Every season, the game against UConn generates a ton of excitement in Friartown regardless of how both of their seasons are going. Last year, the Huskies demolished the Friars in Storrs and you know, ended up winning the National Championship and stuff. You won that battle I guess, UConn. Let’s move on. Tonight, in front of a rowdy Blacked Out Dunk, Ed Cooley has a good chance to kick off his involvement in the UConn rivarly with a victory (on the court that is, he currently is 1-0 recruiting courtesy of Kris Dunn). While a normal win over the Huskies would go a long way in Friartown, there is the added benefit of most likely thwarting their NCAA chances in the process. We could be the APR of 2012!
WHAT TO: KNOW
Game Time: 7:00PM EST
Opponent: Connecticut (17-11, 7-9)
Location: The Dunk
ESPN Accuscore: UConn 68.5, Providence 68.4 (UConn wins in 50.3% of over 10,000 sims)
CBSSports Daily Picks: UConn 75, Providence 63
Coaching: Jim Calhoun will not be on the bench because he just had surgery. Two years ago, Calhoun also missed the game and George Blaney also filled in. The result? An 81-66 PC victory. Just sayin’.
WHAT TO: VOTE FOR
Hit up the rest of the preview after the jump.
WHAT TO: LOOK FOR
Bilal’s Goodbye: It’s senior night at the Dunk, and the only two people being recognized are Bilal Dixon and senior manager Steve Jecewiz. Remember, Dixon is graduating this year but has one year of eligibility left since he redshirted during Keno’s first year. We all know he’s going to Towson next year anyway, so it will be his last home game at the Dunk. I’m not sure who Steve Jecewiz is, but we’ll miss you too.
I’m Batman?: Kris Dunn’s good friend and former AAU teammate Andre Drummond (they call themselves Batman and Robin) is a huge matchup problem for the Friars. That is, assuming he decides to show up for the game. There’s no player that perhaps sums up the up and down season the UConn Huskies have had other than Batman. In 7 of their 16 BIG EAST contests, Drummond has scored 8 or less points (including an ofer against the ‘Ville). When he was at his best though? 20 points and 11 rebounds in a win over West Virginia. If he is on, the Friars may want to consider bringing in Goldy or the keep the Gipper out there longer than usual to pick up some fouls on him. Drummond is a disastrous 32.4% shooter from the foul line. Who would you rather take to make a foul shot if your life depended on it? Drummond in any situation, or Gerard Coleman in the last three minutes of a game?
Huskies can struggle from long range: In 7 of their BIG EAST games, UConn has shot below 30% from behind the arc. Five of those games came on the road, including a disastrous 2-20 against Georgetown. Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier are going to chuck up the most attempts, but they only shoot around 33%. Both are struggling in the month of February: Napier is 5-22, while Lamb is just 14-58. Ryan Boatright has been pretty hot of late from downtown, so PC will have to make sure they can find him out on the perimeter.
Tough Twos: With Drummond and Alex Oriakhi patrolling the paint, the Huskies have done a great job limiting opponents’ two-point shooting percentage. They are holding teams to a 40.6% two-point %, which is 4th in the nation. Drummond is 33rd in the country in block percentage (9.7%), and 18th in total blocks with 72. How many are Brice Kofane two handed stuffs though?
WHAT TO: READ
Friars.com: Gamenotes [PDF]
Scouting The Huskies: UConn has posted a 17-11 mark overall and a 7-9 record in the BIG EAST. In the team’s most recent game, the Huskies were defeated by Syracuse, 71-69, on February 25. Sophomore forward Jeremy Lamb is the team’s leading scorer (17.9 ppg). Sophomore guard Shabazz Napier is second on the team in scoring (12.3 ppg). Freshman center Andre Drummond leads the team in rebounding (7.8 rpg).
The first 2,500 fans to enter the Dunkin’ Donuts Center for the game will be given a cubic zirconium, one of which will be a diamond. Fans must bring it to Hannoush Jewelers to find out if they were the lucky winner of the diamond. The Dunk opens at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday.
9. Connecticut: The Huskies showed more in defeat than they have all season, finally displaying some energy, hustle and feistiness in their loss to Syracuse. The question is: Was it too late? UConn absolutely cannot lose to Providence or Pitt to finish the season.
15. Providence: At this point of the season, the Friars are latching onto any good news: Blowing a 17-point lead yet still beating DePaul thanks to Vincent Council’s late heroics qualifies.
(Friarblog note: I think they meant Buckets)
The surgery, in which a piece of a disk will be removed to relieve pressure on a nerve, is not as invasive as other alternatives.
Calhoun has penciled in his return for the Pitt game, at UConn, just three days before the Big East tournament begins March 6 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Hartford Courant: UConn In A Must-Win Situation At Providence
“Teams learn at their own pace,” said UConn associate head coach George Blaney, still filling in for Jim Calhoun. “It’s taken this group a little longer than we would have liked. And they’ve fallen back a little quicker than we would have liked. But they handle adversity well.”
