Category Archives: Big East

UConn Vs. Villanova, Kevin Ollie, Jim Calhoun, Notes and Quotes From First Niagara Center

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, Big East, DeAndre Daniels, Jeremy Lamb, Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun, Kemba Walker, Kentan Facey, Kevin Ollie, Larry Brown, NCAA, Niels Giffey, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Terrence Samuel, UConn men's basketball, Warde Manuel
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BUFFALO, N.Y. – Let’s start with the “news of the day.”

Is Jim Calhoun going to coach Boston College? I don’t believe so. Will he coach somewhere? I wouldn’t bet against that, would you?

It is hard to imagine Calhoun severing his ties with UConn, a school that named a street after him. He has the run of the place, and can do what almost anything he wants. … Almost.

Let’s face it: every great coach misses it after retirement, and many come back. Sometimes it’s a mistake, but it happens. Where do we start? Vince Lombardi came back after a year to coach the Redskins. Bill Parcells came back multiple times. Red Holzman came back. Earl Weaver, Jim Leyland. You think  there’s a chance Phil Jackson, whatever his title, will end up on the Knicks bench? This list goes on and on. Bill Snyder. Bud Wilkinson. Dick Vermeil.

As he neared 70, Joe Torre flirted with retirement each year but would always say, “I don’t want to miss out on any fun,” and he’d come back. Jim Boeheim expressed similar sentiments today, that he won’t retire until he is sure he is ready, because every coach he has talked to misses it.

The attention Larry Brown has gotten at SMU clearly intrigues Jim Calhoun, and it could also intrigue a school out there, one that needs to be put on the map. A school like that would love to have Calhoun for however long they could get him, and gladly take whoever he’d want as a designated successor.

I’m not saying this is going to happen, I’m saying don’t be shocked if it done, because this type of comeback has happened a hundred times before. When coaching is in the blood for 40 years, it never completely gets out. And Calhoun is tanned and rested.

Here is my story on it for the Saturday Courant, and Jeff Jacobs’ take on it.

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Shabazz Napier said if Calhoun does come back, he’d apply for a job as one of his assistants some day. He was joking, but Kevin Ollie was serious when he said Napier could be a coach one day. Then he said he would fight Calhoun for his services.                                        ********

Ollie was exceptionally good on the podium today – relaxed, funny, charming.Here’s more from his press session, as we shift the focus back to UConn-Villanova and the NCAA Tournament:

“[Villanova’s] a great, amazing three?point shooting team.  I think they’ve taken probably, I think, top ten in three?point attempts.  I think they’re in the top five of made three?point field goal shooting teams.
So we’re going to have our work cut out for us.  We’ve got to run them off the three?point line.  We’ve got to play Pinkston down low.  He’s a great player also.  That’s what gives them their balance, and that’s what makes them tough to guard. Jay [Wright] does a wonderful job exploiting matchups.  So we’re going to have to be able to be matched up and play our type of basketball and just play with energy and passion.  Hopefully, we can come out with the win tomorrow night.”

“I don’t care who we’re playing. We want to get to the next round.  It’s great to see Jay [Wright].  It’s great to see a foe that we’ve had so many battles against.  Villanova’s a great team.  We’re going to go out there and play.
But we’re worried about and concerned about UConn and our keys to the Continue reading

Huskies ‘Back Where We Belong,’ Notes, Quotes, Thoughts from Selection Sunday at Gampel

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, Big East, DeAndre Daniels, Kevin Ollie, Larry Brown, NCAA, Niels Giffey, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Terrence Samuel, UConn men's basketball
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STORRS – It’s the most wonderful time of the year, if you’re a college basketball player. So that’s really what it was like around Gampel Pavilion a year ago, around the men’s program, at least. It was as if the holidays were cancelled.

The Huskies waited two years to unwrap their presents, so what did it matter that a No. 7 seed, a trip to balmy Buffalo and a matchup against a tough Saint Joseph’s team was stuffed in their stocking? It’s a “precious gift,” Kevin Ollie said.

So the Huskies did not come out of the bunker whining about seeding, respect. They were surprised at the way the American Conference got hosed, and felt badly for SMU, a team and coach they respect a great deal. But they embraced their own opportunity, as well they should.

Lots of content tonight and in the Monday Courant and on Courant.com and on FoxCT. You can the main story here, and Jeff Jacobs’ take here. This is Paul Doyle’s national overview.

And, of course, The Bracket.

 

Now, in their own words, here’s the stream of consciousness from Kevin Ollie and the players.

Ollie’s take:

“I’m happy with the seeding. You always want to get a [higher] seeding but I’m happy for our team. This is their prize for having a great season, for having a great postseason in the tournament down in Memphis.  Now we got to see what we’re going to do with our prize, and hopefully we can go deep in  this tournament.

“It’s been a great journey. There were some dark days there, but everybody in life is going to have dark days. I’m just so proud of the guys how they’re staying together and planting seeds. We just keep trying to do that. I was proud of the guys this week and I thought we got better from that Louisville game last week to the last three games that we played. I’m excited for this tournament, I’m excited for them. We’re back where we belong.

“I don’t know what  [the selection committee] criteria is, I never know. It’s always a little different every year. I feel bad for Larry Brown, not making the tournament. But I know him, and he’s working right now, getting his team ready for next year. They’ll probably be right back in it.

“Louisville, fourth seed, I mean,  you know, that team beat us three times. I think they’re one of the best teams in the country. But seeding doesn’t matter, it’s about what you do on the floor. Hopefully we can go to Buffalo and prove ourselves and hopefully get that first game and we could be playing an old Big East foe [Villanova] if we can get past St. Joe’s.

“I was getting a little worried. Back two years ago, we were like the first one picked. Man, we had to wait a little longer this time. But it was great, knowing what these kids went through last year, just to see your name up there.  Going to Buffalo. Warde [Manuel] was back there, I know he had a couple of smiles on his face. It’s going to be an exciting time for these guys and I just can’t wait to step on the court on Thursday and take care of this precious gift we got. I hope they understand that.

“I know Phil Martelli. He plays solid basketball, a nice tempo game. They’re an older group. They have almost five guys in double figures, the fifth guy is like nine points, and Langston Galloway is a great player. He’s shooting about 45 percent from the three-point line and they make almost seven threes a game. But they’re going to play calculated basketball, Phil’s been there for a long time, 300 plus wins there, and it’s going to be a challenge for us to get past them. But we’re ready for it.

“[SJU's big man Halil Kanacevic] It’s a different look, but we’ve played teams like that. Continue reading

Rick Pitino: ‘We’ll Miss UConn.’

by Categorized: Amida Brimah, Big East, Jim Calhoun, Rick Pitino, UConn men's basketball
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LOUISVILLE – Got to town in time for the Cardinals interview opportunities. Louisville honors its own exceptional senior class on Saturday, so the focus was on Russ Smith, Luke Hancock, Stephen Van Treese and Tim Henderson.

But Pitino took a moment to talk about UConn and about his long relationship with Jim Calhoun.

The Cardinals have won eight of the last nine against the Huskies, the only loss coming in the Big East Tournament in 2011. They have beaten Kevin Ollie’s teams twice by double-digits, including 76-64 at Gampel on Jan. 18. With Louisville joining the ACC next year, this marks the last UConn-Louisville conference game … for now.

Here’s Pitino:

“It’s not me having success, it’s the players having success. I haven’t scored a bucket in 12 years I’ve been here.

