Category Archives: Niels Giffey

UConn vs. Michigan State: Setting The Scene at The Garden

by Categorized: Andre Drummond, DeAndre Daniels, Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie, NCAA, Niels Giffey, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Tyler Olander, UConn men's basketball
Date:

NEW YORK – The Huskies and Spartans are on the floor, the start of the NCAA East Regional final is about 25 minutes away.

Let’s set the scene at Madison Square Garden. Anna Negron has just belted out the anthem, impressively one might add.

Kevin Ollie’s featuring a light gray suit today.

UConn’s staying with the lineup it has been using – Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, DeAndre Daniels, Phil Nolan and Niels Giffey.

You know Lasan Kromah and Amida Brimah will be off the bench early, Terrence Samuel will get in  there for a spark. One wonders if Tyler Olander, who has played only three minutes in the tournament, gets some action today against this big Spartan line. He played well against MSU in Germany.

Michigan State starts Adreian Payne, Brandon Dawson, Keith Appling, Gary Harris, Denzel  Valentine, no surprises.

Your refs: Mike Roberts, Tom Eades, John Higgins.

Andre Drummond is in the house, watching his former teammates. Imagine if he were on this team as a junior? Anyway, he was down behind the UConn bench chatting with Jim Calhoun.

Classic matchup today, not much to be said that isn’t already up on our website. UConn has the better backcourt, Michigan State the stronger front court. Let it fly.

UConn Vs. Michigan State: Taking The Train, ‘Not Backing Down,’ Notes, Quotes and Thoughts From The Garden

by Categorized: Alex Oriakhi, Andre Drummond, Jeremy Lamb, Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie, NCAA, Niels Giffey, Roscoe Smith, Shabazz Napier, UConn men's basketball
Date:

NEW YORK – First, how to get there. Metro North will again provide a special train, added to its regular schedule of trains running between New Haven and NYC’s Grand Central Terminal on Sunday morning.

Here are the details from  the Governor’s Office:

Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced that MTA Metro-North Railroad will run a special, extra New Haven Line train on Sunday, March 30, to accommodate the UConn men’s basketball fans expected to travel to New York City for the NCAA tournament game at Madison Square Garden (MSG).

 

“With another great win last night, I have no doubt that thousands of Husky fans will be heading down to the Garden on Sunday to show their support,” said Governor Malloy.  “Another win, and our next stop will be the Final Four.”

 

The special train – the “Huskies Fan Express” – will depart from New Haven’s Union Station at 10:40 a.m., and will make just three intermediate stops before arriving at Grand Central Terminal at 12:23 p.m. The train will stop at West Haven at 10:45 a.m., Bridgeport at 11:03 a.m., and Harlem-125th Street at 12:10 p.m.

 

For the return trip, the train will be ready and waiting at Grand Central to depart as needed based on what time the game ends and fans arrive at Grand Central.

 

UConn games at the Garden have historically drawn big crowds from the Bridgeport and New Haven areas, and many of the fans take Metro-North to the games. Fans are urged to buy round trip tickets at their boarding station.

 

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The Huskies have a different destination in mind: Arlington, Texas, home AT&T Stadium, also known as Jerry World, for the Cowboys owner who built it. UConn toured it during their disastrous Houston-Dallas trip at the start of 2014, a reminder of where Kevin Ollie wanted them to go. “It seemed far away then,” Niels Giffey said.

Now UConn is one game away.

But the road is blocked by Michigan State, and that’s formidable. The Spartans have size and experience inside, and the tandem of Adriaen Payne and Brandon Dawson could be too much to handle. We’ll see. UConn’s guards are more experienced, which gives them an advantage.

Whether UConn’s backcourt or MSU’s front court takes control, the game will be about defense. Both teams hold opponents under 40 percent. UConn’s defense broke down in the second half against ISU, something that can’t happen Sunday if the Huskies are to have any chance.

Lot of talk at the podium about Tom Izzo replacing a legend, or program-builder in Jud Heathcote and how Kevin Ollie is doing the same. It’s not easy, more often than not it proves impossible, but both these guys have done it. They were around earlier and players and/or assistants and had the support of their predecessor, but, mainly, both are very comfortable in their own skin and that’s probably the key to stepping into a high-pressure situation like this.

