NEW YORK – Checking in from Madison Square Garden, on the baseline in the corner is our vantage point. UConn and St. John’s is to get underway in about half an hour.
Same lineup as usual for the Huskies: Tyler Olander, DeAndre Daniels, Omar Calhoun, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier. They’re not sure how St. John’s is going to line up, with Jamal Branch out with his knee injury, so there could be a last-minute change. If Chris Obekpa starts, the Storm would have a bigger lineup than usual. But UConn has basically gone with the same starters all year, regardless of the opponent.
The Huskies have been coming from behind to win games, but Ryan Boatright was saying before practice Friday that they can’t afford to live that way against better opponents.
“Coming out like we did against South Florida,” Boatright said, “we dug ourselves a deep hole. To have the will to fight to come out of that is great. But we know we can’t do that against greater competition. It’s going to be three times harder. Lesson learned – we can’t do that again.”
So we’ll see what kind of tone is set tonight.
Was chatting with George Blaney before the game about playing in the old Madison Square Garden, which was down at 48th and 8th and torn down in 1968. The backboards and baskets were suspended by wires from the rafters, he recalled, and at times fans would be able to shake them when an opposing player was at the foul line. The NBA had caught on in New York by the time he played for the Knicks in 1961, and he remembers big crowds there for the game. There was one main lobby, and everybody – players, coaches and fans – had to enter and exit through it.
Karl Hess is on the officiating crew tonight.
Warren Nolan, the bracket analyst, e-mailed me back his take on the Huskies’ tournament prospects, if they were eligible.
Jim Calhoun is expected in The Garden tonight.
“They would definitely be in the tournament right now,” Nolan says. “I would say that they would be a No.6 seed or a No.7.”