2013-2014 Season Preview: No. 16 UConn Huskies

1 Comment

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 20-10, 10-8 Big East (t-7th); Ineligible for the postseason

Head Coach: Kevin Ollie (2nd season at UConn: 20-10 overall, 10-8 Big East)

Key Losses: Enosch Wolf, R.J. Evans

Newcomers: Lasan Kromah, Terrance Samuel, Kentan Facey, Amida Brimah

Projected Lineup

G: Shabazz Napier, Sr.
G: Ryan Boatright, Jr.
G: Omar Calhoun, So.
F: Deandre Daniels, Jr.
C: Tyler Olander, Sr.
Bench: Lasan Kromah, Sr.; Niels Giffey, Sr.; Philip Nolan, So.; Kentan Facey, Fr.; Leon Tolksdorf, So.

They’ll be good because …: UConn is coming off of a 20 win season where they went 10-8 in the Big East and would have earned themselves a bid to the NCAA tournament if it wasn’t for an APR-induced postseason ban. Everyone of note from that team is back for UConn’s first season in the AAC, with one exception: instead of having Holy Cross transfer R.J. Evans as their first guard off the bench, Kevin Ollie will now be able to use fifth-year senior Lasan Kromah, a veteran that averaged double-figures over his three year career at George Washington.

If that’s not enough, than you should take note of the back court that Ollie returns, which will be one of the best in the country. Shabazz Napier is one of the nation’s most underrated point guards, and while Ryan Boatright has a tendency to get a bit out of control, he’s still an absurdly talented guard that can go off for 20 on any given night. Add in sophomore Omar Calhoun, and UConn’s perimeter will be small but quite difficult to match up with.

source:
AP photo

But they might disappoint because …: The Huskies just don’t have much size on the interior to take note of. Senior Tyler Olander is back, but he averaged all of 4.3 points and 3.7 boards as a junior. Deandre Daniels is a really talented 6-foot-8 forward, but he’s much better suited to playing as a three than he is on being relied upon to mix it up in the paint. Phil Nolan is a skinny sophomore. Kentan Facey is a skinny freshman. Leon Tolksdorf wants to shoot threes. There just aren’t that many big bodies up front.

Who matches up with Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell? Who in that lineup can slow down Shaq Goodwin of Memphis? SMU and Houston both have a couple of capable big men. The Huskies have enough talent to make a run at winning the conference, but that’s assuming that someone on this team can find a way to become a presence in the paint.

Outlook: UConn may have one of the best perimeter attacks in the country, but I don’t think that it’s crazy to say that they have the third-best set of guards in the AAC. That’s what happens when you play in the same conference as Louisville and Memphis. What that means is that the Huskies’ major advantage, their ability to spread the floor and create mismatches, will be negated against the league’s other two contenders. With the sizable disadvantage that UConn will have in the paint, it’s tough to see the Huskies being able to make a push for the AAC title.

Having said that, Memphis and Louisville are two of just a handful of teams against whom UConn won’t be able to take advantage of their back court talent. So while I think that it is a long shot the Huskies will win the conference, I still think this is a team that can win 25 games and, potentially, make a run in the tournament if they get the right matchups.

Syracuse needs OT to knock off Georgetown

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
1 Comment

WASHINGTON — Tyus Battle had 29 points, Oshae Brissett had 25 points, and Syracuse overcame a 13-point second half deficit to defeat rival Georgetown 86-79 in overtime on Saturday.

Frank Howard added 19 points as Syracuse (9-1) made 10 of 23 3-pointers in staging its comeback over the final 10 minutes of regulation to force extra time.

Jessie Govan had 21 points and eight rebounds and Marcus Derrickson had 14 points and eight rebounds for Georgetown (8-1) which entered Saturday as one of six undefeated teams in Division 1. Jagan Mosely had 20 points off the bench for the Hoyas.

Syracuse snapped a two-game losing streak to former Big East foe Georgetown and last beat the Hoyas on the road in 2011.

Hoyas coach Patrick Ewing lost his first game against Jim Boeheim’s Orange after going 8-3 against Syracuse as a player in the 1980’s.

Howard stripped Govan and hit a layup with one minute remaining to tie the score at 69. Syracuse missed three shots at the end of regulation.

Mosely hit two free throws to give Georgetown its largest lead of 53-40 but Syracuse used a quick 5-0 spurt to pull back to within eight after a Brissett 3-pointer with 9:55 remaining.

ADVERTISEMENT

Neither team led by more than five points in the first half as both teams shot 37 percent (10 for 27) from the field.

BIG PICTURE

Syracuse: The Orange survived their first road test of the season and won’t play again away from home until traveling to South Bend to face Notre Dame on Jan 6. Syracuse had gone 1-1 in neutral site games in losing to then No. 2 Kansas while defeating former Big East rival in Connecticut at Madison Square Garden.

Georgetown: The Hoyas missed on their only chance to pick up a quality non-conference win against Syracuse. Georgetown’s previous opponents had a combined record of 24-64. The Hoyas last defeated Syracuse three straight times between 2000-02.

UP NEXT

Syracuse: The Orange return to the Carrier Dome to face two in-state foes next week – Buffalo on Tuesday and St. Bonaventure on Friday.

Georgetown: Two more games before the start of Big East play: North Texas on Wednesday and Alabama A&M on Dec. 23.

Louisville tops Memphis in Gotham Classic

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) — David Padgett is not naive.

Louisville’s interim men’s basketball coach is fully cognizant that the immediate future of the Atlantic Coast Conference power is an unknown as the university’s leaders decide upon who will lead the program following the ugly end of Rick Pitino’s tenure at the school. Yet there is a season that must be played out.

And so he is navigating a delicate balancing act: Trying to plan for tomorrow while recognizing the importance of today.

“I don’t think you’re going to get a kid in the country to commit per se to Louisville until they know who the head coach is going to be moving forward,” Padgett said after Louisville’s 81-72 win over Memphis in the showcase game of the Gotham Classic on Saturday at Madison Square Garden. “But like I said before, that’s not my concern, that’s not our players’ concern, that’s not our staff’s concern. We really are just trying to focus on winning right now.”

Louisville improved to 8-2 with its fourth straight win. Quentin Snider led four players in double-figure scoring with 19 points. V.J. King finished with 17 points, Deng Adel 15 and Ray Spalding 12.

“We knew (it would take) just one game (and) everyone was going to at least hit a 3 or something,” Snider said. “We were going to catch hot.”

Whereas the Cardinals were hot from the field, Memphis left Madison Square Garden angry at itself after its four game-winning streak came to an end. The Tigers fell to 7-3 overall, and 36-54 all-time against Louisville. Jeremiah Martin tied a career high with 26 points, and Kyvon Davenport had 12.

“We have a chip on our (shoulders),” Martin said. “People (are) always saying we’re not good enough, and they have 11 new guys; they’re not going to be anything.”

Tied 38-all at halftime, Louisville outscored Memphis 17-4 in the first 5:30 of the second half to take a 55-42 lead. The key to the spurt was 3-point shooting with Adel knocking down two from behind the arc and Snider one.

“(Adel) … can shoot over people,” Memphis coach Tubby Smith said. “You have to play him for the drive. We didn’t make him put it on the floor like we said we should have, like we were going to do; the adjustment we had to make at halftime. That was really disappointing.”

Defense aided the Cardinals’ cause. Louisville entered the game second nationally in blocked shots (7.9), ninth in field goals allowed (.367), 36th in 3-point field goals allowed (.293) and 44th in points allowed (64.3) per game. Louisville forced 12 turnovers and blocked 14 shots, while limiting the Tigers to 4-of-11 shooting from 3.

“We responded in the second half,” Padgett said. “Came out with more of a defensive mindset. … Came out of the gate in the second half, took the lead and did a good job of maintaining it even when they would go on a couple of runs. (I am) really proud of our team.”

As well as Louisville as played, though, the Tigers fought back, using a 13-5 spurt spanning 4:53 to cut a 58-46 deficit to 63-59. Martin scored seven of his 26 in that run.

“I’m not happy about the way I played,” Martin said. “Because we didn’t win.”

Memphis didn’t get closer as Louisville responded with a 9-0 run of its own to extend its lead to 72-59.

“The thing I was pleased with — and I kept telling them in the timeouts — every time they went on a run we needed to respond with a run of our own and we seemed to do that,” Padgett said.

BIG PICTURE

Louisville: The Cardinals entered Saturday’s game ranked 11th in the 15-team ACC in 3-point percentage with a .342 success rate. Naturally, the Cardinals connected on 53.8 percent (14 of 26) of their attempts from behind the arc.

Memphis: The Tigers’ modus operandi is pretty simple: Attack the paint. The Tigers did so routinely in the loss. Thirty-four of Memphis’ 72 points came in the paint. Moreover, the Tigers had a 14-6 advantage in second-chance points.

NOTABLE

Louisville: Saturday’s matinee marked the Cardinals’ second road game of the season. Louisville only other game away from home was the 66-57 loss to Purdue on Nov. 28.

