ater Majok are not with the team. Miles was dismissed from school in his first month on the UConn campus. Majok has was partially cleared by the NCAA and will be eligible, academically, to begin playing in December of 2009. His saga is ongoing now, however, as a recruiting scandal with Miles and an agent, Josh Nochimson, a former UConn team manager, has called into question if UConn violated NCAA rules. Majok is Linked to the Agent in the Miles Case as there are 'Moore' Worries for UConn off the court than on during this Final Four run.

On paper, UConn is full on scholarships for 2009-2010. It is expected that Hasheem Thabeet would turn professional, which would open an additional scholarship. Expect UConn to be in the mix with some top players that either are, or become eligible in the spring recruiting period as the coaching carousel will likely spin as well.


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Saturday, March 28, 2009


March 28, 2009

By Zach Smart

Kemba Walker glided to the basket at will.

He left defenders sucking back wind, permeated the teeth of the defense and kicked it to the open man. He reeled of head-spinning moves that resulted in buckets.

The result?

UConn coach Jim Calhoun, dogged by a detailed Yahoo! Sports report that he violated NCAA recruiting violations, pumped his fist emphatically, and UConn released a sigh of relief.

The Huskies squandered an early 11-point edge, but showed poise and perseverance down the stretch, gutting out an 82-75 victory over an up-tempo Missouri team in Glendale, Ariz.

Walker, the fearless freshman from New York City powerhouse Rice High School, never wilted under the knife-cutting, cut-throat pressure.


After Mizzou came roaring back from an early deficit--one which saw them capitalize on a torrent of UConn turnovers--Walker soared high to the cup to break a 50-50 deadlock. The 6-foot speed demon helped construct a four-point edge with another drive to the basket with 5:37 remaining.

The neophyte nearly left the jaws at the University of Pheonix sprawling to the ground with a resume reel fall-away bank shot that gave the Huskies a 70-65 edge with two minutes, 11 seconds to play.

Then, in the final 1:02, the fearless freshman showed the poise that resonated in his teammates. He hit all four of his free throw attempts, helping seal the deal.

With the win, the Huskies (31-6) punch a ticket to the final four in Motown for the first time since 2004, when a Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor-led team brought a national championship to the Constitution State.

Walker gave an efficient account of himself, scoring a game-high 23 points and handing out five assists. At crucial transitions, Walker put the team on his back and made some eyebrow-lifting plays.

The Huskies denied Missouri's quest for their first final four. The third-seeded team replicating the "40 minutes of hell" basketball branded by the Nolan Richardson-led Arkansas team of the 90s look like they had the Huskies.

Hasheem Thabeet, the Huskies' 7-foot-3 center, was mired in foul trouble. Missouri's vaunted pressure defense took Thabeet out of the picture early. After picking up his first foul, he was relegated to the bench. Six minutes later he returned, only to be whistled for another folly.

The Tigers, led by Leo Lyons and Matt Lawrence's 13 points apiece, used their hellfire, go-go offense to their advantage. They nearly ran the Huskies out of the gym in the second half, but Walker helped stave off the team that dumped 102 points on Memphis Thursday night.

Beyond Walker, A.J. Price, who thrives in the big-stage setting but handed the "show" keys to the formidable freshman, paced UConn with 18 points. Staney "Sticks" Robinson, the walking definition of feast-or-famine during the regular season (there was a search warrant out for the 6-foot-9 freakish athlete's game at one point), added 13 in 34 minutes of tick.

The Huskies kept the recruiting scandal sideshow back in Connecticut. The team that's hellbent on giving their longtime coach his third national championship looked survived to fight another day--this one on college basketball's grandest stage--on Saturday.

Calhoun, who has a history of getting defensive on topics of this subject, nearly admitted his gaffe in the way his team recruited since-expelled freshman Nate Miles.

"Do I know if any (mistake) has been made? No, I'm not making judgment one way or the other," said Calhoun prior to the contest.

"I truly believe that everything I have tried to do, I have done with a good, clean conscience and if we made a mistake, we'll find out about it. If we didn't, we will also find out about that...I have done this for 37 years."

UConn has had to hush haters all season.

They said they can't do this, they can't do that.

They said the loss of guard Jerome Dyson takes too much of the team's swagger and fast break life away. They said Thabeet can't respond to big game pressure, he puts the ball down on his way to the basket and hasn't established any refined back to the basket moves.

They said Jim Calhoun is overpaid and the Huskies blew the game of the century with their free throw shooting woes in a wild, 6OT loss to Syracuse in the Big East tournament.

Calhoun and the Huskies chose not to listen.

Now, with most of the adversity in the rear view, the Huskies head to Detroit with a ticket to a Monday night (and nothing else) on their minds.


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March 27, 2009

It has been a trying week for Jim Calhoun. On top of the pressures of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, the UConn Hall of Fame coach has had to deal with the scrutiny of the program's recruiting practices following the release of a Y! Sports story claiming the Huskies have broken NCAA rules in the recruitment of Nate Miles.

In meeting with the media on Friday, Calhoun began to tire of the questions concerning the recent allegations against UConn's recruiting practices, finally asking the media members questions.

Calhoun asked a reporter, "Did we play yesterday?"

"Yes, you did", responded the media member.

"And we won, right?"

"Correct," responded the reporter.

Calhoun was even asked if he felt he had become a distraction to his team in their quest for a National Championship.

"No, I don't at all," he responded.

If coach Calhoun feels the media scrutiny has tired him out, just wait until he gets a load of the 'Fastest 40 Minutes of Basketball' courtesy of Mike Anderson and the Missouri Tigers.

