In preparation for Iowa State’s first NCAA Tournament game since 2005, I reached out to Ian over at Sox & Dawgs. Ian provides great knowledge on the UCONN Huskies (and Red Sox). I also did an interview with Ian when the Clones and Huskies faced each other last fall in football. I encourage you to check out Sox & Dawgs for more on UCONN and to follow Ian on Twitter.
ClonesConfidential.com: UCONN won the national championship last year and entered the season ranked in the top 5. This year has not gone to plan for UCONN fans as the Huskies went 8-10 in the Big East. This is surprising to me considering the amount of talent the team has. Why has this team not lived up to the hype so far this year?
Sox & Dawgs: I think part of it has been all the distractions the team has had to deal with. First you have Ryan Boatright being suspended by the NCAA early in the season. Then you have Jim Calhoun suspended for three games from last year’s NCAA infractions. Then Boatright being held out again as the NCAA investigated him again. Then of course Calhoun’s illness. Nothing against George Blaney but Calhoun is the leader of this team and his voice was missed.
Also, I really think the prognosticators overvalued Andre Drummond. If he hadn’t of come to UConn at the last minute, the odds are the Huskies wouldn’t have been ranked No. 4 to start the season. He is a man among boys out there but he was a raw talent. He has gotten better as the season has gone on though. The addition of Drummond also hurt Alex Oriakhi who had been a beast down low the past two seasons. But with Drummond down in the post, Oriakhi has had to play outside some and he just doesn’t have the shot to do that, especially when teams are playing zone which the Huskies did see a lot more this season.
CC: Chris Babb has a tough task on Thursday night with guarding Jeremy Lamb. Jeremy Lamb is a projected top 10 pick in this year’s NBA Draft. What makes Jeremy Lamb so dangerous?
S&D: Lamb is dangerous because he can pretty much score anywhere from the floor. Give him a step and he’ll take it to the hole to put up his patented floater. Give him a little space outside the three point line and he’ll hoist one up. When the offense is going well, Lamb moves well without the ball. He’s adjusted over the season to being double teamed.
CC: Coach Jim Calhoun missed eight games this year in the Big East. During that span, the Huskies went 3-5. What is the difference when Jim Calhoun is on the bench compared to when he isn’t?
S&D: The biggest difference without Calhoun being there is Calhoun not being there. Associate head coach George Blaney is a little more laid back than Calhoun. They also have a little bit different coaching styles. When a player makes a mistake, they usually head to the bench under Calhoun. Under Blaney, they may stay out on the floor. The players have said while he was out that they missed his voice. Whether it be yelling at the players or providing a “that’a boy”, Calhoun is the glue of this team.
CC: Cyclone fans have heard about UCONN’s less-than-stellar 3-point defense. Besides that, is there a weakness that UCONN has that the Clones can take advantage of?
S&D: If the Cyclones can play zone, they can exploit UConn’s offense. For whatever reason, the Huskies struggle against the zone except when they play Syracuse. I couldn’t even give you a reason because I don’t think even Calhoun knows why. Also, if they can force the Huskies into a few turnovers in a row, they may be able to rattle them a little and go on a run.
CC: Finally, what is your projection for this game?
S&D: Being a homer, I’m going to take the Huskies of course. If UConn can shut down y’alls three point shooting and get Lamb involved in the offense, they should be able to pull this one out. I do think it’s going to be a close game in the high 60’s to low 70’s. If the three’s are falling for the Cyclones, this one does have the potential to be a blowout.