From the longest longshot to the prohibitive favorite, click the “show caption” icon and take a look at Hearst Connecticut Media Group’s Big East tournament odds.
Five things that could make or break UConn this week at the Garden:
1. Shabazz Napier needs to shoot: Two Napiers have showed up throughout the year. One is a scoring point guard, a guy who looks for his own shot, pushes the tempo and still manages to get teammates involved. The other is somewhat passive and, at times, hesitant to shoot the ball. When Napier scores 20 or more points, the Huskies are 7-2.
2. Roscoe Smith’s minutes: Smith’s energy is contagious, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t play 30 minutes per game in this tournament.
3. The 3-ball: It’s killed the Huskies on both ends. In his last 28 attempts, Jeremy Lamb has made just seven 3-pointers. That’s three less than Providence hit in last Tuesday’s upset at the Dunkin Donuts Center.
4. Andre Drummond: The freshman isn’t much different than the rest of UConn’s roster – he’s been inconsistent throughout the whole season. When Drummond is comfortable and confident, he’s a game-changer, especially on the defensive end.
5. JC: No disrespect to George Blaney, but Jim Calhoun’s leadership certainly makes a difference. He didn’t win three national championships by accident.
Stuck at work for tomorrow’s UConn game?
Follow all the action from your computer and join our live chat. We’ll be answering questions and providing analysis that you can’t find on the ESPN GameTracker. The coverage will start at approximately 11:45 a.m. and take you through the end of UConn’s first round game against DePaul.
UConn begins play in the Big East tournament tomorrow at noon, when the ninth-seeded Huskies play 16th-seeded DePaul in the opening round at Madison Square Garden.
With the Huskies looking to wrap up a spot in the NCAA tournament — and maybe even reenact some of the magic from last year’s title run — here are 10 players whose performances will play a big role in deciding how things play out.
Click “show caption” and look through the slideshow to see beat writer Kevin Duffy’s rankings, then leave a comment to tell us how you’d rank them.
(And as an added bonus, see how we manged to get a cameo from Charles Okwandu into the slideshow).
Saturday was a good day in HuskyLand: Jim Calhoun returned, the Huskies pulled away from Pitt in a must-win situation, and then the chips fell perfectly for UConn to move into the No. 9 seed, which gives it a much easier road to the Big East quarterfinals.
Given UConn’s strength of schedule and RPI, it should be safe with wins over DePaul and West Virginia in the Big East tournament. If the Huskies don’t reach the quarters, though, they could be a little uneasy on Selection Sunday. As George Blaney said, UConn needs to “take it out of the committee’s hands.”
Here’s a look at UConn’s tournament resume in comparison to other Big East bubble teams:
RECORD: 18-12 (8-10 Big East)
BEST WINS: at Notre Dame, vs. Harvard, vs. Florida State, vs. West Virginia
WORST LOSSES: at Rutgers, at Providence, vs. Central Florida, at Louisville (by 21), at Seton Hall
EYEBALL TEST: Not great, but not terrible, either. UConn is playing well in spurts, and played a pretty solid game Saturday versus Pittsburgh. But, in the past week, the Huskies let a 14-point lead slip away at Providence and allowed Pitt to come roaring back from a 15-point deficit to take the lead.
ESPN — No. 12 seed vs. No. 5 Florida (Lunardi has 10 Big East teams in the field).
CBS — No. 11 seed vs. No. 6 UNLV
BIG EAST ON THE BUBBLE
RECORD: 19-12 (9-9 Big East)
BEST WINS: vs. Georgetown, vs. South Florida, vs. Cincinnati
WORST LOSSES: at Pitt, at Kent State, at St. John’s
EYEBALL TEST: Much like UConn,WVU stumbled down the stretch. The Mountaineers lost seven of nine before winning their last two, including a road game at South Florida in the regular season finale.
EDGE: Right now, it’s UConn, but if the Mountaineers knock off the Huskies in the Big East tournament, they may move ahead. That second-round matchup could potentially be an “elimination game.”
RECORD: 19-11 (8-10)
BEST WINS: vs. Georgetown, vs. UConn, vs. West Virginia, vs. VCU
WORST LOSSES: at DePaul, vs. Rutgers, at Villanova
EYEBALL TEST: Who knows? The Pirates beat Georgetown, then lost to Rutgers and were embarrassed by DePaul (yes, that sentence has actually been written) on Saturday night. Seton Hall’s losses are ugly, and it has some work to do in New York if it wants a tourney bid.
RECORD: 19-12 (12-6)
BEST WINS: at Louisville, vs. Cincinnati
WORST LOSSES: at Georgetown (by 30), vs. Old Dominion, at VCU (by 23), at Auburn
EYEBALL TEST: USF solidified its spot in the field with victories over Louisville and Cincinnati in late February. Prior to that, the Bulls really didn’t have any quality wins.
EDGE: South Florida. Yes, UConn beat USF, but you can’t exclude a team that won 12 Big East games, even if it doubled up on Providence and Villanova.
THE NON-CONFERENCE REPORT: UConn controls its own destiny (win two at MSG and it should be safe), but the mid-major conference tournaments could impact the Huskies, as well. UConn (along with USF, West Virginia and Seton Hall) should be happy after Sunday. Creighton, which went to overtime with Illinois State, would have stolen an at-large bid if it lost. Instead, the Blue Jays pulled away in the extra session and won the league’s automatic bid to the tournament. Likewise, Murray State took care of business Saturday.