"Usually I don't like slogans, but that one is true and we really are facing an opponent that we are going to have to walk a very delicate balance with," Calhoun told the media during a rare moment when the coach was able to talk basketball. "Memphis wanted to run with them purely for 40 minutes and that is not Connecticut's desire to run 40 minutes with Missouri."

With everything the Husky team has been through, losing Jerome Dyson to season ending surgery, the whole Nate Miles saga back in the fall and the events of the last week, fatigue could be a factor. UConn is playing what virtually amounts to a 7-man rotation, and those seven better have the track shoes on Saturday afternoon in the Western Regional Final at Phoenix Stadium.

"I feel like depth isn't really part of it," senior Craig Austrie, who scored 17 in the win over Purdue, said. "We're young guys. Our adrenalin is going to be running, and we can't wait to get on the court."

Missouri will comfortably play nine players for the most part with two more getting a few minutes in each game. With 11 players to draw minutes and energy from, playing their manic style becomes much easier.

It is almost a given the opponent will be lured into their track meet style of play. A couple easy transition lay-ups or early three's and teams forget about the halfcourt game, that is exactly what the Tigers want and increases their college basketball odds of winning, especially against UConn with their frontcourt power duo of Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien. A game that has those two running for 40 minutes will make them much less effective as Missouri will look to score by beating them down the court.

The play of AJ Price will be the key. He will have to control the tempo and force Missouri to play defense in the halfcourt. This will allow UConn to exert their matchup strengths.

Price is a senior, along with Adrien and Craig Austrie, the trio is determined to reach the Final Four and today their legacy will be stamped at UConn forever.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Connecticut 79
Missouri 74


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Friday, March 27, 2009


By Zach Smart

When Tom Moore became a newly-minted member of the Jim Calhoun coaching tree--a tall one that's branched out from Maine to George Washington University--his purpose was to alter the perception of a Quinnipiac program striving for national visibility.
With sudden bombshell allegations charging that Moore--who served under Calhoun for 13 years at UConn (spending his last two as UConn's Associate Head Coach) has violated NCAA rules in the recruitment of Nate Miles, the perception of Moore could be altered as well.

Moore appeared to be a promising steal for Quinnipiac, located near the mountains in Hamden, Conn.

The school desperately looking to revive its basketball team, an afterthought with the Bobcats' nationally ranked hockey team making all the winter sports noise, forked over a prince's ransom ($300,000 a year) for Moore in 2007.

Widely regarded as one of the nation's top recruiters (see Allen, Ray or Hamilton, Richard for more info) high expectations, hype, and hearsay moved around the school's scenic campus faster than word of a beerfest.

Moore has certainly enhanced the image of the once bottom feeder of the Northeast Conference, though he's had two mediocre seasons so far.

Being mired in a recruiting scandal of this ilk could be a major blow to his reputation.
Moore allegedly served as a middle man in the Nate Miles operation, sending Nate Miles in the direction of agent and former UConn team manager Josh Nochimsom's direction.
The NCAA has a houdini-like NOT WANTED HERE sign to agents at all times.

Nochimson, who supposedly provided Miles--suspended in October for violating a restraining order--with lodging, transportation, restaurant meals and representation (the worst of all), had a feud with the aforementioned Hamilton.

While serving as Rip's agent, Nochimson reportedly stole more than $1 million from the current Detroit Piston.

Moore is also caught making an excessive number of phone calls to Sean Patterson, Miles' AAU coach and parental guardian.

Nochimson also was involved with UConn freshman Ater Majok, who sat out this year due to NCAA clearing house rules.

It looks like Moore's pipeline to UConn is still very much intact, because QU has a 6-foot-7 forward from Africa rumored to be Majok's first cousin.

The player did not suit up this year but is slated to walk-on next year.

Still, it's too early to pass judgement.

Could Moore's regal reputation and Calhoun's golden legacy be on the line here?
I'm not certain, only time will tell.

I do know, however, that former UConn beat writer Adrian Wojnarowski contributed to the Yahoo! Sports report.

Wojnarowski lived in Connecticut and wrote for a newspaper in Waterbury.
He was always feuding with the Hall of Fame coach and more often than not, got owned by the aging game general.

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March 26, 2009

With distractions coming left and right at the Connecticut men's basketball team and head coach Jim Calhoun, it was a relief to get on the court and play basketball. For the two hour window that the Huskies took on Purdue in the West Regional Semifinal in Arizona, that was what mattered.

"My job today was to come and coach our basketball team, and the kids took care of that," said coach Calhoun following the game.

UConn jumped out to an 8-0 lead and led 14-3 just 5:14 into the game on a Gavin Edwards bucket. It looked like the rout was on.

"I think our guys did fight back from that poor start that we had." said Purdue coach Matt Painter.

A Robbie Hummel three-pointer with 3:47 left in the first half completed a 15-3 run to cut the UConn lead to 26-23, prompting Jim Calhoun to call for a timeout.

"We told ourselves all week if we got ourselves out to a good run, they were going to come back," AJ Price said of Purdue. "They are a very game team, tough team. They proved that time and time again. Every time we made a run, they seemed to cut it back to four, two, something like that."


After UConn won their first two NCAA Tournament games by an average margin of 41 points, Purdue desperately wanted to get out to a lead and see how UConn would react to being down, especially early on. However, after the quick start, the Boilermakers were never quite able to catch the Huskies.

"We had to get them to play from behind," coach Painter said following the game. "We had to get the lead and get them playing on their heels a little bit."

