- Date: Monday, March 22, 2010
- Time: 7pm
- TV: ESPN
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On this day almost every year, the UConn Huskies are celebrating yet another
Sweet 16 appearance. Tonight, they’ll play in Cassell Coliseum in the second
round of the NIT, and they are the underdog.
This was not a typical season for UConn basketball. Head coach Jim Calhoun
missed time with an illness, and his team is 18-15 on the year, which includes a
narrow 59-57 first round win over Northeastern in the NIT. The Huskies needed a
good run in the Big East Tournament to make the NCAA’s, but they were flattened
72-51 in the first round by St. John’s.
UConn has a couple of bad losses this year – at Michigan and at Providence –
but for the most part their losses have come to quality competition. They lost
to Duke 68-59, and they also lost to Kentucky by just three points in early
December. Nine of their 15 losses came to teams who are in the NCAA Tournament.
The Huskies also showed what they were capable of with wins over Notre Dame,
Texas, Villanova and West Virginia. UConn hasn’t had great chemistry, and their
effort has even been questioned at times, but they are still a talented
basketball team that is very capable of coming into Cassell Coliseum and beating
UConn is headlined by two future NBA Draft picks. The leading scorer is Jerome
Dyson, a multi-talented guard who has averaged in double figures every year at
UConn. Dyson takes a lot of shots, and his shot selection is sometimes
questionable. He has attempted 482 shots this year, which is 30 more than Tech’s
Malcolm Delaney. His shooting percentage is down as a result. He’s connecting on
just 39.6% of his shots this year.
From that standpoint, he’s very similar to Delaney – a lot of shots, and a
low percentage. However, he’s not as good as Delaney from the outside. He’s made
just 38 three-pointers this year, compared to 61 for Delaney. He’s also only a
71.4% free throw shooter, a much lower mark than Delaney’s 84.4%.
Dyson can get to the basket, and he has a good midrange game. He is capable
of putting up a lot of points. He expects to be drafted in the second round of
the NBA Draft this summer.
UConn’s second leading scorer, Stanley Robinson, is expected to be a
mid-first round pick. Robinson is a great athlete who fills the Deron Washington
role at UConn, though he does it with more size. He can score, he can rebound,
he’s steadily developed his outside jumper, and he has 40 blocks and 30 steals.
Robinson has a big frame, long arms, and he can cover a lot of ground.
Virginia Tech will have to be wary of him on both ends of the court. He’s not
quite in the same league as Dyson as a scorer, but he’s probably the better
overall basketball player. He’s certainly the better NBA prospect at this point.
Kemba Walker is a solid sophomore who runs the point for UConn. He is
somewhat undersized, but he’s a good scoring point guard. A 34.3% three-point
shooter, Walker is UConn’s best outside shooter. However, that doesn’t say much.
The Huskies shot just 28.9% from three-point range in Big East play and 31.3%
That three-point percentage makes both teams similar. The Hokies were 30.9%
overall and 29.2% in ACC play. Neither team is prolific from the outside, and
the team that gains the advantage in three-point shooting could win this game.
The Huskies have size on the inside with Gavin Edwards and Alex Oriakhi.
Edwards is a senior who has waited his turn. He averaged just three-points per
game in his career until this season. Oriakhi is the fifth scoring option on the
team, but he’s a solid rebound. A McDonald’s All-American last year, Oriakhi
will have a good career for UConn.
While Virginia Tech has been a better basketball team than UConn this year,
the Huskies do hold a major matchup advantage over the Hokies: height. UConn has
plenty of size on the inside.
Yet again we see a team whose small forward is taller than Virginia Tech’s
center (Victor Davila is listed as 6-8). Cadarian Raines, at 6-9, is Tech’s
tallest player, and small forward Stanley Robinson can match him in height.
The good news for the Hokies is that they are playing in Cassell Coliseum,
where they have lost just once this year. UConn is only 2-8 on the road, with
wins at Villanova and Rutgers, and winning at Rutgers isn’t exactly a lot to be
proud of. The Huskies will have to greatly improve their play on the road if
they want to get out of Blacksburg with a victory.
The winner of this game will advance to the NIT Quarterfinals on Wednesday
night on ESPN2. They will take on the winner of the Nevada-Rhode Island game at
either 7 pm or 9 pm.
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