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.)