"You have to give them credit, they didn't allow that to happen."

However, UConn knew they were in a game at the break. Despite their hot start, Purdue controlled the pace of the contest and went into halftime trailing just 30-25.

The Huskies once again came out of the locker room on a strong run with Hasheem Thabeet scoring eight of his 15 points in a 12-5 run over the first 6 1/2 minutes of the second half.

Once again, back came Purdue, and after a pair of free throws from JaJuan Johnson, the Boilermakers were back within 44-40 after a 9-2 spurt that took all off 1:26 to complete.

But, like he has done time and time again for his team, AJ Price asserted himself when he was needed.

Price hit a pair of jumpers and then assisted on a Jeff Adrien bucket, all sandwiched around a Stanley Robinson dunk that saw UConn regain control with a 52-42 lead. After a bucket from Johnson, Price found fellow senior Craig Austrie for a three-pointer and the UConn lead was 55-44, matching their largest of the game.

"I made two or three tough little floaters in the lane, and it was just being persistent and staying with it," said Price of his baskets starting the UConn run.

Thabeet would add another hoop at the 6:36 mark to make it a 67-55 UConn lead and that was the last made field goal of the game for the Huskies. They would make 15 of 18 free throws down the stretch to account for the final score of 72-60, advancing to the Elite 8 for the first time since 2006.

Austrie was the offensive catalyst for UConn, scoring 17 points while making all three of his three-point attempts and going 6-6 from the foul line.

"He got his confidence back tonight, I could tell," said Price of his fellow senior backcourt mate. "I love to see Craig Austrie smiling."

Thabeet added 15 points and 15 rebounds, with 4 blocked shots. Price, despite a tough shooting night, also accounted for 15 points, adding 7 assists. Stanley Robinson continued to step forward late in the season adding a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds and was a key defensive stopped against Hummel in the second half.

"Stanley, once again, has evolved into that role as our third scorer and rebounder," said Calhoun.

It continues to be a trying season for UConn. From off-court issues to the Jerome Dyson to the whirlwind of accusations of illegal recruiting practices of the last couple days, the Husky players just continue to forge forward and they are now one of just eight teams left standing.

"(It) felt great to get out there on the court and play basketball," Price said in regards to the distractions. "Like I have been saying all week, that's what we know how to do, that's what we focus on and that's what we do best."

Next, their best could lead them to a Final Four in Detroit, stamping a legacy for a group, led by seniors Price, Austrie and Adrien, that will be held in high regard with their Hall of Fame coach, not matter where this season ends up.

"They truly have won 30 games, they truly [formed a] legacy at UConn, won 101 games," Calhoun said. "As I told you all along, this has been a special group."

They are just a couple wins away from being special AND a National Championship group.


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Thursday, March 26, 2009


March 26, 2009

By Zach Smart

On the court, UConn has mastered the art of playing above the law.

Unlike the 1993 and 1996 Chicago Bulls, however, it's not due to preferential treatment from the boys sporting the zebra shorts. Let's not forget, Jim Calhoun wasn't too happy with one ref (apparently longtime Big East official Mike Kitts) when UConn suffered a bruising, black-and-blue brand of loss on Feb. 16 at the XL Center in Hartford against Pittsburgh.

While the Huskies have imposed their will and inside physical firepower on teams--thanks mainly to the tandem of monster bigs Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien--they've steered clear of foul trouble.

On the court, that is.

Off the court, allegations of potentially significant recruiting violations have made the Huskies look more like "cheetas," as they say on 125th St.


If this Yahoo! Sports investigation comes to fruition and Calhoun and former UConn assistant Tom Moore--the aloof character who was paid a king's ransom to take over an ailing small Division-I program in Quinnipiac in 2007--are nailed....

Well, one legacy is tainted while another up-and-coming coach's reputation is severely dented.

According to a recent report by espn.com, since-expelled forward Nate Miles isn't the only player who UConn pulled dangerous strings to reel in.

Josh Nochimson, who's charged with providing Miles with representation, lodging, and so on is reportedly connected to UConn freshman Ater Majok as well.

Majok, a 22-year-old (and I thought I was the only dude to finish college late!)., a top prospect from the Sudan via Australia, was supposed to play this season.

Due to NCAA clearinghouse rules, however, Majok's 6-foot-10 frame was relegated to the bench.

Nochimsom, a sports agent and former team manager at UConn, allegedly catered to Majok.

ESPN's report states that Nochimson personally got Majok into a high school all-star game, the Kentucky Derby Festival in Louisville, Ky., last spring.

He provided him with transportation and freed up a spot for him with his influence, the report indicates.

Ironic that the two players that UConn bent the rules to reel in have not registered a second in a UConn game this season.

Majok will not be eligible to play until December.

Majok's youtube clip makes him out to be the second coming, while coach Ed Smith--who coached Majok in Australia and has been with him on several visits to UConn talks about what a special player he could potentially be.

Calhoun was not his usual mad dog self in the aftermath of allegations.

He was serene and meek when approached by the media, choosing to instead focus on the pivotal game against Purdue.

"The student-athlete (Miles) is not involved with our program, he was cleared by compliance people, an outside source-a legal source-and the NCAA," explained Calhoun.

"Something was written. We take very seriously our responsibility as NCAA members."

The loquacious, longtime Husky coach continued, "All I know is to go forward, stand up and be counted. That's exactly what I plan to do, and get my team as ready as I possibly can to play Purdue (tonight). That's what I know how to do.

This is nothing short of a royal mess.

