Gameday: UConn vs. Michigan State

I apologize if you’ve read this stat already. I just love it that much.

Since 1998, UConn and Michigan State have clashed three times in the regular season, and the winner of each meeting has gone on to win the national championship. Seriously, how bizarre is that?

Ryan Boatright (AP)

This year’s battle, the first game of the 2012-13 college basketball season, obviously won’t lead to a national title for UConn, which is banned from the postseason. But hey, Michigan State may be in luck.

Before you watch tonight (5:30, ESPN),  here’s some reading material and pre-game information on the Huskies:

*With a loaded backcourt, DeAndre Daniels becomes the key for UConn. He’s not the most physical guy, but he has supreme length. UConn will need him to rebound and, most importantly, play with some confidence, which he admittedly lacked as a freshman. Believe it or not, Daniels, once the No. 10 recruit in the nation, sometimes wondered “Why am I playing basketball?”

*Kevin Ollie’s devotion to faith and family shaped him into the man he is today. His story, certainly atypical among Division I coaches, is a fascinating one. He raised in the church by his mother, Dorothy, an ordained minister, and his uncle, E.V. Jernigan. And he starred at Crenshaw High in Los Angeles, a high school basketball powerhouse in the middle of a gang-infested area.

“I always wanted to make my mother proud,” Ollie says. “That’s what kept me off those streets.”

*UConn’s trip to Germany marks a homecoming for Niels Giffey, Enosch Wolf and Leon Tolksdorf. Wolf, a 7-foot-1 junior, took the opportunity that his father, Horst, had years ago. Horst Wolf played on the 1982 German junior national team with Detlef Schrempf and entertained offers from UCLA and Ohio State.

“Of course I regret (not going) because it was also a dream for me,” Horst said.  “I am very happy for Enosch. It is the experience of a life.”

*Keep an eye on UConn freshman Omar Calhoun. It’s possible that he’s the team’s best player. I was blown away the first time I saw him this summer.


Ryan Boatright, G, 5-10 So.: 10.4 pts, 3.3 rebs, 4 assts as freshman

Shabazz Napier, G, 6-0 Jr.: 13 pts, 5.8 asts, 39% from field as sophomore

Omar Calhoun, G, 6-5 Fr.: 44 points in 53 minutes during exhibition games

DeAndre Daniels, F, 6-8 So.: 15 pts, 14 rebs, 4 blocks in exhibition win vs. UMass-Lowell

Tyler Olander, F, 6-9 Jr.: 26 straight games with single-digit scoring

Niels Giffey, F, 6-7 Jr.: 2.6 pts in 11.6 mins last season

R.J. Evans, G, 6-3 Sr.: Holy Cross transfer averaged 11.5 pts, 4.8 rebs last year

Enosch Wolf, C, 7-1 Jr.: 9 career pts in 36 mins

Phil Nolan, F, 6-9 Fr.: 16.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.1 blocks as HS senior

Leon Tolksdorf, F, 6-8 Fr.: 1-for-5 on 3-pointers in final exhibition


Keith Appling, G, 6-1 Jr.: Leads returnees with 11.4 ppg, 3.9 apg

Gary Harris, G, 6-4 Fr.: 2012 McDonald’s All-American

Branden Dawson, F, 6-6 So.: 8.4 ppg, tore ACL in regular-season finale

Adreian Payne, F, 6-10 Jr.: 7pg, 4.2 rpg

Derrick Nix, C, 6-9 Sr.: 8 ppg, 3.8 rpg

Travis Trice, G, 6-0 So.: 4.5 ppg, 40% on 3s

Denzell Valentine, G, 6-5 Fr.: Can play both point and wing

Matt Costello, F/C, 6-9 Fr.: Missed practice time with bruised tailbone

Russell Byrd, G/F, 6-7 So.: 1.5 ppg in 5.5 mpg

Alex Guana, F/C, 6-9 So.: 1.8 ppg, 0.8 rpg