The Huskies have faced distractions, disruptions, criticism and big deficits. When they fell behind 26-8 at Villanova on Feb. 20, it looked as if they might be bowing out for the season. They rallied to win that game and, after falling behind by 17 early in the second half on Saturday night, rallied to tie second-ranked Syracuse before losing by a basket.
Hartford Courant: As Long As There Are Games To Be Played, Don’t Count Out UConn
Though the margin for error is about gone, the Huskies (17-11, 7-9 Big East) have opportunity before them. They play at Providence on Tuesday and at home against Pittsburgh on Saturday. Two wins would put UConn at 9-9 in the league, just where they finished last season.
Nineteen regular-season wins would leave the Huskies two shy of their 2010-11 total, but the field of “bubble teams,” most pundits agree, is not as strong. If the Huskies, 29th in the RPI, finish ninth in the Big East, they would most likely play a first-round league tournament game against DePaul, a team they beat by 26 points on Feb. 4.
New Haven Register: UCONN MEN: Huskies’ standing for NCAA tournament berth still good
But in the end, it largely comes down to: Who’d you play, where’d you play them, how’d you do?
So where does that leave UConn? Let’s take a look:
Who’d you play?: The toughest schedule in America. Hard to believe, considering all the preseason detractors, but UConn’s strength of schedule remains No. 1 in all the land. Many of the Huskies’ non-conference foes — Florida State, Harvard, Central Florida, Arkansas, even Wagner — wound up being better than expected. Add that to the rigors of Big East play, and no one’s played a tougher schedule than the Huskies.
With remaining games against lowly Providence (RPI 155), Pittsburgh (86) and likely a conference weaker sister in the first round of the Big East tournament, UConn’s strength of schedule ranking should take a dip, but likely no more than a couple of spots.
LaFleur believes the Huskies are capable of another late-season run.
“Just like last year, they are capable of catching fire,” LaFleur said. “It could still happen. Last year’s team was 9-9 (in the Big East) and went on a magical run. I don’t think anybody wants to play against Connecticut in the Big East tournament.”
Providence is a difficult place to start a winning streak, especially for UConn, which has lost in its last two trips there. Another large vocal crowd is expected to be on hand to root for the Friars.
“We feel good right now,” LaFleur said. “It is a big game. We know what the implications are for them. My 10 years at UConn, this has been a hard place to place to win. People are crazy about the Friars now.”
New Haven Register: LaFleur: ‘I Never Felt Eclipsed or Pushed Out’ at UConn
Contrary to popular belief, LaFleur says he didn’t leave UConn because he felt he had been passed over by Kevin Ollie on the UConn coaching depth chart. It all came about at last year’s Final Four in Houston, when he sat down with Cooley shortly after Cooley had left Fairfield to become PC’s new head coach.
“It wasn’t something I was even thinking about,” LaFleur said. “I was trying to position myself for a few head coaching jobs, and I talked to Ed to see if I could get in the mix for (the Fairfield) job. He told me they wanted to go with a sitting head coach, and Ed and I just started talking from there.”
The Daily Campus: UConn men travel to Providence
“We feel disappointed,” Smith said after the loss. “We have three games left in the season, the Big East championship and we still have the NCAA tournament. So it’s still a long season so we just have to continue to learn from our mistakes and play hard.
“I don’t think there’s anybody that doesn’t know that we need to win games,” Blaney said. “Coach (Jim Calhoun) has been saying it before he left. I’ve been saying it since I took the team. You have to win games at this level. You can’t just play well, so we need these two games coming up.”
Friar Basketball: When Taking the Air Out of the Ball
On Saturday, Providence might have slowed the game down a bit early against a pressing DePaul squad, scoring only four points in the final five minutes, while taking difficult shots as the shot clock winded down. There were opportunities to continue to attack late, but like virtually all teams at every level of basketball in today’s game, they pulled the ball out in the closing minutes and tried to get their looks in the final five to ten seconds of the shot clock.
It’s a difficult decision for Ed Cooley and his staff. On the one hand, his team is clearly at its best offensively when they are out in transition (and DePaul offered the opportunity to continue attacking late with full court pressure), but they’ve also occasionally been prone to moments of driving into traffic or throwing ill-advised lobs to teammates while on the run – the kinds of mistakes early in the shot clock that kill you when protecting a lead.
WHAT TO: BUY
WHAT TO: WATCH
UConn’s Shabazz Napier game-winner against Villanova
UConn vs. Syracuse Flash Mob
Uconn vs. Syracuse…Humping Student
This is UConn Country: Late Night Snack
Providence came back from a 10-point deficit in the first half to beat 19th-ranked UConn 81 to 66 in 2010.
Get an inside look with consensus #1 player Andre Drummond, and stellar point guard Kris Dunn aka “BATMAN and ROBIN”.
WHERE TO: FOLLOW
Twitter.com: I’ll probably be live tweeting the game @friarblog. Also be sure to follow the #pcbb hashtag as always.
WHERE TO: WATCH
WHERE TO: LISTEN