Of intriguing note, however, is that two of the Yahoo.com writers who unraveled the report--are former UConn beat writers.

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March 26, 2009

In timing that was used for maximum impact, Y! Sports dropped an exclusive bombshell on the college basketball world yesterday with their story that details their 6-month probe on how UConn Violated NCAA Rules in their recruitment of Nate Miles, who was expelled from school prior to playing a game with the Huskies.

With a regularly scheduled NCAA Tournament press conference yesterday afternoon, Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun quickly addressed the story as he began his opening comments with the media.

"The University is taking any allegations towards it's program or newspaper reports or anything else very responsible and tries to live under the responsibility of the NCAA rules," said the Hall of Fame Coach. "The University is going to look into any matter, as we would, when we hear light of something with regards to we think it still falls under the guidelines of making sure that we are being compliant."


Calhoun then quickly made it clear that the situation does not surround any current players or impact the job at hand in Phoenix, reaching the Final Four.

"There are no current student athletes involved in this story."

"I want to talk about Purdue because that's really the only thing right now that I can control," continued Calhoun. "I can't control what people say, do or act to us or say about us."

So, while the college basketball world is abuzz about what the allegations might mean for the future of UConn and their coach, coach Calhoun and his current Husky squad is focused on emerging from the West Region with a trip to the Final Four next weekend in Detroit. In 1999 and 2004, the two previous Final Four and national championship seasons for UConn, they came out of the West Region as well.

"I'm glad to be back in the West," said Calhoun. "There seems to be something about being out here in the warm weather."

It has already been a tumultuous beginning to the NCAA Tournament for Calhoun off the court. The 66-year old two-time Cancer survivor missed the opening round win over Chattanooga as he was in a Philadelphia hospital being treated for dehydration. The Huskies rolled, 103-47. Calhoun was back on the sideline for round two and the impressive UConn train continued to roll right past Texas A&M, 92-66, for a spot in the Sweet 16. Now, there is the allegations against his program for recruiting irregularities. It's been quite a week.

For a team that has already overcome the previous Nate Miles situation, coach's battle with skin Cancer treatments, eligibility questions surrounding recruits and Jerome Dyson's injury, this is just another obstacle to overcome in the chase of their ultimate goal.

"I worry much more about [Purdue] than I do about the other things," Calhoun told the media gathered for Wednesday's press conference. "Even in Philadelphia there was a distraction of me not being there to some degree. And our kids, once again, we talked this morning at breakfast about what opportunity we have. We don't want to ever look back upon this and say we didn't give it our best."

His players have also learned to block out the outside factors and concentrate on the task in front of them.

"We are just mentally tough," senior Jeff Adrien said. "It starts with our coach. We don't let stuff like that bother us or whatever. We have been through a lot of ups and downs in our lives and everything. We just know how to block it off."

When the Huskies give it their best, they are impressive. They showed that in the first two games of the tournament.

"Too big, too fast, too good," remarked Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon after witnessing UConn dismantle his Aggies in Round Two last Saturday.

With a punishing power forward in Jeff Adrien and intimidating 7'3 center Hasheem Thabeet in the paint, UConn can mentally defeat a team before stepping on the court. Add in senior assassin AJ Price and 6'9 small forward Stanley Robinson beginning to live up to his enormous potential, UConn gives an opposing coach PLENTY to think about.

"UConn is obviously [the] No. 1 seed, one of the best teams in the country if not the best," remarked Purdue coach Matt Painter on Wednesday. "Unbelievable front [court] game. Great lead guard in A.J. Price and had some guys really step up, [like] Stanley Robinson."

For Purdue, the Big 10 tournament champions, the road to the Sweet 16 has been challenging as they got past Northern Iowa in Round One, 61-56, and held off Washington down the stretch in the second round, 76-74, to advance to the Sweet 16.

"We are honored to be here. It is a big accomplishment for our program, making the Sweet 16 especially after playing two tough teams in Northern Iowa and Washington," said Painter.

Sophomore JaJuan Johnson has emerged as a scoring threat for the Boilermakers through the first two rounds, averaging 18 points in the two wins. He will have his hands full tonight against the menacing duo of Thabeet and Adrien. Coach Painter looks for Johnson to play his game and show his face-up skills against Husky big men.

"JaJuan needs to take as many good shots as possible, said Painter. "We don't need to get consumed with playing any differently. I think we have to be more selective at times."

"If JaJuan Johnson has open perimeter shots we want him to take those. But it would be no different against any other opponent."

Much has been said prior to the NCAA Tournament that this particular group of UConn players have not had any post-season success. They have never won a game in the Big East Tournament and their last wins in the NCAA Tournament game in 2006 when Adrien and Austrie were freshmen reserves on the Elite 8 squad that lost to the Cinderella of the ages, George Mason.

Now, the group is two wins away from being just the third UConn team to reach a Final Four. Even with all the distractions around them from the first day they got together for individual workouts last September to this week, UConn forges ahead. These should be another case of UConn getting the job done. Purdue is likely to be very patient and make the Huskies work on both ends of the court. This will keep the game close, but the rebounding and defensive power of the UConn frontcourt will win out.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Connecticut 65
Purdue 57


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Wednesday, March 25, 2009


March 25, 2009

Probably the last thing Jim Calhoun wanted this week was to awake this morning to a Y! Sports Exclusive the UConn Violated NCAA Rules in their recruitment of Nate Miles. Adrian Wojnarowski and Dan Wetzel uncovered the situation during a 6-month probe as they were looking into the impact sports agents have on college basketball.

