SWEEP THE LEG. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Well, here we are. The 2011 Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden. And though it's certainly not ideal to be playing in the noon game on Wednesday, it's time to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and start playing Georgetown Hoyas basketball. As usual we here at THE GLOBAL PHENOMENON are bringing you everything you need to know about Georgetown's first opponent in this merry-go-round, and special thanks once again to the cleverly-named The UConn Blog for providing answers to our always intriguing questions. Gentlemen, this Miller Lite is for you.
Had UConn won that epic six overtime game in the 2009 BET against Syracuse, do you think your fanbase would have pimped it as aggressively as Syracuse did?
Yes and no. Yes, we would have never let Syracuse fans hear the end of it, and we would probably end every conversation with our Syracuse-fan acquaintances by saying "It was nice to talk with you SIX OVERTIMES BITCHES". But then again, no, we would probably not have made T-shirts and a website based on the game, because we do have lives and jobs. God, that game was awesome for 40 minutes and five overtimes, though.
More fun with fun people after The Jump:
Now that we are in the Big East Tournament, what do you value more - a good run in the BET or the NCAAs? Some Hoya fans claim they'd rather have a great BET run. I believe that is rubbish.
I value the various possibilities thusly:
- National championship
- Championship game appearance
- Final Four appearance
- Big East tournament championship
- Elite Eight appearance
- Big East championship game loss
- Sweet 16 appearance
- Big East semifinal appearance
- Big East quarterfinal appearance (under the new format, at least)
- NCAA second-round appearance
- NCAA first-round appearance
- Not making the NCAAs at all
- Playing DePaul on a Tuesday at noon
The goal is always to win the last game of the year. A Big East tournament title is sweet, but a national title is the ultimate trump card, unless you're a Duke fan, in which case go fuck yourself.
Maybe my view is biased because UConn is the last BE team to win the national championship (thus proving the superior size of our collective manhoods) and we've fallen flat on our faces in MSG in every year since '04, but I would much rather go deep into the fourth week of March than deep into the second week of March. I reserve the right to change my opinion in the event we pull a Syracuse and win the BET and lose to a 13 seed every year.
How deep does UConn need to go in the BET and NCAAs for you to consider it a successful year? How different is that from your expectations before the season started?
After the last month or so - UConn was 4-7 since Jan. 25 before beating DePaul - I would be thrilled if they won Wednesday and played Pitt tough on Thursday. Anything beyond that would be gravy.
As for the NCAAs, it's really going to depend on the seed and the matchups. Going in blind, I'd say I would be extremely satisfied with a Sweet 16 run. Back in November, after losing three senior starters and bringing in seven freshmen, we were just kind of hoping they'd get to 20 wins and not play in the NIT again. But the freshmen have been OK and Kemba has been brilliant, so here we are.
Kemba Walker got honored on Senior Day as a junior. In your mind, was that appropriate or lame?
Mega-appropriate. Connecticut should proclaim that every day is set aside to honor Kemba Walker.
Besides, Kemba's reportedly going to walk in the May graduation ceremony, and he sure as hell isn't coming back for his senior season. (The word is that Kemba's one class short of having enough credits to graduate, but that can be fixed with a couple weeks' worth of summer classes.) I don't have any issue with it.
Where does Kemba go in the NBA Draft when all the dust settles?
I think he could be a fringe lottery pick, depending on who needs a point guard. I think - and for the sake of his career, I hope - that he's more likely to go a decent team (somewhere in the early 20's?), but he has a good shot of improving his draft stock based on what UConn does in the next three weeks.
If UConn goes on a nice run (to the Elite Eight, or the Big East championship game, or something), Kemba will probably get all the credit. More importantly for Kemba, if UConn loses Wednesday and then in their first-round NCAA game, he'll probably get the benefit of the doubt for playing on a team of freshmen, and he won't be penalized much.
Who has the best fanbase representation in Madison Square Garden besides St. John's?
