UCONN IS COMING TO TOWN.
I think I was 16 or 17, a sophomore or junior, at Jeffersonville High School over in Indiana. I'm sitting in the right corner of William S. Johnson Arena on the campus of JHS. I'm covering the game for the student newspaper, The Hyphen. Ballard High School is rolling into town pumping their chest as Kentucky's number one team and one of the top national acts. JHS, on the other hand, is a really good team but we're not sure how good yet.
About ten minutes before the game a legendary figure comes and sits down directly in front of me. None other than the ghoulish figure of Jim Calhoun. Calhoun was scouting Ballard guard Adam Chiles and no doubt taking a look at former UL big man Brandon Bender. Funny how both of their careers ended up. Anyway, I actually got to speak with Calhoun. I asked him about what he saw in Chiles, Bender, etc., how the team looked this year, you know "media" type questions.
In about 30 hours Calhoun will be back in the Bluegrass state...this time trying to knock our Cards off their high pedestial. UConn is as good as any team in the country. They're as good or better than Pitt, much better than Notre Dame and 'Nova. In other words, we haven't see anything yet. Here's your DO's and DON'Ts for the game.
1. DO get Terrence Jennings in the game. I have a hard time thinking Samuels won't be in foul trouble by the first, to the latest, second TV timeout. Jennings has repeatedly shown he will get inside, rebound, and finish around the basket...precisely all the things Samuels WON'T do. Jennings is quickly becoming a crowd favorite and I think he will be elevate and knock a shot or two back at Thabeet.
2. DO lather Samardo Samuels' hands with pine tar. I know I'm really hard to Samuels a lot in this blog. But his inability to catch the ball and make a quick move is finding him time on the bench. Honestly, at times didn't everybody not want to see Jennings in the game and Samuels ridin the pine? Jennings can rebound and runs the floor so much better than Samuels. What we need from Samuels is his ability to draw fouls and effectively pass out of any double teams. But for me I just want him to catch the ball and not bounce it off his foot and out of bounds.
3. DO pray Terrence Williams is OK. My heart stopped for about 30 seconds with TWill's knee/ankle injury. I'm still not sure which one. I saw it immediately when his left knee buckled late in the game. At first, I thought he may have hit knees with someone from WV but then I saw the buckle. If he is OK ,all things considering this lingering knee problms, then we're all lucky. We MUST have the TWill from the ND and Pitt game and not the one we saw yesterday. He always will pass and rebound but he will have to score around 20 points for us to win.
4. DO feed Jerry Smith the ball on the wing. Finally, Jerry breaks out of his shooting slump. With his defense and teamwork, alongside great shooting, we will Smith badly on Monday (maybe another 20 pts). The great thing about Smith is that even if his 3 shot isn't falling then his ability to D up anyone, his ability to rebound, and his ability to quickly cut to the basket for back door layups warrants him playing time! TWill and Sosa need to get him the ball on those wings and let him sink some 3's.
5. DO take extra time to practice free throws. 15-25 for 62.5% is NOT good enough. TWill and Clark squandered all their opportunities at the line. Giving that those two have the ball in their hands the most they need to convert on Monday. We need to be up around 75-80 percent if we're winning Monday.
Now, for your DON'Ts.
1. DON'T by ran over. What do I mean? This is going to be an intensly played game. It is going to be physicaly, real phyiscal. It doesn't get meaner and more physical than Thabeet, Adrien, and company. We can be physical but don't always show it. We need the Earl Clark of last year's tourney run, we need a mean Samuels/Jennings combo, and we need TWill or a guard to play with passion....Sosa?
2. DON'T settle, go right at 'em. Foul trouble will be a key to this game. If we can get Dyson, Adrien, or Thabeet (especially him) in foul trouble the game could swing our way. On the flip side, Samuels and Sosa need to stay out of trouble. By Sosa being out, see WV game, it puts McGee in a situation where he thinks he needs to score more...he doesn't.
3. DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE STEAL, GET THE DEFLECTION. Eric Crawford had a good article about this same point. Pitino says 33 deflections is good enough to win. I would say we need every one of those 33 in this game. We beat WV yesterday by not stealing but by tapping it and then out running WV to the ball. That same hustle will be needed Monday.
4. DON'T BE SURPRISED IF A GUARD STEPS UP. Sosa..please? Remember the sit down with Ricky P before UK? We need the same sort of performance. We need to see slashing, 3's, and solid D. I'm hoping Sosa can again be this guy otherwise it could become a long day with Price.
5. DON'T PULL A MCNABB! Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers! UConn had 7 yesterday, we had 26. We must be more patient with the ball. And please, TWill, let's not throw each pass at your guy's feet.
Prediction: Louisville scared me yesterday when it about gave a game away to West Virginia and Huggins. On the other hand, Louisville is still hot....so is UConn. I've been picking that UL will lose the Syracuse and possibly ND game. I will pick against them again in hopes of another win....78-71 Uconn.
Super Bowl....In other posts I've made it clear my disdain for everything Pittsburgh..from their colleges to their pro teams. Cardinals straight up 20-17.