UConn Huskies

Villanova's Kyle Lowry (1) goes up for a shot over Connecticut's Josh Boone (21) Monday, February 13, 2006 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, PA. Villanova University (4) upset University of Connecticut (1) 69-64. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Report: Villanova and UConn set to renew series

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Another former Big East Rivalry will be renewed soon.

Villanova and Connecticut are set to resume a home-and-home series next year, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Rothstein.

The Huskies will host the first game of the series with the return game coming in 2018, though exact dates and venues have not yet been set.

Since the Big East split in recent years, the two teams have met once, in the 2014 NCAA tournament when the Huskies went on to win a national championship.

UConn played Syracuse earlier this year while the Orange also took on St. John’s and Georgetown in a rematch of former Big East rivals now spread across the realignment landscape.

While the new iteration of the Big East is as strong as its best since the basketball schools bolted – with the Wildcats the defending champions and Creighton and Xavier both having big years – it’s encouraging to see that the classic matchups  of the old Big East aren’t being completely abandoned in this new era of hoops, not only for nostalgia purposes but because they remain some of the best brands and programs in the sport.

CBT Roundtable: College Basketball’s Biggest Disappointments

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 05:  Rodney Purvis #15 of the Connecticut Huskies reacts after hitting a three pointer against the Syracuse Orange during the Tire Pros Classic at Madison Square Garden on December 5, 2016 in New York City. Connecticut defeated Syracuse 52-50  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Travis Hines: Given the expectations weren’t all that high for the Huskies, consider this one hell of an achievement to find them here. They’ve been that bad while Markelle Fultz has been amazing. You have to start with Fultz’s brilliance to fully understand Washington’s ineptitude. The potential No. 1 draft pick is averaging 22.8 points on 49.7 percent shooting from the floor and 48.7 percent from the 3-point line while also putting up 6.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game. Throw in the 2.1 steals and 1.2 blocks, and he’s literally on pace to post numbers that have never been posted in college basketball. As a freshman. That’s just absurd. What else is absurd is that Washington has a guy of Fultz’s caliber performing up to the hype and still somehow sits 4-5 with losses to Yale, TCU (twice), Nevada and Gonzaga, which came in especially embarrassing fashion in a 27-point drubbing on national television.

The “how’ of Washington’s struggles clearly land on the defensive end of the floor, where one coach remarked to our Rob Dauster that “They were so ******* bad on defense. It was like they had never been coached. They had no plan.” So, that’s not good, I don’t think. The Huskies’ season is disappointing on a number of levels, first being it appears that we won’t be watching Fultz in the NCAA tournament, which is a bummer. The second is Lorenzo Romar didn’t need to surround Fultz with McDonald’s All-Americans to have a successful season. Capable dudes (given a defensive plan) would have been enough. And Washington wasn’t able to do that. How disappointing.

Rob Dauster: UConn has been an absolute mess this season. They lost to Wagner and Northeastern at home in their first two games. They barely escaped Loyola Marymount with a win. They went 1-2 in the Maui Invitational, with the one win coming in a closer-than-it-should’ve-been win over Chaminade. If that wasn’t enough, UConn has also been devastated by injury, with two starters – McDonald’s all-american point guard Alterique Gilbert and Terry Larrier, who was their best player at the start of the year – going down with season-ending injuries. This was a team that entered the season with a legitimate case to be considered a top 25 team and is, in all likelihood, going to end the year with a win over a potentially NIT-bound Syracuse team in Madison Square Garden being the highlight of their year.

This is how bad things have gotten for UConn: When I was at the game at MSG, a UConn fan told me that he would consider this season a success “if UConn shows up as a bad loss when they show Syracuse’s NCAA tournament résumé.” For a team that has won two of the last six national titles, that’s quite a fall from grace.

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Terrence Payne: Outside of the major six conferences, the Atlantic 10 is up there as one of the best. The A10 looked like it was on its way to another banner year when the preseason poll included both Rhode Island and Dayton. Currently, both teams find themselves outside the top-25, but more importantly, the conference as a whole finds itself with an underwhelming non-conference résumé. The A-10 is slightly above the American Athletic Conference for seventh place in the Conference RPI rankings, while KenPom rates the A10 as the eighth toughest league.

Rhode Island landed an early-season victory over No. 24 Cincinnati on a neutral floor, but the Rams have lost three out of four, all on the road, to Valparaiso, Providence and Houston. Dayton has been plagued by injuries to Kendall Pollard and transfer Josh Cunningham, which contributed to a 2-2 start. The Flyers have won five straight since, but Dayton could enter conference player with its best out of league win being against Northwestern or New Mexico, neither team pegged to land an at-large bid at this point. And it’s not just the team’s that began the season ranked. VCU, another A-10 power, hasn’t looked up to par, dropping back-to-back games against Illinois and Georgia Tech.

With a few weeks before conference play begins, the A-10 is lacking signature wins. Three years after receiving six bids, an all-time high for the conference, the A-10 is on pace to have, at best, half that amount this upcoming March.