The investigation centers around indications that Miles was provided with lodging, transportation, restaurant meals and representation by Josh Nochimson, a professional sports agent and former UConn student manager, between 2006 and 2008.

NCAA rules barred Nochimson from having contact with Miles or from providing him with anything of value because, as an alumnus and former part of the men’s basketball program, Nochimson is defined by the NCAA as a representative of UConn’s “athletic interests.”

The UConn basketball staff was in constant contact with Nochimson during period in question, up to and after Miles’ recruitment. Five different UConn coaches traded at least 1,565 phone and text communications with Nochimson, according to the Y! Sports article.

Miles career at UConn was short-lived, as he was expelled from the school on October 2nd after violating a court-ordered restraining order that was placed against him after a female student alleged that he physically and sexually assaulted her. This came after a long and winding road for the 6'7 guard to become eligible after 5 high schools. While the Miles era may have been short on the UConn campus...it's legacy might have a severe impact in the future. We shall see...

At most, this is a set of potential major NCAA violations because of UConn's knowledge of the relationship between Nochimson and Miles, at least, it is a major distraction as UConn heads into the Sweet 16 on Thursday.

So, recruiting violations aside, UConn has a game to play on Thursday night against Purdue, a team with really nothing to lose as Matt Painter's program is in the Sweet 16 as the Boilers are in the Bonus (Post-Tribune) and anything from here is gravy or icing on the cake. With the recent distractions and the ease of the opening two rounds for the Huskies, Purdue might have the low profile that they hope UConn will overlook.

The players on the floor are unlikely to be bothered by the off the court issues currently surrounding the program. Through the Jerome Dyson injury and aftermath, UConn Keeps it Together (Washington Times) to earn a #1 seed and blast their way into the Sweet 16. Now, they will look to keep it together once again and reach the ultimate goal fo a National Title coming out of the West region, which the college basketball odds are certainly in their favor.


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Saturday, March 21, 2009


March 21, 2009

"Too big, too fast, too good."

Those were the words Texas A&M head coach Mark Turgeon used to start his post-game press conference after his Aggies were pummeled in Philadelphia by the West's top seed, Connecticut, 92-66.

With Jim Calhoun feeling better and back on the bench, UConn shot a sizzling 58% from the field and held a 39-28 rebounding advantage and cruised to the win.

"Came down to we just could not guard them," said coach Turgeon. "We couldn't guard them. We could never put anything together because we could never get a stop."

Senior AJ Price is enjoying his first taste of NCAA Tournament success, leading the Huskies with 27 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds in a dominating performance.

"Price is in total control of the game," said Turgeon, still seemingly in awe of what he saw from UConn. "He's dictating the whole game out there offensively and defensively."

Price's effort was a performance that made his ailing coach feel a whole lot better as well.

"Obviously, I think the 27 points and the 8 assists for A.J. was in that special category of players that we've had who in a big time game make big time plays," coach Jim Calhoun said. "He was absolutely special for us."

Fellow senior Jeff Adrien added 23 points and 8 rebounds while Stanley Robinsin added a dozen on offense. What makes the UConn performance more impressive is that Hasheem Thabeet, the 2008-2009 co-Player of the Year in the Big East, was limited to just 20 minutes because of foul difficulties, registering just one made field goal (6 points total), 4 rebounds and 2 blocks.

"Jeff (Adrien), he's been our rock, so important for us," Calhoun said. "He was just really, really terrific tonight."

After a season of battling against the Luke Harangody's, DeJuan Blair's and other top big men in the Big East, Adrien is ready to show what Big East basketball is all about to other unsuspecting big men around the country.

"I think really our conference just prepares us to play

games like this where the physical game, it's nothing to us," Adrien said following the game. "It doesn't really match up to what we've been through during the year."

"There's no other league in the country like the Big

East. We just go out there every game and try to take each other's heads off. I'm for real when I say that."

UConn's next stop is Phoenix Stadium and the West Regional semifinals where they will take on 5th seed Purdue, who knocked off Washington on Saturday. The Huskies also marched through the West in 1999 and 2004 on their way to their two national titles, they left one opposing coach pretty certain it could happen a third time.

"I definitely think they have a chance to be a national champion," said A&M coach Turgeon.

For Jim Calhoun, it is a start and these two games have will certainly have many around the nation moving the Huskies back into a 'favorite' position. However, there is work to do and, afterall, it is only the beginning.

"Are we special yet? No," said Calhoun after the game. "Couple more wins from that. There's no guarantees in this deal. But we played two very impressive games."


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Thursday, March 19, 2009


March 19, 2009

Jim Calhoun's Connecticut Husky men's basketball squad tips off their quest for a National Championship on Thursday afternoon in the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia when they take on 16-seed in the West, Chattanooga.

The Mocs, with a record of 18-16 overall this season, were the Southern Conference Tournament champions, upsetting the College of Charleston in the finals to earn the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. UT-Chattanooga had finished the regular season with an 11-9 conference record which included losses in their last three regular season games.

John Shulman and his Mocs have faced their share of tough opponents this season, facing NCAA Tournament teams such as Tennessee, Missouri, Memphis and Southern Cal in succession to open the season. The results were not very pretty, as they lost all four by an average of 26.5 points. Still, the Huskies are not taking anything for granted.

"They're a very athletic team, [they] play very hard," UConn senior guard AJ Price said of Chattanooga. "So we pretty much know what we're going to see in them."

