Tuesday, April 8, 2014

2014 NATIONAL CHAMPS!

"Folks, you got to believe - just when people say you can't, you can and UConn has won the National Championship!" - Jim Nantz, CBS Sports, March 29, 1999

Congrats to Kevin Ollie and his staff, Shabazz Napier and the band of brothers.  This was one unbelievable run.  This team lost to Stanford, Houston, Cincinnati, SMU twice, Louisville three times.  This team could have lost to St. Joseph's in the second round.  What an amazing run!  No one believed...the national media was full of doubters.  WOW - what an unbelievable time....now onto Tuesday night when the women's can repeat as National Champions.

Damn, it feels good to be Husky!

AP

Saturday, April 5, 2014

National Championship Game on Monday night!

In Ollie we trust!

This team has turned it around.  I am shocked and proud of this team.  For all the adversity and struggles this team has gone through, they will be playing for a national championship on Monday night.  My criticism earlier in the season was justified, but I knew the talent and potential this team had.  I am happy for them and the university.  Onto Monday night.  Go Huskies!

By the way, Turner and CBS did something awesome tonight.  The Team Cast on TNT and TruTV was just awesome.  I watched the UConn Team Cast.  I loved the basis slight of Donny Marshall and Swin Cash.  Eric Frede was great with the play-by-play.  I hope we can see more of this in the future.

AP

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Elite Eight!

The UConn men's basketball team advanced to the Elite Eight on Friday night with a 81-75 victory over Iowa State at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  The Huskies will face Michigan State on Sunday afternoon with the winner advancing to the Final Four.

Here are some tidbits - UConn lost their only meeting with Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament, in the 2009 Final Four played in Detriot.

No, No. 7 seed advanced to the Final Four.

UConn has never advanced to the Final Four from the East Region.  The Huskies lost a heartbreaker to Duke in 1990 in the Meadowlands.  Then again, UConn lost to North Carolina in Greensboro in 1998.  Also, UConn lost to Maryland in Syracuse in 2002.  Most recently, UConn lost to George Mason in Washington, DC in 2006.  In two of those three games, UConn was the higher seed and twice they played the regional final in the opponent's backyard.

UConn has advanced to the Final Four the four times in the last six appearances in the Elite Eight.

The crowd at Madison Square Garden will be again a pro-UConn crowd.  This is amazing since the fans did not show up earlier this season when they played in the 2K Sports Classic.  I was there for the championship game and in a half fulled MSG, it was a very pro-Indiana crowd.  I felt like it has been that way the past few times UConn has played a preseason tournament there and even the last few St. John's games.  If UConn fans want to make some noise, they need to appear again next year at Yankee Stadium for the football game vs. Army and again when there is a UConn men's./women's doubleheader.  I remember the day that Metro North always had extra cars and trains when UConn was in town - this needs to happen again and often.

Go Huskies!

PS:  Today is the 15th anniversary of the greatest win in UConn basketball history.  77-74!

Gameday Preview: UConn women set for BYU in Sweet 16 showdown

Top-seeded Huskies looking advance to the Elite Eight for the ninth straight year

Well, it’s the Sweet 16 and the Connecticut women’s basketball team is in a very familiar place.  The No. 1 seeded Huskies advanced to the Lincoln Regional with two conceiving wins in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. They will face the No. 12 seeded BYU Cougars in the regional semifinal this afternoon at 4:30pm (ESPN) at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb.

Yes, that is right – the Huskies (36-0) next opponent is the 12 seed. The Cougars (28-6) had two upsets in the opening rounds in Los Angeles to advance to the Lincoln Regional. They are the third 12th seed to advance to the Sweet 16.

In a tournament that typically lacks the upset, there were plenty within the Lincoln Regional. It all started with these Cougars who knocked off fifth-seeded N.C. State 72-57 last Saturday in the first round. Then they took down fourth-seeded Nebraska 80-76 last Monday night in the second round to advance to their first Sweet 16 since 2002. BYU’s second round win prevented Nebraska from playing on their home court in this weekend’s regional.

In the other half of the bracket, Big East champion and seventh-seeded DePaul defeated second-seeded Duke at Cameroon Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C. The Blue Demons will face No. 3 seed Texas A&M at 7pm (ESPN) in today’s other semifinal.

The Cougars know they are significant underdogs heading into this afternoon’s match-up. Two previous 12 seeds have advance to the round of 16 and lost badly. In 1996, UConn defeated San Francisco (72-44) and last season Notre Dame beat Kansas (93-63).