Scott Phillips: It’s tough to call a young, injury-riddled team disappointing, but if Tom Izzo can angrily sit at the end of his own bench in the middle of games then we’re allowed to have such feelings. This Spartans team is 7-4 with single-digit home wins over Florida Gulf Coast, Oral Roberts and Tennessee Tech. Michigan State’s rebounding and free-throw shooting woes have cast serious concerns about their ability to win games early in the Big Ten without Miles Bridges. Of course, I expect Michigan State to make the NCAA tournament – and figure things out quickly – but they better do that before conference play begins.

UConn-Syracuse rivalry game brings back memories of the best of the Big East

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 05:  Rodney Purvis #15 of the Connecticut Huskies reacts after hitting a three pointer against the Syracuse Orange during the Tire Pros Classic at Madison Square Garden on December 5, 2016 in New York City. Connecticut defeated Syracuse 52-50  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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The cliché ‘here, it just means more’ has never rang more true than it did on Monday night in Madison Square Garden.

A bad Syracuse team and a worse UConn team got together in New York City to play an awful basketball game, one where the two teams didn’t crack 100 points combined until there were 2.2 seconds left; where UConn won 52-50 despite shooting 31.4 percent from the floor because the Orange made just 25.9 percent of their field goals; where UConn did everything they could in the final minute to give the game to the Orange, including missing five free throws.

In a game between two teams that entered with a combined 8-6 record, Syracuse and UConn fans packed the Garden and created an environment that was just as rowdy, raucous and bi-partisan as a Big East tournament quarterfinal game that goes to six overtimes.

Businessmen in $5,000 suits were court side, going just as crazy as the UConn fans that packed their student section. Day-traders showed up in Orange t-shirts over their shirt and ties.

It didn’t matter that the Orange entered the game on a two-game losing streak. It didn’t matter UConn, a young team that has already lost two starters to season-ending injury, looks like a team that will be lucky to earn an invite to the NIT.

It never matters when these two former Big East rivals get together in the Basketball Mecca.

“It may be a slap in the face,” said Larry Avitabile, a Connecticut native that now calls Manhattan home, “but I hope UConn shows up as a bad loss when they show Syracuse’s NCAA tournament résumé.”


The rivalry between UConn and Syracuse is unlike any other rivalry in college basketball because of their proximity to New York City and Madison Square Garden, where the Big East has held their conference tournament since 1983.

Both fanbases claim the Big Apple as their own. Both schools consider themselves New York City’s college basketball team. None of the schools that left the Big East and none of the programs still in the conference traveled to the Garden the way that UConn and Syracuse travel to the Garden.

And the result is what you saw on Monday night.

Half of the Garden was blue.

The other half was Orange.

It simply does not get better than that.

Every season, one of the biggest talking points this time of the year is how neutral site games sterilize what makes college basketball special: the energy that comes with playing a game in front of a home crowd. The product on the court is never going to be as good as the product on the floor of any NBA game. That’s a fact of life when the best players at this level are 19 year olds a couple of years away from being able to impact an NBA game or 22 year olds that weren’t quite good enough to be able to make the jump to the pros.

And basketball at any level is never going to be a more popular than the NFL or college football. Unless you live in places like Lexington or Lawrence, college basketball probably isn’t even as important as the MLB or the NHL.

But those big, on-campus games are unparalleled in any sport at any level in this country. The experience of watching, say, UCLA’s visit to Rupp Arena on Saturday or North Carolina’s trip to Assembly Hall last week comes through on the television broadcasts.

When UConn and Syracuse square off in the Garden, it’s like two teams are playing a home game in the building.

“It’s New York City, it’s one of the best venues to play basketball in, it’s on everybody’s bucket list,” said Syracuse guard Andrew White. “Then, given the teams that were here, and the location, you’re dipping into history. This venue and this game is one of the tops all-time.”

White is a fifth-year senior that spent the last four seasons playing for Kansas in the Big 12 and Nebraska in the Big Ten. He’s seen it all. He’s played in the most electric college gyms. He knows what constitutes a great place to play a basketball game.

“I knew what to expect,” said White, who hails from southern Virginia. “I knew what I was getting into coming into this game. It’s Syracuse and UConn at the Garden. Say no more.”

College basketball needs all the games like this that it can get. It’s why those two programs would be doing a disservice to the sport if they decide to discontinue the series after the 2017 Jimmy V Classic, when they will play in the Garden for the second straight season.

Because UConn has too much talent and Kevin Ollie recruits at too high of a level to be down for that long. The Orange are just a year removed from getting to the Final Four and have plenty of young talent of their own on the roster.

Those programs will return to their rightful spots in the top 25 sooner rather than later.

And if those two fanbases can turn one of the ugliest games of the season into what we experienced in the arena on Monday night, imagine what it will be like in that building when those two teams are actually good.

 

UConn drops to 2-4 with 79-69 loss to No. 13 Oregon

LAHAINA, HI - NOVEMBER 23: Jalen Adams #2 of the UConn Huskies reacts after having a foul called on him during the second half of the Maui Invitational NCAA college basketball game at the Lahaina Civic Center on November 23, 2016 in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)
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LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) Chris Boucher scored 21 points, Tyler Dorsey added 19 and No. 13 Oregon beat Connecticut 79-69 on Wednesday in the fifth-place game of the Maui Invitational.

