Sunday, November 30, 2008

More pictures

T-minus 30 minutes

Looking at UConn's schedule, it's hard to argue this isn't the biggest game of the season, rivaling games at North Carolina and home/away with Rutgers. At the very least, it's the biggest game of the first two-and-a half months of the season.

All the talk - even from me - is on the Tina Charles vs. Courtney Paris battle.

That's compleling basketball, but the game will come down to the smaller players. That means Danielle Robinson and Amanda Thompson for Oklahoma, even Carlee Roethlisberger. For UConn, Maya Moore, Renee Montgomery and Kalana Greene. If the game proves to rest on the inexperienced shoulders of freshmen Caroline Doty or Tiffany Hayes, the Huskies will be in trouble. Of course, I say that and one of them goes off for 20 points and stellar defense.

If Charles gets into foul trouble, which I suspect will happen early, UConn will go small and force Oklahoma to run with them. That's not a good idea becaise the plodding Paris sisters will barely reach mid court by the time the play ends.

The guess here is Moore and Montgomery are too much for the Sooners and UConn wins by 15.

You asked for it

Several of my loyal readers asked for pictures. Here are the first batch from tonight's pre-game.

Buck alert

No, she's not in uniform, but I spoke briefly with former Stonington star Heather Buck. She told me she's feeling well and doing much better than she had been. No word on when she might resume practicing and eventually playing games, but I expect to have more on that after the game.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thoughts of the road

Gotta say that even though the first half was ugly at times, the Huskies looked good in the second half. Once more the defense showed it can suffocate ( it helped that BYU couldn't make layups). And, instead of five players in double-digit scoring, there were six.

Maya Moore, who is one of the brightest talents the game has seen in a while (that includes Candace Parker), was amazing. Her near triple-double would have been noteworthy on its own. She'll get that triple-double sometime this year, maybe Sunday against Oklahoma Tickets still available, so get them).

But Lorin Dixon's performance is what stands out the most. She's been beleaguered for spotty play this year and in 16 minutes, she played well. If she can play like this every night in similar minutes, even if she doesn't get the point total, she will be a significant boost. Assuming everyone is healthy, the depth at guard with Renee Montgomery, Kalana Greene, Caroline Doty, Tiffany Hayes and Lorin Dixon is unmatched in the country.

I do have to take exception with some of what the BYU broadcasters were saying.

* First, they said Dixon is playing well and doesn't always have to be the leading scorer. She's never been the leading scorer at UConn. Tonight was her first 10-point-plus game.

* I understand the desire to question coaching decisions. As a journalists, that is part of the job. But when the color analyst suggested that BYU should focus on chipping away at a 40-point deficit with 11 minutes and change left, suggesting the game wasn't out of reach, showed either a lack of knowledge by a former player or extreme homerism. Later, when BYU coach Jeff Judkins started putting starters in with five minutes left in a 50-point game, she questioned the move. Granted, the two are not mutually exclusive. But when you want the team to play to win and question playing the bench, it seems odd to question bringing in starters periodically late in the game when Judlins is giving his reserves a blow after playing 10 minutes straight.

Also, did anyone else gasp when Kalana Greene slipped with about 7 minutes left in the first half?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Slow expiration

The second half, filled with a full compliment of resreves, has slowly moved towards completion. Less than four minutes to go and the Huskies have a 52-point lead. Five players are in double digits scoring, but more importantly for the long-term benefit, the starters are getting a decent amount of rest. It will also help as the team leaves for Utah tomorrow and will need some time to adjust to the two hour time difference.

The streak

We sports writers love to talk about streaks. This streak did this or this streak did that. There's usually some game-deciding streak that we point to and say, "That's where the game was won."

How about today?

This entire game - all 15 minutes thus far, has been a streak. A 47-9 streak.

It doesn't help when Rhode Island misses point-blank layups.

Hot of the press

That is, what every one UConn's faced this year is doing -- pressing. It has rattled the Huskies and more importantly, it slows down the team's ability to run, forcing it into more of a halfcourt style of play. It hasn't hurt them yet.

It remains to be seen if more established teams, like those in the Big East, use that tactic or stick with their long-standing formulas

First time out

Tina Charles has looked good, in large part because she's bigger than everyone Rhode Island has to throw at her. She's missed three free throws, but it hasn't hurt the Huskies, who lead 13-4. The Rams have two starters in foul trouble early, a sure sign of a much longer afternon than expected,

Thursday, November 20, 2008

2 for 1

Maybe it's beating a dead horse, but until the bench produces in several games it will scrutinized.