For Price, this NCAA Tournament is his last shot at post-season glory in his UConn career. Last Thursday's epic six-overtime loss in the Big East Tournament quarterfinal was the fourth consecutive time the Huskies were ousted in NYC in their first game. Price's NCAA Tournament history consisted of a whole nine minutes last year in a first round loss to San Diego because of a torn ACL. Now, this go-round, UConn must overcome the loss of junior guard Jerome Dyson to make a deep tournament run.

"I think we've adjusted well since losing Jerome," Price said. "You understand anytime you lose a great talent like that, you're going to have to make some adjustments in order to pick up what he brings to the team."

"I think we've done a good job of doing that. We're over that psychologically and ready to play basketball now."

For Price and fellow seniors Craig Austrie and Jeff Adrien, their legacy is at stake. As freshmen, Austrie and Adrien were reserves on a team heavily favored to win the National Title. However, they were ousted from the Tournament by Cinderella of the Ages George Mason. Their tournament experience got off to an auspicious start that year as well, trailing 16th seed Albany well into the second half before taking control and avoiding the history making upset.

"We was down 11 with 12 minutes left," remembered Adrien of that game. "Our seniors just came back, you know, led us through that game. It wasn't a great feeling, but to get it over with and get that W, it felt great at the end."

Now, it is Adrien's turn to make sure an early exit is not on the agenda this time around. His head coach believes Adrien, Price and Austrie, as well as juniors such as Hasheem Thabeet and Stanley Robinson will be approaching this year's tournament with a heightened sense of urgency following lessons of the past.

"We hope we stay longer than we did last year," Jim Calhoun told the gathered media at yesterday's press conference. "That would be kind of nice. [We] had kind of gotten used to that. We found out it wasn't a God given right. I never thought it was, but can you get that assumption sometimes."

In order to avoid a monumental upset in the opening round, UConn just has to stay within themselves. Chattanooga likes to get up and down the court, will fire threes and run, run, run. They are athletic, but Jim Calhoun's club usually corner the market on athleticism and size. The loss of Jerome Dyson does limit them a bit on both ends of the court as his athletic ability allowed him to be a plus defender and able to break down the opposing defense to score. However, that might be something to worry about later on in the tournament, not Thursday afternoon.

UConn will likely dominate the boards and their superior size, quickness and overall athletic ability will likely make it difficult for Stephen McDowell to get loose for many open shots. The senior scorer stands just 5'11, but he can score in bunched and leads the high-powered attack with nearly 19 points a game. If the Huskies can neutralize McDowell, they could really make life miserable for the Mocs.

UConn is a 20 1/2-point favorite, while Chattanooga is very athletic, UConn has seen plenty of athletes, but the Mocs have not seen much like UConn, and when they did early in the season, they were not competitive...don't look for them to be in this one either.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Connecticut 84
UT-Chattanooga 62


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Thursday, March 12, 2009


March 12, 2009

Talk about a great rivalry match-up, this is a fantastic slate of quarterfinal conference tournament games in the Big East with Connecticut and Syracuse being the Thursday night finale.

Syracuse got past Seton Hall on Wednesday night in a chippy contest, that saw a pair of double technicals and an excessive foul called. When the shenanigans started, SU had a slim two-point lead, when the dust had settles, Syracuse was up 24 and clearing their bench to set up a date with the Huskies.

UConn comes into the 2009 Big East Tournament as the #3 seed following their Saturday loss at Pittsburgh to close the regular season. UConn is very close to locking up a #1 seed for the 2009 NCAA Tournament and a win over Syracuse could do the trick.

Here are some pregam stories and previews on tonight's anticpated match-up:

Orange Get Mad (Syracuse Post-Standard)
Boeheim Gets Serious at Big East Tourney (Post-Standard)
Mad Bimber (Post-Standard)
Ready to Rumble (Journal Inquirer)
Orange Scouting Report: Syracuse vs. Connecticut (Post-Standard)
UConn Eager to Break Tournament Hex (Connecticut Post)
UConn Men Have No Shortage of Motivation for Big East Tournament (TheDay.com)
Big East Quarterfinal: Syracuse vs. UConn (Hartford Courant)

These two teams met in Connecticut back on February 11th in a contest that resulted on one win and two losses for the teams involved. With UConn winning by the score of 63-49, the Huskies picked up a win in the standings, while the Orange a loss, howeever, Jerome Dyson was lost for the season because of a knee injury, a loss that might have knocked UConn from the favorite perch in the Big East.

Dyson went down to injury early on in the game in the first meeting. Connecticut was able to break away from a close game in the first half with a defensively-dominant performance, led by Hasheem Thabeet who scored just 8 points, but added 16 rebounds and 7 blocked shots. The Orange wanted nothing to do with scoring near the basket, shooting 31.7% from the floor with their two big men, Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku, combining for a 3-12 effort.

However, the game also go physical late. Thabeet was not just intimidating with his size, but some loosely tossed elbows caught the attention (and bodies) of Orange players and he topped it off with a fastball to the face of Kristof Ongenaet when falling out of bounds in an effort to perseve possession. Following the game, SU seemed to be looking forward to another shot at the Huskies.

In a situation similar to Pittsburgh possibly looking ahead to a potential Friday night rematch, UConn could very well have the Panthers on their mind. Afterall, saturday's loss is very fresh in their mind, so being 100% concentrated on the Orange might not be happening. We saw on Wednesday night what a motivated SU team can look like, they should be plenty motivated for this game.