“It's very intimidating, and [UConn has] been here every year, so they're not nervous or excited probably as much as we are,” BYU coach Jeff Judkins told the Associated Press. “Anybody on any given night – a team can be off, foul trouble, injury, some team can be really on, so you just don't know.”

However, the Cougars are relying on their own family history to motivate them. They are being inspired by the 1983 NCAA men’s basketball champions. Forward Morgan Bailey’s uncle, Thurl, was on that N.C. State Wolfpack team. Led by coach Jim Valvano, the Wolfpack upset the Houston Cougars for the national championship. Houston was the top-seed in that tournament and on a 26-game winning streak before being upset on a last season shot.   

BYU does present a unique challenge for the Huskies. Stefanie Dolson, Breanna Stewart, and Kia Stokes will be challenged in the front court as the Cougars have Jessica Hamson. At 6-foot-7, Hamson averages 18 points and 11.5 rebounds per game and also leads the nation in block shots with 4.2 per game. Hamson was the West Coast Conference Player of the Year as well as the Defensive Player of the Year.

“She's extremely tall and is going to change a lot of shots and probably block a lot of shots,” Dolson told the Associated Press. “We have to make sure we keep attacking her and, for me, setting a lot of ball screens and bring her out of the paint so our guards can drive it in there.”

Another key to BYU is Lexi Eaton, a 5-10 guard, is averaging 17.1 points per game. Eaton had 25 points in the first round win against N.C. State.

As for the Huskies, this is the 22nd trip to the regional semifinals. They are 19-2 in the Sweet 16 and they are looking to advance to the Elite Eight for the ninth straight year.

UConn is coming off two dominating performances this past week at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn.

After coming off Spring Break and a 12 day lay-off, UConn had 18 turnovers in an uncharacteristically sloppy performance in their opening round game last Sunday. The Huskies defeated No. 16 seed Prairie View A&M 87-44.

Stewart had 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead five Huskies in a balanced scoring attack. Bria Hartley had 16 points and Moriah Jefferson added 14 points and five steals. Dolson scored 11 points and had six assists, while Kalenna Mosqueda-Lewis had 13 points and six rebounds.

In the second round match-up with No. 9 seed St. Joseph’s this past Tuesday; UConn scored the first 10 points in en route to a 91-52 victory. Offensively, the Huskies were on fire with four players scoring 20 or more points. They shot 55% from the field for the second straight game and limited their turnovers to only eight. Defensively, they held the Hawks to under 35% shooting for the game.

Again five Huskies scored in double figures, led by a triple-double by Mosequeda-Lewis. She had 20 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Dolson (21 points and 11 rebounds) and Stewart (21 points and 10 rebounds) had double-doubles as well. Hartley also contributed with 20 points and Jefferson added 11.  

The winners of today’s games in Lincoln will play on Monday night at 9pm (ESPN) for the regional championship with the winner heading to next weekend’s Final Four in Nashville, Tenn.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sweet Sixteen!

Well, the Huskies know how to turn it on in March. 

Last week they proved they belonged when they defeated Memphis and Cincinnati to advance to the American championship game. The Memphis win was significant because it was a true road game. The Cincinnati win was just an old school grind.

Then past Thursday,  the Huskies were playing awful in the first half. Down by as many as ten, then they fought back. Being down late, it was the freshman center who made the biggest shot and free throw in this career to force overtime.  As we have become accustomed to, OT is Napier time. Nothing changed as UConn advanced to the Round of 32.

Saturday night primetime was interesting.  UConn looked like they were going to get blown out of the building early on. Napier with two quick fouls and plenty of time on the bench, and Husky bench stepped up.  Villanova was forced to live and die by the three and they did die. Napier took over in the second half and helped lead UConn to the East Regional semifinals at Madison Square Garden in NYC.

MSG is a UConn homecourt. The Huskies beat BC and Indiana there back in November.  They won Big East tournament championships there and always gave St. John's a battle. The Garden will be rocking on Friday night.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

American Semifinals - Journal of Day 2

The UConn women made quick work of Rutgers on Sunday afternoon at Mohegan Sun.  The Huskies just dominated the game.  They clearly came to play.

C. Vivian Stringer described UConn as a prize fighter who throws a knockout punch early in the game and they shadow box throughout the rest of the half.  Then after halftime, they throw that next punch and usually the opponent can't withstand it. If you can't survive either punches, it is a TKO.

