Arguably the biggest problem for the UConn Huskies last season (removing their being ineligible for postseason play, of course) was their lack of size and depth in the post. DeAndre Daniels performed admirably as an “undersized” four as a sophomore, posting averages of 12.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game game. But outside of Daniels there wasn’t much production from the front court, with the Huskies’ perimeter play able to do enough to lead Kevin Ollie’s team to 20 wins.
Freshman forward Kentan Facey is one of the additions expected to help UConn in this area, but the school had no idea when the Trelawny, Jamaica native would be eligible to play. In the midst of his move from Jamaica to Long Island, the NCAA wondered if Facey’s eligibility “clock” had already started due to his passing a standardized test while in Jamaica that could be considered equivalent to graduating from high school.
On Friday Facey and the school received good news from the NCAA, which has cleared the 6-foot-9 forward and given him a full four seasons of eligibility. Facey gives UConn an athletic big man whose shot-blocking ability (4.5 bpg to go along with 14.8 points and 13.0 rebounds per game as a high school senior at Long Island Lutheran) is one of his best assets.
“I am so pleased and excited that everything has worked out for this outstanding young man,” Ollie said in the release announcing the decision. “It’s great to see him go through this situation and persevere. He just kept working very hard and believed in our university.
“I can’t say enough about what a model student-athlete Kentan has been in spite of the situation he was facing,” Ollie continued. “He never let circumstances distract his positive image of himself and that’s just a testament to his strong character. We are very excited that he will be with us this year and beyond.”
UConn’s interior returnees (removing Daniels and wing Niels Giffey) are senior Tyler Olander and sophomore Phil Nolan, with the former needing to rebound from a disappointing 2012-13 campaign. Seven-footer Amida Brimah should also be in line to earn playing time after 15.7 points, 11.6 rebounds and 7.5 blocks per game at Archbishop Carroll HS in south Florida.
UConn’s strength is still on the perimeter, with Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright once again leading the way, but if they’re to be a player nationally the front court will need to step up. Adding Facey to the equation will help in that regard.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Syracuse vs. No. 18 UConn, 3:30 p.m.
For the first time since the Orange departed the Big East, the two former rivals will square off. Today’s battle will take place at the Battle 4 Atlantis, as the Orange knocked off Charlotte yesterday and the Huskies dispatched Michigan. To get ready for this battle, I’d suggest ready through the conversation @NoEscalators had with himself last night.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 25 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Gonzaga, 1:00 p.m.
The other semifinal in the Battle 4 Atlantis could end up being just as good, as the Aggies — who might be the second best team in the SEC — square off with a Gonzaga team that has one of the best front lines in the country. This will be a good test to figure out just how good both of these teams are.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1. No. 20 Wichita State vs. USC, 2:00 p.m.: The Shockers will be without Fred VanVleet for this event. It will also be a chance for us to gauge just how good this 4-0 USC team is.
2. No. 23 Xavier vs. Alabama, 12:00 p.m: The Musketeers should have no problems dispatching Alabama.
3. No. 8 Villanova vs. Stanford, 4:30 p.m.: The Wildcats are, once again, as good as any team in the country. Josh Hart might be the nation’s most underrated star.
4. No. 14 Cal vs. San Diego State, 12:00 a.m.: Tyrone Wallace and company have been awesome this season. They get their first real test of the season tonight.
5. Providence vs. Evansville, 7:00 p.m.: Evansville is one of the nation’s best mid-majors, good enough to give the likes of Wichita State and Northern Iowa a fight in the Missouri Valley. And Providence? They got a kid named Kris Dunn. Heard of him?
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- No. 3 Michigan State vs. Boston College, 6:30 p.m.
- No. 11 Arizona vs. Santa Clara, 11:30 p.m.
- No. 17 Notre Dame vs. Monmouth, 6:30 p.m.
No. 2 Maryland finally found their rhythm on Wednesday night, blowing out a good Rhode Island team, 86-63, in the finals of the Cancun Challenge.
Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon combined for 34 points and eight assists on 13-for-14 shooting and Robert Carter added 15 points, nine boards, three assists and three blocks. Peak Maryland, which is what we saw tonight, is really dangerous.
But Peak Maryland wasn’t the story after the game, as tempers flared in the waning minutes.
It started when Maryland coach Mark Turgeon called a timeout with less than two minutes remaining. Jake Layman had just hit a three to put Maryland up by 24 points and Turgeon wanted to get his walk-ons in the game. Hurley said to the Maryland bench, “We’ll see you again, boy,” according to Inside Maryland Sports, which prompted this reaction from Turgeon:
After the game, the two teams had to be separated in layup lines. According to reports from IMS and from the Baltimore Sun, Hurley was cursing at Maryland players as he was shaking their hands after the game. According Doug Gottlieb, who called the game for CBS Sports Network, Trimble said that the Rhode Island team wanted to “fight us”: