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Friday, March 27, 2009

Size does matter..UConn to win it all

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Unfortunately, I did not get to see any of the game yesterday afternoon between the University of Connecticut Huskies and the University of Tennessee Chattanooga Mocs, but the following important revelations came out of this game, and these are the reasons why the Huskies will win this year's tournament.

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1.) Ability to Win Games without Coach Being Present: Many people will look at this, roll their eyes, and say something along the lines of, "Give me a break; they were playing Chattanooga!" This may be true, but before you write off the significance of winning a tournament game without the man who lead you to the tournament, think about this: On the day of Uconn's first game, they found out that the man who had designed all their practices, called all their plays, and took care of all their in-game strategy would not only be absent from the game, but he would also be lying in a hospital bed while they were playing. Any normal adult would have problems concentrating on a game under these circumstances, and yet we seem to forget that these players are kids, some even teenagers. The Huskies, as a group, showed tremendous mental toughness to be able to go out and play one of the best games of the season. They had the third highest margin of victory ever in the NCAA tournament with a fifty-six point drubbing of the Mocs.

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2.) Size Does Matter: The Huskies have one of the biggest teams in the field of sixty-four. Hasheem Thabeet is 7'3", and has consistently dominated the middle. His offense is still suspect, but there is no denying his defensive presence. Teams are afraid to drive the middle because they do not want to get blocked. Thabeet also alters more shots than he blocks. His ability to change people's shots without fouling, and with the skills to keep the ball in bounds and securely in his teammates hands is second to none in college basketball. Jeff Adrien is another bulky Husky player, but one who plays much bigger than he actually is. He is listed at 6'6", but he plays more like a seven footer. He is a chiseled 225 pound beast on the glass. Adrien averaged a double-double (13 pts., 10 reb.), and has had several games where he took over on the boards. Stanley Robinson, the junior forward who spent the first half of the year working hard labor per his coach's request, has hit his stride at the perfect time for UConn. He had his breakout game in the six overtime loss against Syracuse when he scored 29 points and had 14 rebounds. The man known to his teammates as "Sticks" due to the abnormal length of his arms and legs, plays much bigger than his listed height of 6'9". Robinson has the highest vertical leap on the team, and provides a huge energy boost whenever he is on the floor.

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3.) Mix of Experience and Youth: One of Connecticut's biggest strengths is the mix of youth, mainly in Kemba Walker, and experience, with tournament veterans like A.J. Price, Hasheem Thabeet, and Jeff Adrien. Walker has been able to watch and play with these veterans throughout the season, which will make him that much more composed during crunch time of a big tournament game. He also experienced the pressures of a tournament game during the Big East Tournament against Syracuse. While he did not fare well in those pressure situations, there is no doubt that he learned from them, and will benefit during this tournament. A.J. Price has had a tumultuous career at UConn, but that may help him during the tournament. From a serious brain injury to a run in with the law, Price has been through a lot of adversity, and this will only help to lessen the pressure that a normal player would feel at the end of a big game. Price has learned to enjoy his time on the court, rather than get caught up in the tension that comes late in a tournament game. Jeff Adrien is the muscle of the Huskies. Two aspects of his game that can never be thwarted are his hustle and toughness. Adrien will bang with the biggest and best players, and it is a rarity that he comes up on the losing end of the battle.

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With these three characteristics, the UConn Huskies, in this writer's opinion have the best balance and the best overall team in the field of sixty-four. It is a Coach Calhoun staple to have his teams playing their best basketball of the season during the NCAA Tournament, and if he can find a way to make this happen again, then the Huskies will be almost impossible to beat.