Game day meanderings
Well, here it is. Potentially the biggest day in the modern history of Huskies basketball.
Not only would a win today get Washington into the Elite Eight for the first time since the 1953 team went to the Final Four — a great accomplishment, but a different time and era when the competition isn’t what it is now — but I would argue it would also finally allow UW to say it’s the top basketball program in the state.
A bold statement, maybe. But with a win, UW would have gone farther than Gonzaga in two straight NCAA tournaments and done so in a year in which it finally beat the Zags (and yes, I remember the two losses to Washington State. With every day those become more bizarre).
What do the Huskies need to do to make it happen?
Here are some last-minute thoughts:
• Stay tough, the way they did a week ago. Connecticut has led the NCAA in blocked shots five straight years — and average basically nine per game this season — meaning the Huskies are going to have a few possessions that look bad. But they can’t get intimidated. They didn’t fade in the face of a 25-point turnaround in fortunes last week against Illinois and they’ll need that same type of fortitude tonight.
• Hit some shots. Sounds obvious enough. But that shot-blocking ability of UConn is sure to make it tough at times to score inside. The antidote is to hit some three-pointers. UW beat Illinois making just 5 of 15 — I didn’t think the Huskies could win with that kind of shooting. I’d be shocked if they could win this one with similar shooting.
• Get production from someone other than Brandon Roy and Jamaal Williams (and Justin Dentmon, suddenly a consistent third option). Guys like Jon Brockman or Ryan Appleby — who have combined for just nine points (all from Appleby) in the tournament are going to have to step it up offensively.
• Avoid foul trouble. UW had a lead against Louisville in the Sweet 16 last year when a brief spurt of fouls that sent Nate Robinson to the bench changed everything. It’s another obvious point, I know, but early fouls on key players like Roy and Bobby Jones will really spell doom in this game.
• Hit free throws. UW can’t afford to waste any scoring chances in this game and the free-throw line is one of the few places the Huskies have a noticeable statistical edge on UConn, making 74.8 percent this season to UConn’s 70.3.
• Finally, here’s some quotes from Lorenzo Romar on what UW needs to do today: “We’re banking on the fact that we could come out and be highly aggressive and highly intense and we’ll see what happens when 40 minutes are up. . ” We’ve got to be able to not let them have their way with us in the paint — that’s our primary concern. We’ve got to keep them off the backboards — they are plus-10 on the boards for the year (an astounding 44.1 to 34.1) and they average nine blocked shots a game. There have been times when their offense has come off the boards, and their best offense has been the second shot or the blocked shot.”
• Having said all that, I picked UConn to win in today’s paper. Here’s our matchup box on today’s game. I had a few people say when I picked Illinois I should be supporting UW. But I think this blog is more about trying to tell you what I really think is going on. If I just blindly picked UW to win every game I’m not sure what good that does. My main reason for picking UConn is simply their height and depth. Looking at it objectively, I think the percentages indicate that UConn will wear down the Huskies. I also think that coach Jim Calhoun will do a better job handling the edges in quickness and speed that UW presents than did Bruce Weber, whom I think Lorenzo Romar outcoached. I have no problem being wrong.
• Here also are our game preview and notebook, which touch on many of the other obvious aspects of tonight’s game.
• Calhoun made one interesting observation in Thursday’s news conference I didn’t get in the paper, calling Jones their version of Scottie Pippen. I thought that was an accurate comparison for the type of game Jones has. Not sure if Jones has the offensive skills yet that allowed Pippen to be a lottery pick, but maybe if Jones can impress NBA scouts with his defense and intangibles he will get a chance. Another good performance tonight would obviously help.
• I referred to it in one of the stories linked above, but I’ll point out again that Roy seemed to agree that UConn is probably the better team if everything else is equal, an interesting observation. Said Roy: “If UConn plays their best game ever and we play our best game ever, it’s tough to say [if UW could win]. I think we almost need them to have some lapses.” I don’t think that indicates a lack of confidence, just an honest observation from Roy, who usually gives nothing else.
Game day meanderings
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