Connecticut

Jonah Travis, Tommy Amaker

Harvard releases 2013-14 schedule

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In the most highly anticipated season in Harvard basketball history — in fact, perhaps in Ivy League history — where there is already speculation of the Crimson beginning the season ranked in the Top 25, all but winning the Ivy League, and even making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, the pressure is also at an all-time high for Tommy Amaker.

Now in his seventh season in Cambridge, Amaker has brought Harvard from the basement of the Ivy League to the top of college basketball. Whether you like it or not, Harvard will be a story for the entire season. A big part of that story obviously revolves around who they play. Earlier today, Harvard released their schedule.

It is a solid schedule as a whole with games against several good teams, but it is by no means a rigorous schedule. At first glance, there projects to only be one team ranked in the Top 25 to begin the season on it, and that is Connecticut — Colorado is on the slate as well, but they are a fringe Top 25 squad.

The preceding two teams highlight the schedule, but a home game with Boston College — a team that Harvard has beaten five straight years, if you can believe it — provides Harvard with an opportunity for a quality win as the Eagles will be much improved this year.

Where Harvard got unlucky was with the field in the Great Alaska Shootout — a tournament that has gone down in quality over the years. They play what will be a good Denver team in the opening round, but quality wins after that may be hard to come by after as the remaining six teams in the field are relatively weak, save for Indiana State (Alaska, Green Bay, Indiana State, Pepperdine, TCU, and Tulsa).

Amaker spewed nothing but coach-speak commenting on the schedule:

We are excited about the schedule we have put together for this coming year. Our non-conference schedule will provide us with many opportunities to improve as a team before beginning another competitive Ivy League campaign. We look forward to getting the season underway.

A team’s resume is everything come NCAA Tournament time, and Harvard will need schools like Denver, Vermont, and Boston University to be Top 100 RPI teams at season’s end to help bolster their resume. Wins over teams outside the Top 100 won’t exactly impress the NCAA Selection Committee.

Boston College and Connecticut to meet in 2K Sports Classic

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There is little love lost between the Boston College and Connecticut athletic programs.

When Boston College left the Big East for the ACC in 2005, then Connecticut men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun made it known he would refuse to play the Eagles as long as he was running the show in Storrs, saying: “We won’t play BC after they leave here. I have no desire to play Boston College. Not for the fact that they are leaving but how they did it. I will not play Boston College as long as I’m here.”

Then, last year when the landscaping of college athletics was changing with seemingly a new school every week leaving one conference for another, Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilipo was very clear making it known he didn’t want Connecticut in the expanded ACC: “We didn’t want them in. It was a matter of turf. We wanted to be the New England team.”

Two of the most high-profile athletic programs in New England, it would be nice to see this rivalry rekindled. Maybe the tournament organizers at the 2K Sports Classic thought along these same lines as the schools have been paired with each other in the 2K Sports Classic with the game being played on November 22nd at Madison Square Garden.

The schools haven’t played on the hardwood since January of 2005, a 75-70 win by Boston College.

As reported by Ed Daigneault of the Republican-American:

The Huskies and Eagles have not played since the latter departed for the ACC, but the animosity between the two schools appears to have lessened with new athletic directors in charge at both places. Indications are that UConn and BC are likely to resume their rivalry in basketball and football on a more regular basis, though a source said it may be more difficult to resume things quickly in football because of the long-range nature of football scheduling.

This is a good thing for New England college basketball.

You can find Kevin on twitter @KLDoyle11

UConn agrees to 5-year contract with women’s coach Geno Auriemma

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To follow along with the 2013 Coaching Carousel, click here.

Connecticut has signed long-time head women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma to a five-year contract that is expected to keep him in Storrs through the 2017-18 season, the school announced Wednesday.

The total compensation due to Auriemma in the contract is $10.86 million, giving him $1.95 million in salary for this year and increasing over time until he earns $2.4 million in the final year of the deal. It includes $400,000 in base salary, with extras added on for speaking and media fees. It also includes a series of performance-based incentives.

“The last 28 years at Connecticut have been amazing and I am even more energized by what the future holds for our women’s basketball program and our athletic department as a whole,” Auriemma said in a statement.

The 59-year-old Auriemma came to Connecticut in 1985 and has led the Huskies to 21 Sweet 16s, 13 Finals Fours, and seven national championships.

“Geno Auriemma has developed the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team into one of the most beloved college athletic programs in the country in any sport,” school president Susan Herbst said in the release. “It is people like Geno who have helped make UConn a strong and vibrant university, one which will continue to grow and excel even more in the future.”

This year’s Connecticut team is a No. 1 seed in the Bridgeport regional and plays Maryland Saturday for a chance to advance to the Sweet 16. A win would give Auriemma 21 straight Sweet 16 appearances with the Huskies. His new contract takes effect following the season on April 15.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Shabazz Napier will play Saturday vs. Pittsburgh after shoulder injury

Shabazz Napier
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Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier will play Saturday against Pittsburgh, five days after injuring his shoulder versus Louisville, the school announced via Twitter.

Napier was listed as a “gametime decision” after being injured on a drive to the basket early in Monday’s loss to the Cardinals and made the trip to Pittsburgh with the team, as expected. According to the school, he felt some discomfort in the shoulder during shootaround this morning, but will “give it a go” Saturday.

According to David Borges of the New Haven Register, Napier sat out of practice Wednesday and Thursday of this week and will continue to get treatment after the game and on Sunday.

Having Napier in the lineup vs. Pittsburgh will be key, as the Huskies try to neutralize the strong backcourt of Tray Woodall and James Robinson for the Panthers. Napier has been one of the best guards in the Big East this season, averaging 17.1 points and 4.1 assists per game. He and backcourt mate Ryan Boatright have emerged as a solid one-two punch for the Huskies, with Boatright averaging 15.8 points and 4.6 assists per game.