This is the topic of my main advance for the game. Paul Doyle is writing about Payne, Jeff Jacobs about the slap-gone-viral. Lots of stuff in the UConn notebook. Just a ton UConn content on our main web pages, going up this evening, including John Altavilla reporting from Nebraska with the UConn women.

Let’s change it up, and give you some Shabazz Napier stream of consciousness at the podium:

“Like I’ve always said, I felt like I owed this university a lot.  I felt like after my first year we won, and the sophomore year I didn’t play up to my capabilities.  I felt like I owed the Continue reading

UConn 81, Iowa State 76: Wrapping Things Up At The Garden

by Categorized: Daniel Hamilton, Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie, NCAA, Niels Giffey, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Terrence Samuel, UConn men's basketball
Date:

NEW YORK – Well, here the Huskies are. On Jan. 2, when the Huskies were in Dallas and Kevin Ollie took them out to Arlington to tour the site of the Final Four, what did you think? On March 5, when he grabbed the mic at Gampel Pavilion and said he planned to come back in April and raise a banner, what did you think?

Kevin Ollie is no Don Quixote, it turns out. He knew what he was doing, talking about. His belief in his players, even as he was chiding them after tough losses, is paying off in a big way  now, isn’t it?

One win away. The Huskies will play Virginia or Michigan State for the chance to go back to Arlington, for real, on Sunday. Wow. What a ride it is becoming;  the Huskies appear to have caught lightning in a bottle. Can’t put anything past them now. Here’s the game story for the Saturday Courant.

Here’s Kevin Ollie at the podium:

“First I just want to thank all the fans that came out and supported us.  We can really hear them cheering for us, but then we could also feed off them.  We can also draw off their energy.  They just did a wonderful job.  My student?athletes played together, they played hard, and at the end of the game we played 40 full to get this win.  And only thing we’re looking forward to is a Sunday matchup, whoever that might be, and we have to stay together and play another 40 full [minutes] and get the win.”

Coach [Calhoun] just said ‘Congratulations’, and I love Coach and I love him being around.  He’s always a sounding board for me.  If I ever have a question he’s always there to answer it.  He’s like a second father to me.  He really gave me an opportunity to take over this program, and he’s built this program on pride and tradition.  And I just want to continue to keep the torch alive.

                And he’s passed me the baton, and I’m just trying to run with it the best way I know how, and the best way I do know how is to keep our team together, keep us Continue reading

UConn Men Vs. Iowa State: Setting The Scene At The Garden

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, DeAndre Daniels, Kevin Ollie, Lasan Kromah, NCAA, Niels Giffey, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Tim Abromaitis, UConn men's basketball
Date:

 

 

NEW YORK – We are looking live at the Mecca of Basketball, the World’s Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden. NCAA Sweet 16.

It has been home of some of the greatest events of the 20th and 21st Centuries, and tonight it is home for UConn men’s basketball. The Huskies and Iowa State are about 45 minutes away, and we set the scene. The players had a shoot-around here earlier today, and were just on the floor warming up. They’re back in the locker room now.

The UConn Pep Band is making its way into the arena and to their seats, to a round of applause

I was in the city today, but I’m told trains from New Haven on into Grand Central were packed and loud. The arena is teeming with New York media big wigs – or, to quote Mel Brook’s line from The Producers, “the toast of society is burning tonight.” I passed Jim Calhoun and John Thompson on the way to my courtside seat.

Thanks to Joe D. for having me on the WTIC-AMm 1080 pregame show, always a pleasure.

The Huskies will stay with the lineup they’ve used since March 13: Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, Continue reading

On To The Garden To ‘Take Care Of Business;’ Wrapping Things Up In Buffalo

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, DeAndre Daniels, Jim Calhoun, Kentan Facey, Kevin Ollie, Lasan Kromah, NCAA, Niels Giffey, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Terrence Samuel, UConn men's basketball
Date:

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Snowing like a son-of-a-gun as we pull out of town on the Amtrak early Sunday morning.