Memphis: The Tigers fell to 16-23 all-time in games contested in New York City.

UP NEXT

Louisville: Hosts Albany Wednesday night.

Memphis: Hosts Siena Wednesday night.

No. 6 Miami stays unbeaten with win over George Washington

(Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Miami coach Jim Larranaga is staying on the Hurricanes while they keep piling up wins.

Dewan Huell had 15 points and 12 rebounds, and No. 6 Miami used a fast start to beat George Washington 59-50 on Saturday.

One of six remaining unbeaten teams in Division I entering the weekend, the Hurricanes (9-0) ripped off 13 of the game’s first 15 points on their way to a 21-point lead. The scrappy Colonials pulled within seven with 13:53 remaining, but the rally fizzled down the stretch.

George Washington (5-6) outrebounded the bigger Hurricanes 44-39, but shot 18.5 percent (5 for 27) from the field in the first half and 30.2 percent overall. Miami ranks second nationally in scoring defense and field goal defense.

“I thought our defense in the first half was really outstanding,” Larranaga said. “I thought in the second half our defense on the first shot was pretty good, but they offensive rebound like crazy.”

Jair Bolden had 13 points and Terry Nolan Jr. scored 10 for the Colonials, who used a 17-3 run overlapping halftime to cut Miami’s lead to 35-28.

Asked about the key to preventing George Washington from getting closer, Huell said: “Not let them get multiple opportunities at the rim or off the offensive glass.”

Seated next to his leading scorer, Larranaga chimed in. “Yeah, they only got 17 (offensive rebounds),” he said.

Arnaldo Toro had 13 rebounds — four offensive — for the Colonials.

“We started the first half a little bit slow,” Toro said. “We were able to pick that up.”

Playing its first game since Dec. 5, Miami shot 41 percent from the field, including a 5-for-21 day from beyond the arc. The Hurricanes made at least half of their field-goal attempts in seven of their first eight games.

Lonnie Walker IV had 13 points for Miami, which is 9-0 for the first time since the 2007-08 team opened the season with 12 consecutive wins.

The matchup wrapped up a home-and-home series. Miami won 72-64 last season.

“I felt great coming into the game, confident — and then you go 5 for 27 in the first half and miss a bunch of open shots,” Colonials coach Maurice Joseph said. “That’s how it’s going to be sometimes, but our guys are starting to realize their potential if we start games the way we talk about starting games.”

INJURIES

Bruce Brown Jr. started for Miami after missing the previous game with a left-hand injury.

“I was surprised he played today,” Larranaga said. “We were told it would be three weeks. Bruce came after a week and said I don’t want to sit out.”

Permission from the team doctors soon followed. The Hurricanes’ third-leading scorer and assist leader had three points on 1-of-6 shooting with three assists.

ROAD WARRIORS

With a neutral site tournament in Hawaii during Christmas Week and two ACC road games also coming up, Miami will not play at home again until Jan. 7 against Florida State.

HAPPY HOMECOMING

Larranaga spent 14 years in the D.C. area as head coach at George Mason and famously led the Patriots to the 2006 Final Four.

BIG PICTURE

The Hurricanes have yet to trail in the second half this season.

The Colonials fell to 0-2 against ranked teams this season.

UP NEXT

The Hurricanes venture outside the U.S. mainland for the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii. They open the tournament on Friday against Hawaii, followed by a matchup Saturday against either Davidson or New Mexico State.

George Washington hosts New Hampshire on Friday.

Down by 22, No. 10 Xavier rallies for 68-66 win over ETSU

Michael Hickey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

CINCINNATI (AP) — Trevon Bluiett’s jumper with 6.3 seconds left completed No. 10 Xavier’s rally from a 22-point second-half deficit for a 68-66 victory over East Tennessee State on Saturday.

The Musketeers (10-1) overcame their worst shooting performance of the season, making clutch shots at the end to pull it out. Bluiett missed 11 straight shots and was only 7 of 22 from the field for 18 points, but made the one that mattered.

ETSU (6-4) led 51-29 with 14:24 to go, but couldn’t hold off the Musketeers. Desonta Bradford scored 20 points, but his long 3-pointer was off the mark at the buzzer.

Xavier has won 38 straight nonconference home games since a 56-55 loss to Wofford on Dec. 22, 2012. The streak was in jeopardy until the final minute. Kerem Kanter’s 3-pointer tied it at 66 with 53 seconds left.

