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Talking UConn with the UConn Blog

The Bearcats meet up with the UConn Huskies in about 6 hours. Since the preview that’s coming out in a little bit can’t get the full UConn perspective, I turned to someone who religiously follows the Huskies. That person was Andrew Porter, who is part of the great team who run the UConn Blog. Here is the site and the twitter. You might wanna click on over there after you read this, because I answered some of his questions. And follow them during the game, because they tweet a lot of good things. Things such as what is discussed below. Dive in. As always, questions in bold. 

Is the team starting to turn the corner?

I sure hope so. It’s an incredibly young team — almost all freshman and sophomores — which mean’s it isn’t incredibly different from last year’s squad on paper. The problem is last year’s team had Kemba Walker to carry them when things got tough, this year everyone is still trying to find their role and figure out just what they should be doing. They had a frustrating stretch a few weeks ago where they lost to Rutgers and Seton Hall, but they’ve played much better in wins over West Virginia and Notre Dame. The one catch? An NCAA investigation has indefinitely removed backup point guard Ryan Boatright from the lineup, leaving the team incredibly thin in the backcourt.

Jeremy Lamb is kind of good. How has his game elevated this season?

He’s proven himself to be a markedly consistent scorer, averaging nearly 18 ppg. He’s most dangerous when he’s coming off screens and doesn’t attack the basket as much as UConn fans would like, but again, he’s scoring nearly 18 ppg. He’s also a pest on defense because he has incredibly long arms and is usually able to turn a stolen pass on the perimeter into a fast break dunk once or twice a game.

With that said, Cincinnati is catching him at a relatively good time. He only scored 8 points in a loss to Rutgers and 6 in UConn’s win over ND (he did drop 25 on WVU in between those outings, but take what you can get). The fact that Ryan Boatright is out means you might see him play for 40 minutes tonight, which probably won’t help either.

Andre Drummond has been a double double machine in Big East play. What can UC do to slow his game down?

Well, you’re not really going to be able to stop him from rebounding because he’s 6’11 and about 260/270, so if he wants the ball he’ll get it. On offense, deny him the ball in the post, because once he get’s it, its over. UConn has struggled to work the ball inside against the zone, so that’ll be Cincy’s best bet.

Cincinnati has been turning teams over at a tremendous rate lately. How solid are the Huskie ball handlers?

UConn has some incredibly talented ball handlers, especially Shabazz Napier. The problem is that Napier is as reckless as he is talented, and every time he makes an amazing play he seems to feel the need turn the ball over in an incredibly stupid way just to add balance to the universe. Turnovers have been an issue at late and they were the main culprits in losses to Seton Hall and Rutgers. If UConn can’t keep it under control they could be in a lot of trouble.

Is ball handler the unintentionally funniest basketball term?

I don’t really see what’s so funny about ‘ball-handler’. Everyone knows you need a good ball-handler to push hard and build up the pressure until you just explode all over your opponent.

Shabazz Napier has been good game, bad game the past 7 games. He’s coming off a good game. