Posts Tagged ‘connecticut huskies’

The cream really started rising to the top last weekend as Alabama, Oregon and Oklahoma got important conference wins.  The Crimson Tide were especially impressive as they dominated Florida from the beginning of the game.  The Gators can now only hope to get another shot at them in the SEC Championship game.  At the same time the Ducks started off slow but then took off like a rocket after halftime to roll over Stanford.

Week six will again be highlighted by critical conference battles.  Here’s five questions I’m looking forward to getting the answers to this weekend:

5.  If a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, did it make a sound?

Fallen Tree


In other words, when Connecticut plays at Rutgers Friday night and nobody watches will they have really played a game.  I’m sorry, I’m a Syracuse alum and fan, but the Big East is inconsequential to the national scene this year.  I wish it wasn’t true, but it is.

4.  Can “Shoelace” keep his Heisman hopes alive against Michigan State?

Denard “Shoelace” Robinson, the most dynamic college football player in the nation, and his Michigan Wolverines host intrastate rival Michigan State.  Robinson has gotten hit hard and missed parts of each of the past three games.  Saturday afternoon he’ll have Spartans linebacker Greg Jones hunting him down.  Will he avoid an injury and lead his team to victory?

3.  Will the Hurricanes be the ACC’s shining light?

After three consecutive road games, Miami finally returns home to face rival Florida State.  One of those road games was a loss to Ohio State in which they were not really competitive.  But they’ve seemed to right the ship in the past two games.  The ACC is really struggling and needs the Hurricanes to carry the banner for them after N.C. State dropped it last week and Virginia Tech stomped on it.

2.  How does Florida rebound against undefeated but much-maligned LSU?

The Gators have handily beaten the teams they should but were never really in the game against Alabama.  Of course, that’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Saturday evening they host the LSU Tigers with a chance to demonstrate what type of season they want to have.  LSU has not yet lost but they’ve been a lot closer to it than their fans would like.  Every game they play seems to be a referendum on head coach Les Miles.

1.   Can South Carolina challenge Alabama?

The Crimson Tide is coming into form as the juggernaut that many expected them to be.  After being taken nearly to the wire by Arkansas, Alabama dominated Florida.  South Carolina is coming off a tough loss at Auburn two weeks ago.  With two weeks to prepare and home field advantage can the Gamecocks beat the Tide?

What do you think the answers will be to the questions I asked above?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Photo source: Mary-Lynn


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As the Big Ten, Pac-10, SEC and Pac-10 again have expanded their conferences, the ACC has sat back and watched.  The most important thing for the ACC at this point is that none of their current programs have been taken away by the other quickly growing conferences. 

While the ACC was the league that caused all of the tremors of expansion earlier this decade they will be the last conference to grow this time.  Initially I said that I expected that the final result of expansion would be four 16-team mega conferences.  As I’ve gone through this exercise, my thinking has changed.  The reason is that similar to what I said about the Pac-10 expansion, I don’t see four legitimate candidates available for the ACC at this point.  If the league moves more quickly, or if the Big Ten only grabs one of the Big East schools, I could see four legitimate candidates (Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia).  But I firmly believe that the Big Ten will grab two of those schools (Pittsburgh and Syracuse) and take that option away from the ACC.

So that leaves Connecticut and West Virginia.  The case for both schools is complicated. 

First, let’s look at Connecticut.  Traditionally the Huskies have had an excellent men’s basketball program, but they are currently under a great deal of scrutiny by the NCAA.  And according to SI’s Seth Davis, that is just the beginning of UConn’s issues.  Their candidacy with the ACC is certainly helped by the inclusion of the premier women’s basketball program in the nation.  Their addition would also solidify a rival for Boston College in the Northeast and bring some access to the New York City market.  Their academics (#66 ranking by the U.S. News and World Report) don’t match up with the ACC elite, but are still solidly in the range of the other schools.

The biggest challenge for West Virginia to overcome will be their academics.  They are ranked as a Tier 3 school by the U.S. News and World Report.  That means they are not good enough to be ranked among the top 133 colleges and universities in the country.  That fact will not sit well with the ACC whose lowest current ranking school is Florida St. at #102.  Otherwise they have a strong football program with a passionate fan base and a very solid basketball program.  In fact, they have a lot of depth in their athletics program as they currently stand at #15 in the Learfield Directors’ Cup standings.

Will the ACC be willing to overlook Connecticut’s NCAA violations and West Virginia’s less than ideal academic ratings?  I say yes.  I believe that the pressure to expand will be great because there is nothing saying that the Big Ten and SEC have to stop at 16 teams.  You could just as easily see them jumping up to 20.  So the ACC will react and add the Huskies and Mountaineers believing that their only way to ultimately survive is to strengthen their own ranks.

