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Game 31: Big East Tournament Round 1 - Connecticut

The short busy preview of the first round Big East Tournament game.

Jim Calhoun has said he will not start his starters, going with the bench unit instead, to get a fiery performance. But expect to see the starters in there.

Connecticut Pluses

  • Quickness: The Huskies are terribly quick in the backcourt with sophomore guard Kemba Walker and senior guard Jerome Dyson. They get in the lane, draw fouls, and drive and kick very well. But the forwards are quick and aggressive as well; U Conn is stocked with talent.
  • Interior Defense: The Huskies are generally one of the best shot-blocking teams in the nation. Senior Gavin Edwards (who is also an extremely efficient scorer) and freshman Alex Oriakhi swat shots with the help of even taller forwards, Ater Majok and Charles Okwandu. However, the defensive effort outside of shot-blocking has been lacking a bit this year, and it has raised Calhoun's ire.
  • Offensive Rebounding: The Huskies are pretty aggressive on the offensive glass.

Connecticut Minuses

  • Inconsistent Play: The Huskies' shot selection is suboptimal at times. Walker struggles to finish in the paint but drives into the teeth of the defense. It’s great when he gets fouled, but ineffective when he doesn’t. And when he ignores Stanley Robinson – the team’s best deep shooter and finisher – the Husky defense stagnates. And Stanley Robinson is like a college version of Tim Thomas - great talent, great build, sometimes spectacular, but often the guy you forget about on the court because he's just hanging on the perimeter like a guy who doesn't want to get his nails dirty.
  • Three-Point Shooting: The team’s talent often allows the Huskies to eschew the deep shot. But when they need it… it’s not really there. They shoot poorly on 3-pointers, and could really use a designated bomber from outside to give the guards more room to slash. Too bad Nate Miles couldn't abide by his restraining order for more than 16 minutes last year.
  • Defensive Rebounding: It seems that no one player has dedicated himself to cleaning up opponents’ misses like Jeff Adrien and Hasheem Thabeet did. Opponents are missing a lot of shots, and U Conn is only allowing 100 points per 100 possessions in conference play (which is near the top in the Big East); stat-padding rebounds are there for the taking.

Recent News

Johnny Jungle: Tournament Time

Team previews and the keys to the game, also listed on this blog.

NY Post: St. John's pride intact after disappointing season

"All we can do is the things that we control," said Roberts. "What we control is our energy, our effort, our focus. We're going to give the kids 100 percent every time, and I expect them to give us 100 percent every time.

"Life is life. Sometimes things go your way, sometimes they don't. That's part of it. We're all big boys and we'll deal with whatever situation."

Much of the team has stuck together, but they deserve a better outcome. Futures on the line for Hill, Roberts

I sure hope the names Zagoria mentions for the St. John's job are wrong. Pecora? Bobby f'in Cremins? We can do better than that.

NY Times: The Big East’s Big Spenders? Just Check Out the Standings

But what are they spending their money on? Facilities? Coaching salaries?

NY Daily News: If St. John's Red Storm fails in Big East Tournament, it may be end of line for coach Norm Roberts

St. John's coach Norm Roberts knows the facts and understands his situation.

In six seasons he restored the scandal-ridden program to respectability, but the wins haven't come. There's been no NCAA Tournament, not even an NIT. The Red Storm is closing a season that fell short of expectations with a bottom-four finish for the fifth time.

This Big East Tournament - beginning with today's 2 p.m. first-round game against Connecticut - could be Roberts' last chance to make a case to remain St. John's coach.

These quotes sound like Roberts won't be surprised if he is shown the door, a marked change from a few weeks ago, where he projected confidence and frustration... now he is sounding like a man who knows where the chips will fall, but tells you, "let them fall where they may."

NY Daily News: Beasts of Big East on display as March Madness begins at the Garden

Keys to the Game

Defend Everywhere. In the last game, St. John’s allowed a poor-shooting outside shooting team to bomb on them from beyond the arc. They defended in the paint, but allowed shots form the perimeter. St. John’s has to do a better job of defending inside AND outside of the line.

Turnovers. Don’t get into a footrace with the Huskies. That is a game they will win every time. Don’t turn the ball over, especially not at the top of the key on offense. The game needs to be crisp and whistle free.

Minimize Husky Size. The Red Storm has to keep the length of their opponents far enough away from the glass that they are a non-factor; second chance points will help St. John’s knock off the hated rivals.

Attack and Score. St. John’s has to be aggressive on both ends, and look to get to the basket and draw fouls against the Huskies’ thin front line.

Elevate the Scoring Game. At least one if not two Johnnies have to step their offensive games up to match the Huskies. DJ Kennedy will score a bit, but someone else has to come and replace the production the team would get out of Dwight Hardy.