The current NCAA Basketball betting odds have UConn as a 5 1/2-point favorite. With all the focus on Pitt and UConn here in NYC, do not sleep on the Orange. However, in the end, UConn will play too much defense and keep SU's easy buckets to a minimum. With Hasheem Thabeet inside, that is likely to be the difference in the end.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Connecticut 70
Syracuse 67


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Saturday, March 07, 2009


By Zach Smart

It was one of those game-changing, defining moments that seem to alter the balance of the contest in one, wowing instant.

That's what it felt like when Sam Young flushed an earth-scorching, resume reel dunk that gave Pittsburgh a 56-50 edge they wouldn't squander.

The Huskies had clawed their way back from a deficit and showed their resolve. Behind the the clutch, high-pressure antics of A.J. Price, UConn busted out a 10-0 surge that brought them to within two points. Doubters morphed into believers, thinking UConn can do the unthinkable and stamp Pitt with it's first upset at home this season.

Not so fast.

Young propelled himself into the air, floating between the Peterson Events Center ceiling and the hardwood, and unleashed an acrobatic, emphatic two-handed dunk with 6:29 remaining.


The play, which instigated exasperated UConn coach Jim Calhoun to take a 30-second timeout, was a microcosm of Young's afternoon.

Young, whose metamorphosis into one of the nation's elite scorers and all-around players hasn't been blown up, dominated. He tantalized the nets to the tune of 31 points, allowing Pitt to improve to 15-3 in the Big East and likely lock down one of the top seeds in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

With the win, Pitt defeats a No.1 team--TWICE--for the first time in program history. The titanic victory makes it the first time since 1998 a no.1 team twice fell to the same opponent. That was Duke, who surrendered the title of top-ranked team in the country to North Carolina twice. Pitt has now emerged as the seventh team in NCAA history to beat a top-ranked team on two occasions in one season.

Young, who lit the Huskies up for 25 and was virtually un-guardable back on Feb.16, continued his scoring splurge. He caught the Huskies with his trademark shot fake, stuck threes and open jumpers, completed high-flying alley-oop lobs, and knifed through the teeth of the defense.

Calhoun, who's developed a low tolerance for the Panthers' physical, roughhouse brand of basketball and the way the refs allow the black-and-blue, bruising basketball, tried sticking Adrien on Young.

But the muscle-bound 6-foot-7 forward couldn't contain him. Young used his quickness, ability to score in traffic, and stepback jumpers to fend off Adrien.

Much of the pre-game hype surrounded the intriguing subplot of Hasheem Thabeet v.s. DeJuan Blair. In the first game, Blair thoroughly pulverized his 7-foot-3 counterpart. He backed him down to the bucket and scored on the Tanzania native at will, finishing with 22 points and 23 boards.

Coming into this game, Thabeet the Center who's been in the Big East Player of the Year competition, said the game wasn't about him being the center of attention.

"It is not about Hasheem against Pittsburgh," Thabeet told the Hartford Courant Thursday. "It's about UConn basketball."

Calhoun, however, seemed to think that Thabeet would be put to the test in a way that has individual award implications Saturday. He knew his super-sized big would have to fend off the "Blaired Vision" he suffered last game and officially resuscitate himself after the Feb.16 quagmire.

"He now is going to be thrust into a pivotal position as the pivotal guy on our team. And if he were to be deserving of player of the year or All-American, or all those kind of things, well ... "

Well, quite frankly, he needs to show up for two halves of basketball.

Thabeet scored all 14 of his points in the first half, when he looked as if he was going to re-write the script. But the Tanzania native went Houdini in the second. He missed a pair of point-blank range layups on one crucial possession.

On the ensuing possession, Thabeet couldn't handle a risky pass and went sprawling to the floor. The Panthers capitalized on the turnover, with Fields hitting Young in full stride for an emphatic dunk on which he absorbed a foul.

Blair only had eight points and eight boards and suffered a personal 18-minute scoring drought. None of it mattered. Young was too quick, too efficient, and too much of a powerful presence on the glass (he snared 10 boards) and in the key (he sliced through the defense and glided to the basket for easy-layups and bank shots).

When Blair retreated to the bench after getting whistled for his third foul, however, Price essentially hurled the team over his shoulders.

Price would finish with 19 points and four assists in 35 minutes. He hit 4-for-8 from beyond the arc. Aside from Adrien (11 points, 5-for-14) and Kemba Walker, who snaked along the baseline and into the basket for 10 points, he didn't have much help.

Austrie was held scoreless and Stanley "Sticks" Robinson's offensive woes (2-for-6 fg, 2-for-6 FT) persisted.

So, Pitt has had UConn's number this wild, Big East regular season.

One Pitt fan had a creative way of putting the grudge match in perspective. He held out a sign that read, "UCONN'T BEAT US!"


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March 7, 2009

By Zach Smart & NBE Staff

After suffering from 'Blaired' vision and virtually disappearing during the Huskies" 76-68 loss at the XL Center in Hartford back on Feb. 16, Hasheem Thabeet and UConn will look to exact revenge on Pittsburgh.

Top-ranked UConn closes out the regular season in dramatic fashion, heading to the Peterson Events Center to try to avenge an earlier loss against Pittsburgh (27-3, 14-3). The stakes are raised, significantly as the game has regular season title implications. The prospect of grabbing a No.1 seed in the NCAA tournament could present itself to the winner, regardless of what happens next week in the 2009 Big East Tournament.

UConn will have to get an efficient account of itself, meaning 6-9 forward Stanley Robinson will have to play the hungry, possessed way he played against Marquette. Hasheem Thabeet will need to provide a presence on the blocks and not turn in another Houdini-like performance he did at Hartford.