 It’s a good time to be getting out of Buffalo.

It’s especially a good time if you’re the Huskies, who came, saw, survived and advanced to New York.

“We call The Garden our second home,” Ryan Boatright said, “because when we go there, we take care of  business.”

The business will be difficult, no matter who UConn finds in the Sweet 16, but there will be plenty of time to talk about that. Right now, they can bask in the glow of a job well done.

The 77-65 win over Villanova was a truly impressive performance in every way. UConn’s defense kept the Wildcats tossing up three pointers, and the offense got it done. Shabazz Napier, despite the foul trouble, was 9-for-13 and scored 25 points in 25 minutes. “Napier was just awesome,” Jay Wright said.

The 16-1 run while Napier was on the bench was as impressive as anything the Huskies have done all year, and the rebounding and ball-hawking were outstanding, after a tentative first few minutes.

Villanova, on the other side, really turned out to be a paper tiger. If the old Big East were intact they would not have had anywhere near the 29-4 record they did, or the seed they got.  UConn outplayed them, outscored them  68-46 over the last 30 minutes or so.

Due to the lateness of the game, your newspaper has our first version of the game story, with no quotes. The final version went online about 2 a.m. – here it is.

Now, on to Kevin Ollie at the podium.

“Great game by our guys.  They showed some resiliency.  They showed toughness, and they just played with a will. When Shabazz went out, guys stepped up, and that’s what a team is all about.  Then in the second half, he scored 21 points for us. But everybody was strong.  Everybody rebounded the basketball, and we just played together.  It was a gutty win. We’re going to the Garden.  We just love to plant seeds.  We’re going to keep planting seeds there.  We’re going to keep playing together and keep caring for each other.”

“I’ve seen a lot.  I’ve seen us being great for three.  When we called great for three, it’s not enough to go two slots.  We have to go the third slot.  They was penetrating and going out and getting easy threes.  So we wanted to run them off the three?point line.
“I think when Shabazz got his foul, his second foul, we started really turning up the defense another notch with him on the bench.  It’s nothing against Shabazz, it was just we got to take this moment.  The game is right now.
I think once they took Shabazz out on this last play and he hit three and was up nine, we went on a 16?1 run.  It was just a great run by us with our leader on the bench.  But that just shows you what kind of team we’re made out of.
“Everybody talks about we’re not deep, we’re not this, we’re not that, but we’ve got heart.  Every guy that comes in on the court, they stay positive, and they stay productive.
I’m going to keep saying the same thing.  That’s what our guys do.  That’s how we’re built.  We’re UConn made.  We’re UConn made through and through.  And every day we come out there and play with that toughness and play with that heart.”

 

“[Napier’s] just tough?minded.  A lot of things he’s been through in life made him that way.  His mother Carmen is one of the toughest ladies around, and he’ll be the first to say that, how he was raised and what she had to do to keep their home together, and I think he gets that toughness from her.
“He goes out there and plays.  I told you on many occasions he does whatever we need to win.  If that’s scoring a scoop shot, that’s being my unpaid coach for 12 minutes, you know, that’s what he does.”

“We’ve been telling Terrence [Samuel] and all of our guys, you’ve got to recover quickly.  For me, I’ve got to be positive over there because they’re looking at me, and I have to have the right body language when he makes a mistake. That’s what I try to do with Terrence.  He’s going to be a great player for us.  He’s maturing right now.  Like I told him, once he stepped on the free?throw line the last game, he’s not no freshman no more.  You’re all sophomores.  This is the big stage, and they’re stepping up and playing wonderful basketball.”
“Things you don’t see.  I keep telling you.  They work hard in practice.  Kentan [Facey's] working hard.  You don’t see it, but he’s working hard.  All our guys have that passion and that want to get better.  We tell our guys, every time you step on the court, Try to do something better.
Terrence is maturing, and he’s a great competitor, but he’s also a great teammate.  He’s going to be a great basketball player for us and a great student?athlete for the University of Connecticut.”