Geno Auiriemma said Kaili McLaren has had a good week in practice and Lorin Dixon should play a greater role tonight. Beyond that, he said he viewa Meghan Gardler and Tahirah Williams are essentially one player. Meaning the minutes they play gave to form the production the Huskies would want from one person.

Monday, November 17, 2008

One down...

If you didn't see the game, it was a whole lot closer than it should have been. Georgia Tech ain't a bad team, but they shouldn't have been down three with five minutes left.

The Good:
*Tina Charles when not in foul trouble. She was active and played and was strong defensively as well as on the glass.
*The team stepped up in crunch time. As ugly as it was, this should be a character building type of game. If the message was sent and the team practices hard this week, San Diego State should be ready to fly home well before the half.
* Freshmen composure. There were more than enough mistakes by Caroline Doty and Tiffany Hayes, but both also showed some swagger (Doty bumping Alex Montgomery). They know they belong and in March, that's invaluable.

The Bad:
* Kaili McLaren. Honestly, I hate writing anything even semi-negative about her. She is one of the nicest people you could meet. But as Geno Auriemma said, she needs to be more of an active participant in practice. Look, with Heather Buck out a while and Cassie Kerns a better help on the bench, McLaren NEEDS to get in there and play like she knows how to.

It's a sensitive issue, but her weight is a big part of the problem. team sources say she conditions well in-season, but off-season all bets are off. If Kaili played the rest of her career the way she played last March, she's going to the WNBA. Maybe that's not what she wants, but if it is then she needs to get her act together.

*Maya's first half. It hurt to watch her at times because you know how amazing she is. I told Jeff Jacobs of the Hartford Courant that she'd go 20-for-20 in the second half. for a few minutes, it looked as if she might. If you look at the stat sheet, you'd say she had a great game. She didn't. It was one of her worst at UConn.

* Thr__. I'd like to by a vowel. "E." Three, or missed threes, to be precise. The shooting shouldn't be that bad and probably never will be that bad. Nor will an opponent (maybe DePaul) score that many points on threes, either.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Too funny

Geno Auriemma mentioned that he had a gathering of the 1994-95 team, as well as his current team and their families at his house Saturday. Noting that the 94-95 team produced 19 children, he told Rebecca Lobo, "You guys were always pretty bad defensively. I'm not surprised."

To which she said, "Coach, we were always very productive."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Memorable quote 1

"I made it known that I want to be somebody the team can look up to. But if I'm not going to be a captain, I'm going to be the best follower."

— Tina Charles

Three-week hiatus for Buck

This won't be any fun for Heather Buck, the star from Stonington High School. She's been diagnosed with mono and will miss at least three weeks.

Coach Geno Auriemma said Friday that the team's medical and training staff will monitor Buck and determine when she is able to return.

This could be much longer than three weeks. If you recall, last season former Huskies recruit Elena Delle Donne had mono and she missed most a large chunk of her senior season. She missed a couple of months. The Huskies will need Buck back sooner than that or it will be small ball all year for them.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Faris locked up

Kelly Faris, a 6-foot guard from Indianapolis, submitted her signed ketter of intent Wednesday and, finally Huskies coach Geno Auriemma can speak about the sole member of his 2009 recruiting class.

“What you see from Caroline (Doty) , is a lot of the things Kelly is,” he said. “Same kind of player, same kind of personality type. … Their skills are very similar, and what they do for their team, they are both really smart and really tough, physically tough and mentally tough kids.”

Calling Faris conservative in her approach to the game, Auriemma said that his newest addition is a stellar defender who will "step in next year as a freshman and have an impact on our team right away."

Faris played for the national U-18 team this summer, something that Auriemma asked her about because statistically, Faris does not stand out.

"Right now, she's content to do all the little things other players don't do. That's how she made the U.S. team that she played on. When I talked to her, I asked her, 'Why'd you make the team?' She said, 'Beacuse I think I did all the things nobody else wanted to do and the coaches liked that.' I think she's exactly what we were looking for and she'll be a great compliment withthese guys because she can play a bunch of different positions."

Buck may miss extensive time

Freshman center Heather Buck, who was a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in Connecticut, sat out the game and may miss a significant amount of time due to illness. Auriemma said Buck began feeling symptoms two days ago and will be re-tested to see if she has mono, strep or something else.

“It could be a week, it could be two weeks, it could three weeks, it could be six weeks,” he said. “I have no idea it’s going to be.”

Losing Buck, even for one game cuts deeply into already shallow depth in the post. Besides Charles and Kaili McLaren, Auriemma said playing Moore at power forward or moving Greene in from the wing are options, as is using Meghan Gardler and Tahirah Williams to fill the void off the bench.