USF came so close to an upset bid - but lost the game in the final seconds. The Schimmel sisters played a key role in the Cardinals win - Shoni with the go ahead bucket and Jude with the steal and two free throws with 3.3 seconds left.

Jeff Walz and Jose Fernandez are the most animated coaches I have seen on a sideline in a long time.

USF has some ugly uniforms.  What are the people at Under Armor thinking?

$43.30 for a ticket to Monday's championship game is well worth it.  This will be Part Three between No. 1 UConn and No. 3 Louisville.  If the Cards win, UL is the No. 1 seed in the Louisville Region and UConn will be the No. 1 seed in Lincoln.  If the Huskies win, there is a 51% chance UConn is the top seed in Louisville region and Louisville is the two seed. Still, how is Louisville not a one seed - two losses to UConn and one loss to SEC runner-up Kentucky?  The NCAA should forget about their regional rules and do the right thing and place these two teams away from each other.

Best line of the day - Geno was asked if he thought it was odd that Rutgers did not attempt a three during the game.  His answer - why shoot threes if you are going to miss.  Stringer agreed.

Of note, 2014-15 season - UConn and Rutgers may meet in either Madison Square Garden or the Barclays Center.  This all depends if Stringer wants to play a neutral site game.  Also, UConn will visit Notre Dame.  UConn an Louisville will continue to play their series in the 2015-16 season.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

UConn women advance to AAC Semifinals

Uncasville, Conn. – The UConn women’s basketball team opened the American Athletic Conference postseason play with another rout. The No. 1 Huskies defeated eighth-seeded Cincinnati 72-42 in the quarterfinals at Mohegan Sun Arena. They will face fourth-seeded Rutgers on Sunday afternoon.

In front of a 7,332 partisan fans, the Huskies played uncharacteristically sloppy. As a team, they only assisted on 12 baskets, had 15 turnovers, and shot 25% from three-point range. Perhaps it can be attributed to the fact they were playing for the first time since last Monday or it was the first time playing at Mohegan Sun, which is located in southeastern Connecticut.

However, there were many positives to this game. The Huskies did win by 30 points and held the Bearcats to 32% shooting. Four starters scored in double figures. Breanna Stewart, the American Player of the Year, scored a game-high 22 points. She was nine for nine from the foul line.

Stefanie Dolson added 10 points and nine rebounds, while Bria Hartley scored 17 points and added five assists, but had five turnovers. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis struggled shooting again going four for 10 from the field, but ended with 12 points.

UConn (32-0) will play Rutgers (22-8) on Sunday at 1pm on ESPNU in the semifinals. The Scarlet Knights came from behind to defeat SMU 68-49. Guards Kahleah Copper scored 22 points and AAC Freshman of the Year Tyler Scaife added 18 points for Rutgers.

The UConn backcourt will be challenged to defend these two players on Sunday. In addition, the Huskies must be focused and not turnover the ball. Rutgers pressed SMU throughout the second half to take control of the game. Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said “that it is do or die” and she will do everything in her power to help her team advance to the American final on Monday night and secure an NCAA tournament bid.

Hartley and Moriah Jefferson must pass the ball up court to see Stewart and Dolson in transition. If they do that, they will win in ease. If they don’t, Rutgers will press and then drop into a zone and pack it in to force the Huskies to make outside shots.

The Huskies defeated the Scarlet Knights twice this season. Most recently, UConn won last weekend 72-35.  Defensively, the Huskies held Rutgers to their lowest scoring output of the season.

****
Game Notes:
UConn advanced to a conference semifinal for the 26th time. They are 23-2 in the conference semifinals.

Louisville and South Florida will meet in the second semifinal on Sunday at 3pm (ESPNU).  Both teams won in Saturday evening blowouts.

Former UConn men’s basketball player Andre Drummond stopped by the UConn locker room after the game and took a picture with the team.


The American honored seven UConn players during a pre-game ceremony before the game. Soniya Chong was honored for making the All-Freshmen Team; Mosqueda-Lewis and Kia Stokes were honored for making the Second Team All-Conference; Dolson, Hartley, Jefferson and Stewart were honored for making the First Team All-Conference. Dolson received her Sportsmanship Award and Defensive Player of the Year trophies. Stewart received her Player of the Year Award and Geno Auriemma received his Coach of the Year Award.