Connecticut tips off against Pittsburgh at 12:00 p.m. ET.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Shabazz Napier, Tyler Olander power Connecticut to road win over No. 17 Notre Dame

Shabazz Napier
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The Connecticut backcourt duo of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright combined for 34 points and nine assists as the unranked Huskies upset No. 17 Notre Dame Saturday in South Bend, Ind., 65-58.

Boatright and Napier have been the engine of the Connecticut offense all season and, despite a tough matchup with Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant for Notre Dame, they each scored in double figures and orchestrated an offense that turned the ball over just seven times. Atkins finished with 18 points and four assists.

The biggest key for Connecticut Saturday was to contain Notre Dame forward Jack Cooley, an early candidate for the conference’s Player of the Year award. It is difficult to completely shut Cooley down, but forward DeAndre Daniels and Tyler Olander combined to hold Cooley to 14 points and nine rebounds.

Olander scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while Daniels had eight points and nine rebounds.

The larger story here, though, is the continued success that Connecticut has enjoyed under coach Kevin Ollie in his first season after taking over for longtime head coach Jim Calhoun.

That, combined with a mass exodus of players in the offseason and a postseason ban due to a low APR, and the Huskies were supposed to struggle. But struggle they have not.

Saturday they played with poise on the road against a Top 25 team, a team that was supposed to exploit a big weakness, a lack of depth on the interior. But the Huskies found ways to win by limiting turnovers and shooting 51 percent from the field in a tough environment.

Connecticut returns to the floor Monday against No. 3 Louisville.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Late Night Snacks: Kevin Ollie keeps Connecticut moving with first Big East win

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Game of the Day

Brown 75, Niagara 74 (OT)

Brown’s Matt Sullivan scored five of his 20 points in the final 1:30 of regulation to help erase a six-point Niagara lead, tie the game at 62, and force overtime. In the extra period, Brown worked from behind to take the lead and seal the game with free throws.

Sean McGonagill led the way for Brown with 23 points, along with seven assists and three steals. Brown improves to 5-8 on the year with the victory.

Important Outcomes 

1. Connecticut 99, DePaul 78

Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie won his first Big East game as a head coach with the Huskies’ blowout victory over DePaul. The backcourt combo of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright did what they’ve been doing all year, but the emergence of DeAndre Daniels could be a difference-maker. (See Below)

2. No. 10 Missouri 84, Alabama 68

Alabama missed out on a chance to secure a signature win in the SEC and the opportunities to do so are in short supply. For Missouri, though, the focus won’t be on the win, but the health of senior Laurence Bowers, who went down with an injury in the second half. Coach Frank Haith reportedly announced after the game that Bowers would undergo an MRI Wednesday to assess damage to his left knee.

3. No. 15 Ohio State 74, Purdue 64

Ohio State needed to bounce back after a loss over the weekend to Illinois. They got that Tuesday, with a solid road win over Purdue. The Big Ten conference schedule is unforgiving, though, and the Buckeyes meet No. 2 Michigan next.

Starred

1. Quinn Cook (Duke) 27 points, 12-of-16 shooting, 5 assists, 4 steals

When Ryan Kelly went down with a foot injury in the first half Tuesday against Clemson, Cook stepped up in a big way. His 27 points were a career high and propelled Duke to a blowout victory. If Kelly is to miss a significant amount of time, Cook’s added production will be welcome.

2. Brandon Young (DePaul) 35 points, 13-of-22 shooting, 5 assists

Though the Blue Demons fell to Connecticut, Young had an impressive individual game. Young has been the second scoring option for Oliver Purnell’s team behind Cleveland Melvin, and those two together give DePaul at least a couple assets as they move into Big East play.

3. DeAndre Daniels (Connecticut) 26 points, 9-of-12 shooting, 8 rebounds

The Connecticut backcourt of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright has been the focus all season, but DeAndre Daniels will be important for the Huskies as Big East play moves on. There will no postseason this year, but it is about building for the future. Daniels is part of that bright future.

Also of Note: Jabari Brown (Missouri) Career-high 22 points, including 5-of-7 from three-point range

Struggled

1. Georgetown’s Offense (Again)

The Hoyas have had a few ugly offensive outings this season, including a 37-36 win over Tennessee earlier in the year. Tuesday night at the Verizon Center was no exception. The Hoyas shot 36 percent from the floor, turned the ball over 16 times, and mustered just 45 points.

2. Tyler Brown (Illinois State)

Brown, the second-leading scorer for Illinois State, got just two shots (0-of-2) in a loss to Missouri State. He also missed two shots from the free throw line and finished with 0 points.

3. James Kinney (San Jose State)

Kinney has been San Jose State’s leading scorer all season, but he struggled with a 3-of-18 shooting night against New Orleans. His team was able to compensate, pulling together to get the victory.

Three Facts 

1. Duke will need Ryan Kelly back to maintain this level of play in the ACC. His ability to stretch the floor changes the dynamic of the Blue Devil offense and having him back as soon as possible will be key.

2. The same goes for Missouri and Laurence Bowers. He has been a great story this year, having come back from major knee surgery to be so integral to Missouri’s early season success, but if problems begin in his other knee, it could be a blow to the Tigers’ hopes in the SEC.

3. Georgetown needs to fix whatever is wrong with its offense or it will risk not reaching the NCAA tournament. Against a tough Big East conference schedule, having scoring droughts like the one seen Tuesday night will not suffice.

Top 25 Scores

No. 1 Duke 68, Clemson 40

No. 10 Missouri 84, Alabama 68

No. 13 Creighton 91, Drake 61

No. 15 Ohio State 74, Purdue 64

Pittsburgh 73, No. 19 Georgetown 45

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_