This is a double-edged sword. You look at the schedule and see Georgia Tech, San Diego State, Rhode Island and a visit to BYU in the next two weeks. Provided Buck is practicing and available by the 30th against Oklahoma and Courtney Paris, it may give the Huskies a chance to become even more flexible then they already are.

In essence, it becomes good practice for future matchups or if someone else were to fall to injury.

The down side is there's no chance for the team to get used to its conventional roles if people are moving all over. Right now, the Huskies are playing with an eight-woman rotation. It's the five starters (Charles, Moore, Montgomery, Doty and Greene) plus Hayes, Dixon and McLaren. IF Charles or McLaren get into foul trouble -- see Oklahoma game -- that's when you might see Moore or Greene or even Gardler and Williams, who both looked decent tonight, log heavy minutes.

Right now, I would be more comfortable giving those minutes to Gardler if rebounding and toughness is what you need. She can eat up minutes, fouls and grab some boards and sometimes find the bottom of the basket. If you need more of an energy boost, someone who can move about, then Williams should go in. Tonight she was active on the court and was fearless in driving the lane and drawing fouls.

This could be a blessing. If both Gardler and Williams -- or just one -- get a bump in minutes and produce, the Huskies' bench grows deeper. After last season, we all know how important that would be.

No Buck

Heather Buck isn't playing tonight against Team SRP in the final exhibition game for the Huskies. She is sick.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Game times finalized

UConn's games at West Virginia on Jan. 10 and at St. John's Feb. 11 have been announced as 7 p.m. tip offs. Those were the last two games needing game times.

Also, tickets are still available for Sunday's season opener against Georgia Tech at 2 p.m. At halftime the latest inductees to the Huskies of Honor program will be presented.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Halftime thoughts

Caroline Doty started and looked good for the most part. She hit two threes and has two steals, but when she returned after a few minutes breather Doty looked out of her groove and missed her next three shots.

Tiffany Hayes is fast, quick, get the point. Watching a lefty shoot is a little weird, but she should be OK. She hasn't done anything to stand out.

Neither has Heather Buck, who entered the game with just over two minutes to play in the half.

Kalana Green looked good, particularly early where she showed some burst but not on par to where she was pre-injury. That's expected.

Tina Charles has been impressive. She started the game with an underhand scoop shot that I don't recal seeing before. She often looked as if she smelled blood. Show her a double team in the paint and she would eat it up.

If I'm Geno Auriemma, however, if you take away an exceptional steal-layup-plus one play from Renee Montgomery, Stonehill has outscored UConn

Tip off nears

There's some buzz here, mostly from the team, which is anxious to get on the court and face someone other then teammates.

The things to look for:

1. How do the three freshmen play. I suspect well.

2. How does Kalana Greene look, but more importantly, feel after the game.

3. How does Kaili McLaren play. She may be slipping int the doghouse if her conditioning doesn't improve, which means either heavy minutes for Heather Buck (unlikely) or playing a smaller lineup most of the time.

Three named to watch list

Maya Moore, Renee Montgomery and Tina Charles were all named to the preseason Wooden Award Watch list. The award is given to the nation's top player.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tops in the coaches' poll, too

That makes it a clean sweep for the Huskies who are th concensus preseason No. 1 team in the nation.

1. UConn (30) 0-0 773
2. Stanford 0-0 676
3. Rutgers 0-0 639
4. North Carolina 0-0 629
5. Maryland 0-0 624
6. Tennessee (1) 0-0 602
7. Oklahoma 0-0 600
8. Duke 0-0 508
9. California 0-0 495
10. Texas A&M 0-0 493
11. Louisville 0-0 481
12. Vanderbilt 0-0 419
13. Texas 0-0 315
14. Notre Dame 0-0 294
15. Virginia 0-0 279
15. Oklahoma State 0-0 279
17. Baylor 0-0 272
18. Arizona State 0-0 215
19. Ohio State 0-0 188
20. Old Dominion 0-0 163
21. Auburn 0-0 154
22. LSU 0-0 133
23. Pittsburgh 0-0 104
24. Florida State 0-0 101
25. Georgia 0-0 94
Xavier 87, Purdue 85, Kansas State 72, Iowa State 63, Marist 48, Utah 46, Syracuse 24, George Washington 24, Marquette 22, Michigan State 11, Hartford 11, UTEP 9, West Virginia 8, Liberty 7, Gonzaga 6, New Mexico 3, Iowa 3, Illinois State 3, TCU 2, Southern Methodist 2, Montana 2, Minnesota 2, Georgia Tech 1, East Carolina 1, DePaul 1, Boise State 1, North Carolina A&T 1,

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Moore named preseason All-American

She wasn't an unanimous selection, but UConn sophomore Maya Moore was named a preseason first-team All-American. She is joined by Oklahoma's Courtney Paris, who was an unanimous selection; Louisville's Angel McCoughtry, Maryland's Kristi Toliver and Oklahoma State's Andrea Riley.

