*Before reading this most, make sure you have read the "Things to Know" section from earlier today. If you are coming into town Saturday, be sure to stop by for College GameDay in the morning or before the game Saturday night.*
I was going to spread out my preview over the next two days, but will probably now complete most of it today with some filler tomorrow. There are two reasons for this: one, I want to keep the information about College GameDay close to the top of the page for the casual reader, in case anyone needs to know before Saturday and two, I'd like to get this preview out there and let it sit an extra night. There should be a good deal of information so it may be easier to digest in portions.
Let's take a look at the Huskies.
PG- A.J. Price- #12- 6'2", 181 lbs.- 11.9 PPG, 4.6 APG, 45% 3PA- A talented point guard who runs the show and can light it up from beyond the arc. He's the only guy we should really respect from downtown. Austrie and Walker can hit them, but don't take enough to kill you. What's scary about Price is that he has the moves to use his range to draw you in before driving to the hoop. However, when a guy's overall field goal percentage (43%) is less than from beyond the arc, I'd take that chance.
SG- Jerome Dyson- #11- 6'4", 190 lbs.- 13.4 PPG, 3.4 APG, 31% 3PA- Shoot it, baby. He can't hurt you from outside (knock on wood) and has the lowest offensive rating of the starters. Price is just a touch better, since he shoots well from outside. Neither of the two guards can beat you by themselves. It's the inside that I'm worried about.
SF- Stanley Robinson- #21- 6'9", 210 lbs.- 5.5 PPG, 4.4 RPG- He missed the beginning of the year and hasn't shown as much as Craig Austrie, but allows Connecticut to run more of a conventional offense while on the floor. His length and athleticism could create some problems, but is probably the last option in the starting lineup.
PF- Jeff Adrien- #4- 6'7", 243 lbs.- 14.4 PPG, 9.6 RPG- Here's the problem. As mentioned, Price and Dyson are probably not enough to beat the Irish. I have plenty of confidence that Luke Harangody can neutralize Thabeet by stepping out and hitting a few jumpers. At the very least, Luke provides a better overall game that the Connecticut center. Power forward is the postition that could tip dramatically in favor of the Huskies. Who's going to guard Adrien? Hillesland is most likely not up to the task, so I'm praying Luke Zeller will step up. He has the height advantage and has shown some ability to shut down big men in the past (see Greg Monroe). Give me eight rebounds for Zeller and enough pressure to keep Adrien near his season average scoring and I'm ecstatic. Villanova would have beaten the Huskies if they could have kept Adrien off the boards. We need to make sure that happens.
C- Hasheem Thabeet- #34- 7'3", 263 lbs.- 13.2 PPG, 10.1 RPG- If you read the blog enough, you know I can't stand this guy. ESPN cover boy decided to trash talk Harangody and Hansbrough before the season started and enjoys beating small point guards in his free time. Here's the thing, Hasheem: you're not that good. Hey, I'll give you your props. You are a physical specimen. Seven foot three with the ability to jump over small cars. I get it. Too bad you have the hand-eye coordination of a new puppy. If I was that massive, I'd be a pretty good basketball player too. There's not a whole lot of skill involved. I know Coach Brey and Luke Harangody are over your little trash-talking to an extent, but I'm not. LH dropped 32 and 16 on you in Storrs last year. Remember that next time you say he's not tough. If Harangody can give us the same kind of performance this time around (and the Irish don't shoot 29% from three), we win and you can eat crow all the way back to Connecticut. Oh, and you really want to challenge Tyler Hansbrough? I'd love to see him kick your sorry butt all across the court sometime in March.
Craig Austrie- #24- 6'3", 176 lbs.- 8.2 PPG, 1.9 APG, 39.6% 3PG- The very small forward when Robinson is out, Austrie can make some shots beyond the arc, but doesn't do a whole lot more. Did shoot 89% from the stripe last year.
Kemba Walker- #15- 6'1", 172 lbs.- 10.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 39% 3PA- The talented freshman from the Bronx is their best penetrator. Let him take the outside looks, because he averages only one or two a game. Just don't let him drive on you. Expect some zone with him in the game. Expect zone all day if we can figure out a way to play good enough inside defense with it.
Gavin Edwards- #33- 6'9", 234 lbs.- 4.3 PPG, 2.5 RPG- The Ty Nash of their rotation. He's the eighth man in the rotation and probably won't merit double digit minutes unless Adrien or Thabeet get in foul trouble. So let's get them in foul trouble.
I don't know about you, but I am pumped for Saturday already. Just wish we had one or two more Big East wins before this game. A loss puts us out of the rankings for the first time all year. Not fun to think about. Oh, well. Can't change the past. Win Saturday and everyone feels better about the program.
Also, is there no limit to how far Jim Calhoun will go to find talent? Nigeria, Tanzania, and now the Sudan. The anti-Connecticut fan in me thinks there has to be something shady here, but it (like the Thabeet situation) probably just is what it is: a great human story about a guy getting a chance to overcome stuggles of those in his native land. Kudos to Calhoun for finding these guys. Coach Brey is too interested in liberating big men from the likes of Washington and Schererville, Indiana.