Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
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1. Our Little Baby's All Growns Up! Since the Huskies won their second national championship in 2004, UConn fans haven't had that much to cheer about. In 2004-05, the Huskies couldn't rebound from the loss of Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon, sleepwalked through the season and got knocked out by NC State in the second round of the NCAAs. In the 2005-06 Elite Eight, despite a rotation featuring five future NBA draft picks, UConn played the role of Michigan to George Mason's Appalachian State. Last season, after a mass exodus to the NBA, UConn was the youngest team in the country (its roster included five sophomores, eight freshmen and zero upperclassmen), and it showed; the team lost 11 out of its last 15 games and didn't even garner an NIT bid despite winning 17 games. Without any significant changes to the roster, fans were not optimistic that this season would be much different, and this skepticism appeared to be justified by several close early-season losses to ranked teams. But following a loss to Providence on January 17, the young Huskies matured overnight, and proceeded to knock off 10 straight opponents, often in dramatic fashion. Interestingly, eight of those wins came after the program suspended guards Jerome Dyson and Doug Wiggins. (Dyson, who led the team in scoring — and apparently was a big fan of Funyuns and the movie Friday — at the time of his suspension, has struggled since returning in late February.) The team has benefited from the major improvement of 6'2" point guard AJ Price, whose career did not begin until last season after being initially delayed by a brain hemorrhage and then a brain fart (he was involved in a laptop theft). Price has raised his game this year, averaging 15 points and six assists per game. Other standouts include 6'6" junior bruiser Jeff Adrien (15 points and nine rebounds per game) and the Tanzanian Devil, 7'3" sophomore center Hasheem Thabeet (10 points, 8 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game). Price and Adrien were named to the All-Big East First Team and Thabeet was voted the conference's Defensive Player of the Year.


2. Ain't No Party Like A Block Party. Thanks to Thabeet (as well as Adrien and mercurial 6'9" forward Stanley Robinson), UConn leads the nation in blocks per game (8.8), which the team has now done for seven consecutive seasons. UConn's shot-blocking prowess began with the arrival of Okafor in 2001. In Okafor's three seasons as a Husky, UConn averaged 6.9 blocks in 2001-02, 7.5 in 2002-03, and 8.1 in 2003-04. With an increased emphasis on shot-blocking, the team actually swatted more shots without Okafor, averaging 8.9 blocks in 2004-05 (led by Boone, Gay, Villanueva and Armstrong) and 8.8 in 2005-06 (same crew minus Villanueva). Last season, Thabeet's first as a Husky, UConn averaged 8.6 blocks per game. Due in no small part to its shot-blocking, UConn is holding opponents to 38 percent shooting.

3. You're not the run-of-the-mill kind of asshole, are you, Jimmy? You're a special kind of asshole. UConn's Hall-of-Fame coach Jim Calhoun speaks with a Masshole accent thicker than clam chowder, swears like Bunk Moreland after a long night at Kavanaugh's and has a quicker hook with his players than the clown at the Apollo on Amateur Night. A Lady Byng Trophy winner he's not. But there's one thing he does better than any other college coach in America: develop NBA players. Indeed, UConn has thirteen players in the NBA — more than any other college program. It's an impressive list: Ray Allen (Celtics), Hilton Armstrong (Hornets), Josh Boone (Nets), Caron Butler (Wizards), Rudy Gay (Grizzlies), Ben Gordon (Bulls), Richard Hamilton (Pistons), Donyell Marshall (Sonics), Emeka Okafor (Bobcats), Kevin Ollie (Sixers), Charlie Villanueva (Bucks), Jake Voskuhl (Bucks), and Marcus Williams (Nets). Calhoun also happens to be a perfect 4-0 in Final Four games and, by virtue of out-coaching Mike Krzyzewski twice in those four games and thus denying Duke two additional national titles, on his deathbed will receive total consciousness. So he's got that going for him, which is nice. — Josh Blosveren

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