We’ve had great games against them.They’ve got a great backcourt, we have a great back court. They have a center [Amida Brimah] that, I said earlier, has really gotten a lot Continue reading

UConn 51, Cincinnati 45: Wrapping Things Up At XL

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, AP Top 25, Big East, DeAndre Daniels, Kentan Facey, Kevin Ollie, NCAA, Niels Giffey, Phil Nolan, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Terrence Samuel, Tyler Olander, UConn men's basketball
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HARTFORD  – Grrrrrrr. As in grind, grit, gutting it out. All those G-words applied to UConn’s win over Cincinnati, a physical game, a guy thing. The Huskies have proven their mental toughness, here they showed mental and physical toughness (for the most part).

I’m not into style points or worrying about who plays how many minutes or the various stats at this time of year. You just need to put wins in the bank, and especially against a ranked, first-place team like Cincy, the Huskies need to win any which way they could.

They got it done. They’re 23-6. You know, things just aren’t that bad. Here’s the game story for the Sunday Courant.

 Raspy voice and all, here is the full 10 minutes of Kevin Ollie, unplugged:

“Great game by us, not offensively, but defensively, which is what we hang our hats on. I told the guys, there are going to be droughts in the game, but you can’t have droughts on defense in your energy or effort. If you watched the game, there were no let-ups.

… I pretty much told them it was going to be 90 percent punches and 10 percent plays. There weren’t going to be a lot of X’s and O’s, there were going to be a lot of punches Continue reading

UConn 59, Indiana 58: Wrapping Things Up From The Garden, and the 2K Classic

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, Big East, DeAndre Daniels, Jim Calhoun, Lasan Kromah, Noah Vonleh, Phil Nolan, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Tyler Olander, UConn men's basketball
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NEW YORK – Okay, quite a night for the Huskies. If you were not a believer in this group, there is more evidence now to support the notion that this could be a special season.

UConn 59, Indiana 58. Brand names. Heavyweights at The Garden, and UConn, which won an NIT and seven Big East tournaments in this arena, showed they still belong among the nation’s elite programs, regardless of the fortunes of conference realignment.

It’s past midnight here at The Garden, lots of stuff for you to chew on …

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Others have had their nights. This was all Shabazz Napier. “He’s just too good,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said, “he’s got one of those un-teachable abilities to make big shots at crucial times.”

Shabazz, the 2K Classic’s MVP, scored 27, putting UConn ahead again and again down the stretch. The comparisons to Kemba Walker, by New York reporters who covered the Big East Tournament in 2011, were inevitable.

“That’s my big brother,” Napier said, “I try to emulate everything he does in a sense, and put my type of Continue reading

UConn Men Check In At No. 18 in AP Poll

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Big East, UConn men's basketball
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UConn was ranked 18th in the preseason AP Writers’ Poll, which came out Thursday, one slot ahead of where the Huskies ranked in the USA Today/Coaches poll last week.

The Huskies, who open the season against Maryland at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn next Friday, were again one of three American Athletic Conference teams to be ranked. Louisville was No. 3, and Memphis No. 13. Cincinnati was in the “others receiving votes” category, getting one 25th-place vote.

The “new” Big East has one ranked team, Marquette at No. 17, though Creighton, Villanova, Georgetown and St. John’s received votes. An indication that the AAC is strong, but top-heavy, and the new Big East, like the old, is good top to bottom.

In any event, UConn will start the season in the Top 20 in both polls, not a bad jumping off point.

Here is the complete AP Poll 

AAC Media Day: Wrapping Things Up From Memphis

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Andre Drummond, Big East, DeAndre Daniels, Kevin Ollie, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, UConn men's basketball
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MEMPHIS – The first AAC Media Day is in the books. A few notes, quotes and thoughts …

This league should really be pretty good – this year. Once Louisville leaves, there will be a gap in power and brand recognition, no question. And when Larry Brown, 73, moves on, SMU will lose the most compelling thing about its program.

This is something the teams will have to address, and UConn, too, by scheduling better and better non-conference opponents. But for now, a coaching dais that includes Rick Pitino, Larry Brown, Fran Dunphy, Kevin Ollie, et al, is fairly glittering, and the inaugural AAC season should have its share of ranked teams.