UConn sophomore Jeremy Lamb joined five seniors on the All-Big East First team, which was announced by the league Sunday morning.
Lamb, who averages 17.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, was the lone underclassmen on the first team. Marquette’s Jae Crowder was the only unanimous selection.
UConn’s Andre Drummond was named to the Big East Rookie Team while Ryan Boatright, who missed nine games, was excluded.
The release is below:
ALL-BIG EAST FIRST TEAM
Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut, G, So., 6-5, 185, Norcross, Ga.
Jason Clark, Georgetown, G, Sr., 6-2, 170, Arlington, Va.
*Jae Crowder, Marquette, F, Sr., 6-6, 235, Villa Rica, Ga.
Darius Johnson-Odom, Marquette, G, Sr., 6-2, 215, Raleigh, N.C.
Kris Joseph, Syracuse, F, Sr., 6-7, 210, Montreal, Quebec
Kevin Jones, West Virginia, F, Sr., 6-8, 260, Mount Vernon, N.Y.
ALL-BIG EAST SECOND TEAM
Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati, G, So., 6-4, 215, White Plains, N.Y.
Jack Cooley, Notre Dame, F, Jr., 6-9, 244, Glenview, Ill.
Jordan Theodore, Seton Hall, G, Sr., 6-0, 174, Englewood, N.J.
Scoop Jardine, Syracuse, G, Sr., 6-2, 190, Philadelphia, Pa.
Maalik Wayns, Villanova, G, Jr., 6-2, 200, Philadelphia, Pa.
ALL-BIG EAST THIRD TEAM
Henry Sims, Georgetown, C, Sr., 6-10, 232, Baltimore, Md.
Vincent Council, Providence, G, Jr., 6-2, 180, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Herb Pope, Seton Hall, F, Sr., 6-8, 236, Aliquippa, Pa.
Dion Waiters, Syracuse, G, So., 6-4, 215, Philadelphia, Pa.
Darryl Bryant, West Virginia, G, Sr., 6-2, 195, Brooklyn, N.Y.
BIG EAST HONORABLE MENTION
Cleveland Melvin, DePaul, F, So., 6-8, 205, Baltimore, Md.
Hollis Thompson, Georgetown, F, Sr., 6-7, 205, Los Angeles, Calif.
Kyle Kuric, Louisville, G-F, Sr., 6-4, 185, Evansville, Ind.
Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh, G, Sr., 6-2, 190, Scotch Plains, N.J.
Moe Harkless, St. John’s, F, Fr., 6-8, 190, Queens, N.Y.
BIG EAST ALL-ROOKIE TEAM
Andre Drummond, Connecticut, C, Fr., 6-11, 275, Middletown, Conn.
Chane Behanan, Louisville, F, Fr., 6-7, 250, Bowling Green, Ky.
Jerian Grant, Notre Dame, G, So., 6-5, 185, Bowie, Md.
LaDontae Henton, Providence, F, Fr., 6-6, 220 Lansing, Mich.
Moe Harkless, St. John’s, F, Fr., 6-8, 190, Queens, N.Y.
D’Angelo Harrison, St. John’s, G, Fr., 6-3, 186, Missouri City, Texas
Anthony Collins, USF, G, Fr., G, 6-1, 175, Houston, Texas
Just as it did a year ago, UConn enters the 2012 Big East tournament as the No. 9 seed.
Everything fell into place for the Huskies, who needed a DePaul and Rutgers to win Saturday night in order to move ahead of Seton Hall in the Big East standings. DePaul, dead-last in the league, hammered Seton Hall, 86-58, and Rutgers squeaked out a three-point victory over St. John’s to bump the Huskies up a spot.
UConn (18-12, 8-10 Big East) plays DePaul Tuesday at noon and will have a second-round matchup with West Virginia if it defeats the Blue Demons. Syracuse (29-1) looms in the quarterfinals.
Jim Calhoun, five days removed from back surgery, made his return to the sidelines and UConn, with its back against the wall, gutted out a 74-65 victory over Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Calhoun didn’t speak to the media afterwards (George Blaney said he was too exhausted), so we can’t give you his take on things, but Blaney and the players had plenty to say about his return.
“Jim’s surgeon was at the came and came into the locker room and said ‘Just a normal post-op kind of thing. You just go and coach a game,’” Blaney said with a laugh. “It’s why he’s in the Hall of Fame. He understands the team. He understands how to motivate a team. They were practically crying in the locker room because he told them he loved them. And that’s why he came back. It was emotional for him and very emotional for the team.”
Point guard Shabazz Napier, the offensive star Saturday, said Calhoun’s presence helped the Huskies regroup from another blown lead.
“When I looked on the sidelines, he would always pump me up,” Napier said. “There’s just something about him — he just brings that energy and it makes me want to fight harder, even when I’m tired, on my last straw. He just pumps his fist and I’m like ‘I’m not done. I’m going to keep going.’”
* UConn was 3-5 in games without Calhoun.
* Napier attempted just 14 field goals — and scored 13 points — in the past three games. On Saturday, he took 18 shots and scored a game-high 23 points. The sophomore hit a number of big shots, including a 3-pointer that put UConn up 66-61.
* It’s likely that UConn will be the No. 10 seed in the Big East tournament, but there’s still a possibility that the Huskies can move up to No. 9. UConn needs Rutgers to beat St. John’s and DePaul to knock off Seton Hall.