Oregon (4-2) lost its opener to Georgetown, but bounced back with an overtime victory over Tennessee on Dillon Brooks’ long 3-pointer. The Ducks wanted to get off to a fast start in their Maui finale and did just that, racing to a 15-point lead in the opening 4 1/2 minutes.

UConn (2-4) chipped into the lead by halftime, but the Ducks started flying again, building the lead back up to 17.

Dylan Ennis had 15 points and Jordan Bell added 12 for Oregon, which shot 54 percent and made 9 of 21 from 3-point range.

RELATED: What’s been wrong with Oregon?

Jalen Adams led the Huskies with 27 points and Rodney Purvis added 13.

The Ducks attacked the Huskies from the opening tip, scoring the game’s first 10 points, racing out to an 18-point lead.

UConn coach Kevin Ollie called a timeout 41 seconds into the game and Adams, the Huskies’ leading scorer, headed to the bench at 17:03 after picking up his second foul

Oregon pushed the lead to 21, but the Huskies came roaring back.

UConn started hitting shots it was missing earlier, while the Ducks went more than 8 minutes without a field goal, trimming the lead to 39-28 by halftime.

Oregon revved up again to start the second half, hitting 5 of its first 7 shots to push the lead to 53-34.

UConn had one more run. The Huskies whittled away at the lead and got it down to eight with 3 minutes left, but couldn’t make up any more ground.

BIG PICTURE

Oregon finished the Maui Invitational with a flourish after a dud of a start. The Ducks should get better as Brooks, their leader, builds up stamina in his return from offseason foot surgery.

UConn’s young team is still trying to gel. The Huskies struggled against Oklahoma State’s pressure in the opener, Chaminade’s perimeter shooting the next game and the Ducks’ flock of athletes in the finale.

UP NEXT

UConn hosts Boston University on Nov. 30.

Oregon hosts Boise State on Monday.

UConn’s Terry Larrier out for season with torn ACL

LAHAINA, HI - NOVEMBER 21: Terry Larrier #22 of the UConn Huskies grimaces in pain after taking a hard fall during the first half of the Maui Invitational NCAA college basketball game at the Lahaina Civic Center on November 21, 2016 in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)
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Terry Larrier will miss the rest of the season after suffering a torn ACL in UConn’s loss to Oklahoma State in the Maui Invitational opener on Monday night.

The school announced the news on Wednesday.

Larrier was averaging 16.7 points in the three games before he was injured. He was UConn’s best player in the early part of the season, which isn’t saying much considering that the Huskies have started the season 2-3 with a pair of wins over Loyola Marymount and Chaminade, neither of which were convincing.

UConn is still without McDonalds All-American point guard Alterique Gilbert, who suffered a shoulder injury last week.

UConn avoids 0-3 start with 65-62 win over Loyola Marymount

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 13: Jalen Adams #2 of the Connecticut Huskies shoots during the Final of the 2016 AAC Basketball Tournament against the Memphis Tigers at Amway Center on March 13, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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To get an idea of just how much of a disaster the UConn basketball team is right now, think about this: The Huskies landed a huge win on Thursday night when they found a way to hang on to be Loyola Marymount, 65-62, because it meant that they didn’t drop to 0-3 on the season.

The Huskies have already lost to Wagner and to Northeastern at home this season. Dropping a game to LMU, even if it was on the road, would likely have more or less ensured that this team was headed for the NIT, assuming they find a way to finish over .500.

Because that’s not a guarantee yet, either.

That’s how bad things have gotten for a program that has won four national titles in the last 18 years and two since Barack Obama took office.

The issues are plentiful.

Let’s start with their perimeter shooting, or lack thereof. UConn entered Thursday night shooting 27.5 percent from beyond the arc on the season, having shot 20 threes per game, and left LMU’s gym with another 6-for-23 night. Defenses know exactly how to play them: pack everyone inside 18 feet and let Rodney Purvis and Terry Larrier try to prove that they’re actually shooters.

The other major issue is that UConn’s bigs are not all that good. Amida Brimah blocks a ton of shots, but he’s a 7-footer that weighs less your average sportswriter and is a non-threat offensively if he’s not dunking the ball. Kentan Facey and Steve Enoch, UConn’s other two big men, aren’t much better offensively, but they are quite a bit worse defensively. In other words, the only way UConn is getting any offense generated is if their guards create it.

And their guards aren’t really creators. Jalen Adams hasn’t taken the step forward that we expected. Purvis is a scorer that hunts shots for himself. Larrier is a slasher. Alterique Gilbert, the latest McDonald’s All-American guard on the Husky roster, left Thursday’s game with a dislocated left shoulder that was painful enough that he couldn’t stand up on his own. It doesn’t seem all that likely that he’ll play in Maui, which starts on Monday.

This is simply not a very good basketball team right now.

And the most worrying part is that the Huskies don’t exactly have pieces that would make you believe a turnaround is coming.

It is going to be very interesting to see how they fare on the islands.