“I just explain, we plant seeds.  We plant seeds every day in practice.  Sometimes you’re not going to see them growing the first day or first two days, but sooner or later, they’re going to grow.  That’s what they do each and every day.”
“Lasan [Kromah] has been working hard.  He does different things for us to win.  You know, against Saint Joe’s, he played tremendous defense on Galloway that last possession.  We just want our guys to be solid, just continue to play their role, be solid, and just contribute in so many different ways.”
“You don’t have to be a great player all the time, but you can always be a great teammate.  That’s what we try to strive for all our guys to be great teammates on and off the basketball court.”

“[When Shabazz went out], I just believed in my team.  I’m hurting for him because I don’t want him coming out of the game.  But like they just said, we’ve been hurting a lot, but we stayed here.  We’re hurting, but we’re still here.  That’s our motto.  We’re going to be here.  We’re going to stand up.  We’re going to say I’m present.
If Shabazz is on the bench, we’ve got to keep going forward for him, and we got to uphold each other.  I think that’s what we did.  Then Shabazz got back in.  I knew he’s a tough player.  He’s going to get back in there, and that’s what he did, and he led us to victory. “
“He was just unbelievable that second half.  You know, 21 points, crucial threes, dagger threes.  You know, it looked like he was 30 feet out and just making them with all the utmost confidence in the world.  Great game by him.
But it was a great thing, when he’s on the bench, our other players can step up and provide a great spark for us.”

“I just want to keep riding Uncle Mo.  That’s the momentum.  Wherever it takes us, it’s going to take us.
We got to stay together as a team.  We can’t get drunk off success.  We got to make sure we understand we go back to work on Monday.  Give the kids the day off and then go back to work.  We see who we’re playing, and we’ve got to prepare.  That’s what we need to do, and whatever happens is going to happen.
We’re going to write our own story.  We’re not going to let anybody write it for us.  We’re going to continue to learn and grow and appreciate this journey that we’re on.”

****

Here is Jeff Jacobs take on the game, and pics from Steve Dunn.

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Some player quotes, from the podium and the locker room, which was fun to work at 1 a.m..

From Shabazz Napier

On his injury:   I was trying to get open for the ball, and I think it was Hilliard was playing me aggressively.  I just tried to make a move, and he kind of kicked me or kneed me in my shin area.  The pain was just excruciating.  I couldn’t really put pressure on it.
Continue reading

UConn vs. Villanova: Setting The Scene In Buffalo

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, DeAndre Daniels, NCAA, Niels Giffey, Phil Nolan, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Syracuse basketball, UConn men's basketball
Date:

BUFFALO, N.Y. – We’re in the First Niagara Center, been watching Syracuse and Dayton having a terrible time offensively.

The UConn traveling party, players, coaches and staff, walked past me in the hallway as I made my way back to the work room. The Huskies had their game faces on, I assure you (I mean, whatever that is, coach Knight.)

Okay, Dayton beats the Orange in dramatic fashion, the Huskies are about to take the floor. We’re maybe 25 minutes away. … Let’s set the scene at 9:30 p.m.…

UConn is playing for its season tonight, in a couple of ways. They are battling Villanova for survival, to get to the Sweet `16. They are also playing for the perception of the season. If the Huskies reach the Sweet 16, then whatever was to happen in New York next week, the season would have to be considered an unqualified success. No one can quarrel with 24-7, no one can quarrel with reached the AAC final and losing to Louisville, and no one could quarrel with being one of the last 16 standing.

If the Huskies lose, you could say they fell came up a tad short. Past UConn teams, it seemed, always went as far, and usually a step or two further, than they were expected to go in March. That’s the history. That’s the standard.

These two teams, Villanova and UConn, are more evenly matched than the No. 2 vs. No. 7 seedings suggest, IMO.

Same lineup UConn has been using since March 13 – Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, DeAndre Daniels, Niels Giffey, Phil Nolan. … Amida Brimah, off his clutch play against St. Joe’s, will probably be in before long. By not starting him, it keeps him from getting a foul in the first minute. If there’s a change, we’ll update.

Villanova’s usual lineup: James Bell, JayVaughn Pinkston, Ryan Aarcidiacono, Daniel Ochefu, Darrun Hilliard.

