Thursday, January 17, 2008


January 17, 2008

The Big East's version of the battle of New England pits two original conference members against one another at the Hatford Civic Center. Each team comes in with identical Big East records of 2-2 and the Huskies will look to end a series streak of the road team winning these match-ups.

Here are the local media previews found on the internet this morning:

UConn Eager to Put Providence Loss in Past (Connecticut Post)
Friars Another Measuring Stick for UConn Men (Waterbury Rep-Am)
Friars, Huskies Expect Usual Barn-Burner (Providence Journal)
Game Preview: PC @ UConn (Providence Journal)
Calhoun Back With Huskies (Hartford Courant)

We are just 22% into the Big East schedule, but this is a very important game for both teams. The Providence Friars always bring one of their better efforts to the table when they play Connecticut, and this trip to hartford should be no different. The Friars are 2-0 at home in conference play (beating RU, USF) and 0-2 on the road (losing to Marquette, DePaul). The Friars hit a rough patch with Sharaud Curry and Dwain Williams out, their lone point guards, and started conference play 0-2. Williams is back and gives the offense some more direction and allows a talented perimeter group including Weyinmi Efejuku, Brian McKenzie and Jeff Xavier freedom to produce points.

Where Providence can struggle is along the front line. Randall Hanke is effecient on offense when he gets the ball in position to score, but he can struggle mightily with bigger, stronger player. That is exactly what he will see tonight when matched up against Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien in the post. Geoff McDermott will battle from tip to horn, but the lack of confidence the Friars have in their post play will likely push them to play smaller and press. Unfortunately, UConn loves to see the tempo revved up and this could play into their hands as well.

The Huskies are 2-2 in Big East play. They have played three of their four games in conference play on the road, winning at Seton Hall and dropping tough games at Notre Dame, where a huge second half rally was thwarted by the Irish, and Georgetown, where Roy Hibbert hit a game-winning three-pointer in the waning seconds. Their lone home contest in league play resulted in an easy win over St. John's.

The Huskies are led offensively by the much improved AJ Price and the strong two-guard Jerome Dyson. Inside, Jeff Adrien can still bull his way to a double-double nearly every night, but improvements on offense by Hasheem Thabeet has complimented his game. They are still waiting for Stanley Robinson to use his tremendous talents to become a consistent threat offensively. Like most Husky squads under Jim Calhoun, this rendition is athletic, tall and loves to push the tempo. They can still hit some rough patches, but this year, led by Price, they do not have droughts for as long of periods of time on offense as the execution has improves. Defensively, the effort is improving each time out and the team keeps improving.

Connecticut still lacks a 'big win' on the season, and a home game against Providence would hardly qualify as such at season's end, but the Huskies need to win all of their games like this. The Friars are in need of a big win and road wins in general for them to make an argument for inclusion in the Field of 65 this March.

This seems like a game that Connecticut will try to make a statement in. After the sting of a disappointing loss at Georgetown and with the return from illness of Jim Calhoun, look for the Huskies, as 9-pt favorites, to put things together tonight and flex some muscles.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Connecticut 82 Providence 69



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