The Huskies must have the fortitude and composure to withstand any late game run Pitt reels off. That's a litmus test in its own. The fans can blow the roof off after a wild, pulsating Pitt run and disrupt the flow of the visitor's comeback.

Pitt owns a gaudy 18-0 record at the 'PETE' this season and have won 20 straight at home dating back to last season.


The Huskies will need to be able to respond to any long range shot by Levance Fields, who buried two crucial threes down Craig Austrie and Kemba Walker's throats that turned out to be real daggers.

Fields scored 10 crucial points in three crucial minutes, helping the Panthers pad their lead and run off with a victory that catapulted them to No.1 in the country.

Fields, however, is questionable for this game after a hard fall on the Panthers’ previous game against Marquette and is reportedly very sore as a bruised tailbone leaves his status in doubt.

Last year, Pitt and UConn met in Connecticut with the Panthers missing Fields and UConn without Jerome Dyson then as well. AJ price hit the key baskets down the stretch, similar to what Fields did in their earlier match-up this season, to pull out the win. The Panthers were 8-4 (7-4 in the Big East) last year without Fields.

The Huskies will need to put the clamps on DeJuan Blair, who bulldozed his way to 22 points and 23 rebounds and destroyed Thabeet in virtually every aspect of the game on the 16th. Blair, the 6-foot-7 homegrown product and Player of the Year candidate, backed Thabeet down and penetrated the teeth of the UConn frontline at will. Both Blair and Sam Young, he of the trademark shot fake, were a two-man wrecking crew.

Young is averaging 18.4 points and 6.0 boards. He's shooting the rock at a 50 percent clip.

Back in mid-February, he started off sizzling and never relented. He hit jumpers and got free for alley-oops, cooking UConn to the recipe of 25 points on an efficient 8-of-13 shooting.

Pitt won the battle on the boards, 43-36 in a game that left the Big East leaders in a black-and-blue battered condition the following morning. With muscle-bound mammoths like Jeff Adrien and Blair going after it and employing an ultra-physical brand of ball, it was what one would expect.

Jim Calhoun, at the helm at UConn for 23 years, was even overwhelmed by the aggression of the game and the nature in which it was called. Calhoun said he hasn't seen a game like that in 15 years.

"If the game's going to be called like that, let us know before hand," he said, venting his frustration at referee Mike Kitts, whose suspect call on Hasheem Thabeet with 11:20 remaining resulted in Thabeet's fourth foul.

Calhoun also said his peace following the game and look for the Hall of Fame coach to be working the officials early and often on Saturday. It was in Pittsburgh back when their bruisers like Chevon Troutman and company would test the mettle of Emeka Okafor and Calhoun got T’d up during the opening tip-off, it could happen early tomorrow as well.

If the cajoling of the officials leads to a few fouls on Blair, then coach Calhoun has done his job and it will be up to his players to finish their job.

Pulling off a win in such a hostile environment will be trying for the Huskies, a real test of their manhood and hunger. Calhoun has called them out for not wanting it bad enough twice this season, in losses against Georgetown and Pittsburgh.

In order for the Huskies to win the battle in the backcourt, A.J. Price and Craig Austrie can't shoot a paltry 8-for-25 the way they did at the XL Center. With Jerome Dyson out, Kemba Walker has filled some of the scoring void. He's gone to the basket more. Adrien, who was sublime in his 25-point, 11-for-15 explosion against Notre Dame, has also helped cushion the loss.

Thabeet, who Blair virtually flipped over in the first half, knows he will be the center of attention. He isn't exactly embracing the role of the player who all eyes will be pasted on.

"It is not about Hasheem against Pittsburgh," he told the Hartford Courant Thursday. "It's about UConn basketball."

Calhoun knows his 7-foot-3 beanstalk will need to make up for the lost time last game.

"He now is going to be thrust into a pivotal position as the pivotal guy on our team. And if he were to be deserving of player of the year or All-American, or all those kind of things, well ... "

He's got to avoid slipping into the body of a 5-foot-10 walk-on. He's got to avoid getting pummeled on the glass, getting backed down to the basket, and suffering from 'Blaired' vision this time around.

Here are some pregame stories and previews on the game:

Game Night: #4 Pittsburgh vs. #1 Connecticut (CollegeHoopsnet.com)
Blair, #3 Panthers Read for Another ‘Celebrity Death Match’ (Washington Observer)
The Moment is Now for AJ Price and Connecticut Basketball (Chicago Tribune)
UConn Men Play for Big East Title (Hartford Courant)
UConn-Pittsburgh Saturday (Hartford Courant)
Blair, Pitt Try to Dislodge UConn Again (AP)
Thabeet in Spotlight Against Pittsburgh (Hartford Courant)
Panthers Await UConn, Another Shot at No. 1 (Post-Gazette)
Clash May Decide Big East Player of the Year (Norwich Bulletin)
For UConn, Formula is Easy, the Game is the Hard Part (Norwich Bulletin)
Clash of the Titans (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
UConn Men’s Gameday (Connecticut Post)
Officiating Talk a Backdrop to UConn-Pitt Match-up (Post-Gazette)
Pitt, UConn No. 1 Rivalry and Just the Ticket for Fans (Post-Gazette)

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Pittsburgh 71
Connecticut 66

The prospect of Pittsburgh playing without Levance Fields definitely worries me as the Panthers would be very vulnerable to aggressive defensive pressure in the backcourt with some inexperienced ball-handlers. However, the atmosphere and energy of senior day has carried many a team to a special win...


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