Moore fell one vote shy of an unanimous selection.

I'm a little surprised that Moore and McCoughtry weren't also unanimous picks, but there have been just six all-time. Some might wonder why Paris was had full support and not anyone else. A big reason is she is clearly the best at her position, and it's also a matter of her body work over the last three years. Don't be surprised if she is named the Player of the Year in April at the Final Four. I'm just saying, so don't shoot the messenger. I think Paris will be given any tie breakers because of what she's done over a very dominating career.

This just means that Moore, McCoughtry or anyone else will have to really standout above and beyond what Paris does. Plus, Moore will be hurt because she plays with Renee Montgomery and Tina Charles.

Do your part

and go vote! I'm not a morning person -- I usually sleep until 10 -- but I got up "early" and just got back from voting. The lines were longer than I expected at my polling location in Norwich. It wasn't too bad, though. I was in and out in under 20 minutes. Hopefully no one is having any difficulties in voting.

Just a few things that I don't want to spend much time on.

Texas high school standout Kelsey Bone recently told a Houston radio station that one of the reasons she chose to not attend UConn is that a reporter contacted her several hundred times. First, it's not me. How do I know? I've contacted her fewer times than I've interviewed Jim Calhoun (that would be twice).

If it's true -- and I don't believe so -- shame on that reporter. She is a kid whether we want to think so or not. She is also a person and deserves her space and her privacy. Anyone contacting any other person that much, especially considering the situation, understandably brings about thoughts of Bone's safety as well as concerns of deviant behavior on teh part of said writer.

Here's why I think it's not right: Among the regular beat writers: Carl Adamec, John Altavilla, Rich Elliott, Roger Cleveland, Vickie Fulkerson, Jim Fuller and myself, there's no reason any of us would have called/e-mailed/texted/whatever 10- percent of the amount Bone claims. Also, if Bone was having hard time with this, wouldn't she have told coach Geno Auriemma? I'll tell you this: If she had told Geno this was happening, he would have ripped us, the beat writers, a new one. Since he hadn't, and we see him at least once a week, I doubt she ever expressed this concern. Next, on a more professional point of view, the whole thing sheds a bad light on the UConn reporting corps. If Bone is going to make an unsubstantiated claim, she also needs to name the name and produce some form of proof that she's essentially been harassed or stalked by that person.

That said, the only other thing I ask is to check out my piece in today's Bulletin.

Click here


Sunday, November 02, 2008

Another poll picks the Huskies

The Associated Press Poll, which is made up of a sample of writers from across the country, selected the Huskies as the preseason No. 1 team thanks to 44 of 45 votes.

Notice the slew of Big East teams in the poll and receiving votes

Record Pts Pvs
1. Connecticut (44) 36-2 1,124 1
2. Stanford (1) 35-4 1,018 4
3. Maryland 33-4 1,005 5
4. Oklahoma 22-9 946 14
5. Rutgers 27-7 914 7
6. North Carolina 33-3 892 2
7. Tennessee 36-2 857 3
8. Duke 25-10 815 9
9. California 27-7 769 10
10. Louisville 26-10 726 19
11. Texas A&M 29-8 624 8
12. Vanderbilt 25-9 546 21
13. Texas 22-13 501 —
14. Oklahoma St. 27-8 442 13
15. Virginia 24-10 437 24
16. Notre Dame 25-9 374 15
17. Arizona St. 22-11 364 —
18. Ohio St. 22-9 359 25
19. Baylor 25-7 353 12
20. Auburn 20-12 239 —
21. Florida St. 19-14 204 —
22. Xavier 24-9 170 —
23. Purdue 19-15 148 —
24. LSU 31-6 133 6
25. Old Dominion 31-5 124 11

Others receiving votes: Pittsburgh 116, Michigan St. 67, Iowa St. 66, Marist 58, Marquette 56, Utah 50, Georgia 37, Kansas St. 25, Syracuse 20, DePaul 8, George Washington 7, Illinois St. 7, Southern Cal 5, West Virginia 5, Arkansas 3, Georgia Tech 2, Montana 2, UTEP 2, Gonzaga 1, Iowa 1, Liberty 1, S. Dakota St. 1, SMU 1.