The refs are Jamie Luckie, Antinio Petty, Kip Kissinger

Look for Josh Hart, who played very well off the bench in the Wildcats first game, to get in there quickly tonight.

 Programming note: With the late start, and early Saturday night newspaper deadlines, I will not be able to do as much on twitter as usual, but I’ll do what I can on that front. (@AmoreCourant and @JacobsCourant are our handles.)

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
Date:

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.

                                                                                   *****

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

UConn vs. St. Joe’s: Setting The NCAA Scene In Buffalo

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, DeAndre Daniels, Niels Giffey, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, UConn men's basketball
Date:

 

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Huskies just jogged finished their warm-ups and jogged off the court, the start of their game against St. Joseph’s about 15 minutes away now.

Let’s set the scene at First Niagara Arena, as the UConn Pep Band did the national anthem honors. The building is about half full at the moment.

It has already been an exciting day of tournament action here, with Dayton upsetting “big brother” Ohio State in the first game. Kind of game that has made the tournament, and the first round, the unofficial national holiday that it is.

Vee Sanford’s layup with 3.8 seconds left won it for the Flyers, 60-59.

“It’s amazing the way that, defense has kind of been my thing, and it’s amazing how it’s going to end with a kid getting the game winner on me,” said Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, who was devastated. “Obviously, I think I knew he wanted to go right.  There’s so many things that are going through my mind right now that I wish could have gone differently, but they didn’t.  He made a big shot, made a big time play, and we couldn’t come back.”

Syracuse cruised in the other game, beating Western Michigan by 25.

So here we are, UConn vs. St. Joe’s,  the Huskies back where it started in 2004, with wins here against Vermont and DePaul.

The Huskies starting lineup is the same as it was for all three games at the American Athletic Conference Tournament: Phil Nolan, Niels Giffey, DeAndre Daniels, Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright.

Amida Brimah, Lasan Kromah come off the bench.

Starters for St. Joe’s are as expected – Langston Galloway, Ron Roberts Jr. Halil Kanacevic, Chris Wilson and DeAndre Bembry.

Your referees for the night are Antinio Petty, Jeffrey Anderson, Gary Maxwell.

The St. Joe’s Hawk has VIP status, we hear. We also hear he flaps non-stop during games. We’ll be on the lookout for that.

Maybe the Huskies got a break in being seeded seventh. As a No. 5, they might have drawn Continue reading

On Righting The Wrongs of 2012; Notes, Quotes From Practice In Buffalo

by Categorized: Alex Oriakhi, American Athletic Conference, Andre Drummond, Jeremy Lamb, Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie, NCAA, Niels Giffey, Rip Hamilton, Roscoe Smith, RPI, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Syracuse basketball, UConn men's basketball
Date:

BUFFALO,  N.Y. – Wrapping up a long day at the arena with some notes, quotes and thoughts.

A recurring theme in the UConn locker room – and in any sport one does get a much better feel for a team by working the locker room – was the opportunity lost two years ago against Iowa State. That’s very much on players’ minds.

“We were talented,” Ryan Boatright said, “probably the most talented team in the country. But the chemistry wasn’t right. We weren’t together as a whole.”

That team had two lottery picks, Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb, and two other standout big men in Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith. But the pieces just didn’t fit together.

“I wasn’t the leader my sophomore year that I should have been,” said Shabazz Napier, who was in his first season as the starting point guard.”

Boatright was in and out due to the NCAA reviews, and Jim Calhoun was in and out due to the suspension and the illness. The team faded in February and was blown out by Royce White and Iowa State in the tournament. “You lose in the first round,” Boatright said, “and then we couldn’t play last year, it sticks with you.”

That, more than the perceived slight of the No. 7 seed, will be UConn’s motivation against St. Joe’s Thursday night. Here is our main advance for the Courant.

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Here are some excerpts from UConn at the podium:

Kevin Ollie

It’s just a great opportunity for us.  People see obstacles that we went through, I see opportunities.  We did a great job.  My guys stayed loyal.  We thought we’d be an NCAA Tournament team last year, and now we just took over that same mindset on into this year.
It’s always a players’ game.  They kept this university afloat when everybody else was 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
Date:

 

 

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