What are your thoughts?  Would Connecticut’s NCAA issues keep them from being invited to join the ACC?  Does West Virginia’s academic ranking make them a no-go?

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It’s always fun to look back on predictions and see how they compared to the final results…especially if you were not the one that made the predictions.  I did not put any preseason college basketball predictions in print so instead of looking back at my predictions I will look at the predictions of the Sports Illustrated team.  First, I’ll give credit where it’s due:

Hit the Bullseye

  1. Kansas – SI picked the Jayhawks at #1 and although they did not achieve their ultimate goal they did have a wonderful season that was worthy of the #1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
  2. Michigan St. – Chosen by SI at #2 the Spartans rallied from a challenging season to make the Final Four and had a solid chance to beat Butler.
  3. Kentucky – Maybe dead on, SI picked the Wildcats in the #5 slot. 
  4. Washington – While the Huskies did not have the best regular season, they made a nice mini-run to get to the Sweet Sixteen.  SI picked them at #9.

Hit Below the Bullseye

  1. Butler – SI wasn’t way off on this one – they picked Butler at #14.  Doubtful that anybody would have picked the Bulldogs at #2.  Although they should be picking them there for next season.
  2. Syracuse – The #1 seed and Big East regular season champions were picked at #35 by SI before the season.
  3. Kansas St. – Right below the Orange SI picked the Wildcats at #36.  Kansas St. played their way to a #2 seed in the big dance.
  4. Baylor – The Bears’ excellent season was a surprise to many, including the writers of SI who did not pick them to make the tournament in their college basketball preview.

Overthrew the Target

  1. Texas – Picked #4 by SI the Longhorns were never able to pull all their talent together in a way that resulted in a lot of wins.
  2. North Carolina – Many were surprised by the poor performance of the Tar Heels this season.  SI picked them at #7.
  3. Connecticut – The Huskies played like a group of individuals instead of a team throughout most of the season.  They did not live up to expectations, including those of SI who picked them at #10.
  4. Michigan – I personally expected a lot out of this team coming into the season and so did SI who picked them at #15. 

The team that most outperformed my expectations was Pittsburgh.  I did not expect anything from them but they really had an excellent season built on the foundation of high effort and defense that they’ve been exhibiting for quite some time.  Michigan is the program that most underachieved when compared to my expectations.  With the return of Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims along with the three other starters from the previous season I thought the Wolverines would be really good – they certainly were not.

What teams surprised you most, both positively and negatively?

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After playing listlessly over the weekend against Cincinnati, Connecticut was written off by most everybody.  They were not even considered a bubble team anymore.  Well last night they jumped right back into the bubble discussion with an extremely impressive win over Villanova. 

Their long term challenge is that to fight their way back into heavy consideration they are probably going to have to win four of their last five regular season games and a couple in the Big East tournament.  Not an easy task with this remaining schedule: at Rutgers, West Virginia, Louisville, at Notre Dame and at South Florida.

Going back to the Huskies win over the Wildcats…the box score highlights a couple of the keys to the victory:

  • Starting UConn guards Kemba Walker and Jerome Dyson combined to take 30 free throws.  No that’s not a typo – 30 FREE THROWS!  They made 23 of those shots from the charity stripe.
  • Villanova shot very poorly from three point range – 7-24 (29.2%).  On the season they are shooting 37.5% from three, good for fifth in the Big East.

Interesting to note though:

  • The Huskies lost the turnover battle 9-17.   This is not surprising as they are second to last in the Big East in average turnover margin at -2.12.  But it’s not often that a team will get a win with that large of a disparity in turnovers.  Especially against a top five team.
  • UConn had only four steals in the game.  Villanova had 13.

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While last night’s game got a little too close for comfort at the end, the final result for the Orange was certainly satisfying.  It was a good win against a Connecticut team that may have played their best game of the season.  For excellent comprehensive recaps of the game I’d encourage you to visit the Orange::44 blog (which includes a detailed explanation of the controversial timeout call) and The Axeman blog

There are a number of things that jump out at me when looking at the box score:

  • The first of two key stats that made the biggest difference in the game to me is Syracuse shooting 23 of 28 from the free throw line.  On the season the Orange are shooting 66% from the charity stripe so knocking down 82% last night in a tight game was huge. 
  • The second critical statistic is the 12 blocks the Orange had…that’s five more than their season average per game.
  • Wes Johnson and Andy Rautins were a combined 5-18 from the field including 2-9 from three point range.  That Syracuse could withstand a shooting night like that from Johnson and Rautins and still win is an excellent sign.  But like they kept saying during the broadcast last night – Syracuse is the only team in the nation with seven different players that have scored 20 or more points in a game.
  • The Orange had 20 turnovers, 13 of which were Connecticut steals.  To me taking care of the ball is an area of concern with this team.  Sure they can get away with 20 turnovers against UConn but that is not likely to be the case against the big boys.

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