Xavier came into the game ranked second nationally at 54.6 percent from the field, but shot a season-low 29 percent from the field in the first half. The Musketeers finished at 38 percent.

BIG PICTURE

ETSU: The Buccaneers had already played a top-10 team on the road, losing at No. 7 Kentucky 78-61 on Nov. 17. They shot a season-low 32 percent against the Wildcats. Against the Musketeers, they shot 37 percent and missed two shots in the final minute.

Xavier: The Musketeers made a habit of getting off to fast starts in the last four games, outscoring opponents 55-28 in the first 5 minutes. They missed 11 of their first 15 shots on Saturday, allowing ETSU settle in and gain confidence.

UP NEXT

ETSU visits Detroit on Tuesday, followed by home games against Georgia Southern and Tusculum.

Xavier hosts Marshall on Tuesday, wrapping up its six-game homestand. The Musketeers then play at Northern Iowa before starting Big East play.

No. 8 Kentucky uses barrage of three-pointers to outlast Virginia Tech

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Kentucky figured out its defense in the second half and used a barrage of three-pointers on offense as the No. 8 Wildcats were able to outlast Virginia Tech for a 93-86 non-conference win on Saturday afternoon.

Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s game.

1. Kentucky is really dangerous if the three-ball is dropping

Kentucky isn’t a terrible three-point shooting team. They just don’t shoot very many of them.

That changed on Saturday as the Wildcats went 11-for-22 from the three-point line in the win over Virginia Tech. To put that number in perspective, Kentucky was averaging 4.6 made three-pointers per game coming into this one. The Wildcats prefer to work the ball inside or attack the basket, hoping to crash the offensive glass if the first shot doesn’t go.

But with the three-pointer working for them on Saturday? Kentucky looked really tough on the offensive end, especially since Virginia Tech’s offense was rolling in the first 20 minutes and the Wildcats needed the three-ball to answer.

I don’t expect Kentucky to shoot nearly this well in many games this season, especially away from home. Freshman guard Hamidou Diallo was 4-for-7 from three-point range. This preseason, Diallo was getting benched by head coach John Calipari when he even attempted a triple. In other words, his performance was an outlier and Kentucky’s team performance probably was as well.

If the Wildcats are shooting like this, however, good luck stopping what they are trying to accomplish on the offensive end.

2. Even in a loss, Virginia Tech looked legitimate

One of the things I’ve harped on with Virginia Tech is the brutal non-conference schedule the Hokies have played. Starting 9-1 looks promising until you realize the best wins came over Iowa and Ole Miss and the loss came against Saint Louis.

But even though they ultimately fell at Rupp Arena, Virginia Tech looked like they’ll be a factor in the ACC this season. The first half, in particular, was very impressive for the Hokies as they shot 62 percent from the floor and withstood a barrage of Kentucky three-pointers to take a lead into the break. Kentucky made double the amount of three-pointers they usually make and the Hokies were still in this game until the very end.

Obviously, Virginia Tech still has work to do to be a contender in the ACC. They don’t have a ton of size to hang with some of the bigger teams in the country, which could be problematic against conference opponents like Duke. The Hokies also had some problems with turnovers as Kentucky’s 2-2-1 pressure really caused some issues for certain stretches. Virginia Tech had 19 turnovers on Saturday when they’ve averaged 13 on the season.

Not accustomed to facing teams like Kentucky, the Hokies were bothered at times by the length and athleticism of the Wildcats.

Here’s the thing though: would you want to face a veteran Buzz Williams team that doesn’t seem intimidated by anybody? Me neither. The Hokies won’t be a fun team to play in March.

3. Kentucky needs to focus more on Kevin Knox

To start the second half, Kentucky freshman Kevin Knox (21 points) was simply unstoppable. Scoring 11 points in a four-minute burst, Knox scored through contact, knocked down a three-pointer and also made a tough mid-range look.

And then Kentucky’s offense went away from him as lesser players tried to score using one-on-one moves.

The Wildcat offense went stagnant for a stretch before Diallo and Quade Green continued to shoot the ball well. It was puzzling to see their offense work during certain stretches. Kentucky obviously has tons of elite, five-star talent and they have to share the ball and some shots. But Knox wasn’t even getting touches after he made scoring look easy during the early part of the second half.

Since Knox has a tendency to float away from the basket and not demand the ball during stretches of play, Kentucky needs to make sure that they keep their biggest offensive threat engaged at all times. Thankfully in this game, players like Diallo and Green stepped up in the scoring column. But there is going to be a time when Kentucky needs Knox as a go-to scorer. They have to make sure to keep Knox fully engaged.