Depressingly, it seems to be Syracuse. They're like gnats. But as I've never been in attendance for a UConn Big East Tournament win, it's tough to make a fair call.
Which Big East team will go deepest in the NCAA Tournament? Who wins it all?
I'm on the Pitt bandwagon, because if they don't get to a Final Four this year, then when will they? I don't buy that there's something "wrong" with the Pitt players/coaches/program that prevents them from winning in the NCAA Tournament. Just like there wasn't anything wrong with UConn in the early/mid-90's, when Calhoun kept falling short of the Final Four. But Pitt is by far the only Big East team I would call "elite", so I'm hitching my wagon to them. They have everything that a team needs to go deep into the tournament - size, strength, great shooters, a guy who looks like the 6-8 girl on Baylor. I would be very surprised to see them not at least get to the regional final. If they don't, at least we can all join together and laugh at them for being choking dogs. As for who wins the whole thing...the hell if I know. If not Pitt, Ohio State or Kansas, maybe.
Who has surprised you most on UConn this year? Who has disappointed you most?
Besides Kemba (I never expected him to be THIS good), I've been pleasantly surprised by Jeremy Lamb, though he's been somewhat inconsistent as freshmen sometimes are. I think when he adds some muscle (he's 6-foot-5, but only 185 pounds), he is going to be a major force on offense and defense. Honorable mention for surprising goes to Charles Okwandu, who vaulted all the way from "likable, hardworking scrub" to "likable, hardworking, reasonably competent post option". I've been most disappointed by Alex Oriakhi, who really hasn't shown much improvement in his second year as a major contributor. We've kind of been counting on him to carry most of the load in the post, but he doesn't seem aggressive enough to do it on his own. Oriakhi also still hasn't really developed any strong post moves to speak of, which has hurt the offense because Kemba is reluctant to throw the ball into the post.
Assuming Kemba goes pro, how does UConn do next year without him?
We'll be OK. Our guard play should be very good, as we'll have Shabazz Napier and Lamb back, to go with an incoming freshman named Ryan Boatright, a score-first point guard rated as a four-star. The frontcourt, much like it was this year, will be a pretty big concern. Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith have been question marks for most of the year, but I think their issues boil down to the fact that they're a sophomore and a freshman, respectively, and they're not nearly strong enough yet to compete with the other 3s/4s/5s in this league. They're both very athletic, and if they hit the weight room this summer, I think they can be difference-makers. The main issue is that UConn currently doesn't have a center for next year. The two options, if the roster stays unchanged between now and next November, are both freshman: Enosch Wolf hasn't seen the floor at any point in any meaningful game, and Michael Bradley is redshirting because he's not ready for this level yet. The good news is that, after this year, we have at least two more years of Napier, Lamb, Smith, Oriakhi and Coombs-McDaniel, plus whatever recruits Calhoun can scrounge up. The year to watch out for us is probably 2012-13, though.
Are you even remotely scared of losing to Georgetown without Chris Wright?
Absolutely. First of all, out of the NCAA-caliber Big East teams, I don't see any that I would expect UConn to comfortably beat. We're too young, not strong enough, and too dependent on one guy. Secondly, even without Wright, I've seen Austin Freeman beat UConn basically by himself. I don't expect him to go 0-for-4 from 3 Wednesday, like he did in the first meeting. Wright had a great game in the first meeting, but he was pretty much the only one. We caught you guys on an off shooting night (20-for-44 on 2-pointers?) and but for Kemba Walker going nuts, Georgetown almost won anyway. Without Wright, I certainly feel better about UConn's chances, but nothing's a gimme for us lately.
Building on the last question, who wins this game? What is the final score?
Neither team is playing particularly well, of course, making either one a risky proposition. But if you force me to bet, I'm taking the team that's at least in some kind of rhythm and is more-or-less 100% healthy. I'll say UConn 70, Georgetown 64. Unless JT3 decides to play a matchup zone, in which case Georgetown wins, 64-2.