Here’s the main story on our website and for the Thursday Courant. Lots of coverage, video, photos, etc., there.

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I know they only picked first and second teams, but I feel like DeAndre Daniels should have had a Continue reading

For Pastner, Memphis, Quest for Respect Could End in AAC

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Big East, Kevin Ollie, Tyler Olander, UConn men's basketball, Uncategorized
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Here is our coverage from the main website on Tyler Olander’s reinstatement.

 

NEW YORK – Continuing with interviews from the Jimmy V Classic event this week, I caught up with Josh Pastner, the Memphis Tigers coach.

Here’s what is meant by everything being relative. While fans of former Big East schools, such as UConn, may lament the demise of the old conference, Memphis couldn’t be more excited to be leaving Conference USA for a league, the American Athletic Conference, that includes strong brands like UConn and Cincinnati – and, for one year, Louisville.

Pastner, 36 and very youthful, and he exudes enthusiasm for the AAC:

“Mick Cronin has done an amazing job at Cincinnati,” Pastner said, “he’s been awesome. Kevin Ollie, what he did last year, was terrific and [UConn’] loaded. I look at them as two elite programs, UConn and Cincinnati, two well-coached programs. Their names are strong, not only within the Region but nationally. Very strong, as strong as any other teams out there.”

 

“… I think the league’s really good. I personally think it’s the best basketball league, or we’re right darn there, in the country. When you’re talking top to bottom, there’s going to be a lot of good teams.

I think UConn’s going to be really good. I know coach Ollie has done an amazing job there. It wouldn’t surprise me if some people picked them as a sleeper pick to win the league. I know Continue reading

Phil Nolan Shows ‘Energy and Effort,’ – and Clutch Free-Throw Shooting – In Estonia

by Categorized: Amida Brimah, Big East, Kentan Facey, Phil Nolan, Tyler Olander, UConn men's basketball
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Phil Nolan is back from the Four Nations Cup in Tallinn, Estonia, where his team, the East Coast All-Stars, finished 2-1, losing the final game to Estonia, 88-79.

I asked coach Guy Rancourt how Nolan did:

 “Phil did a great job,” Rancourt said. “His energy and effort on the offensive glass gave us much-needed second- and third-chance opportunities throughout. He was a very good free-throw-shooter as well, he made two cluitch shots form the line with under a minute to play in our three-point victory over Belarus.”

Nolan played 7 ½ minutes in the last game, got two rebounds and hit his two free throw attempts. In Continue reading

UConn-BC Reunion at The Garden? … Update on Huskies’ schedule

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Big East, UConn men's basketball
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Pairings have not been officially announced for the Y2K Classic, but ESPN’s Andy Katz reports that UConn will play Boston College in one of the semifinal games at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 21.

UConn, BC, Indiana and Washington are the four “host schools” of the 12-team field, and they are guaranteed games in The Garden on the 21st and 22nd, though they will also play two preliminary round games at their home sites. The remaining eight teams have not yet been announced.

If UConn plays BC on the 21st, the Huskies would then play either Indiana or Washington the next day. If UConn and Washington decide to complete their home-and-home commitment this season with a game at Seattle, it could mean they would play twice. That does not appear to be a concern.

Obviously, UConn vs. BC has a little juice to it, with acrimony between the programs since BC left the Big East. They have not played since 2005.

Here is more info from the Y2K Classic’s website.

UConn’s other non-conference opponents include Maryland at the Barclay’s Center on Nov. 8, that’s official, a home game against Florida Dec. 2 (not yet officially announced) and home games against Stanford and Harvard and the road game at Washington, not yet official.

The new American Athletic Conference, which has 10 teams, will play an 18-game league schedule, with each team playing the other nine home and away, so UConn will play defending national champion Louisville twice in the regular season. The AAC says it won’t have “travel partners” per se, but will try to make the travel burden easier, so you could see UConn playing, for instance, at SMU and Houston on one swing.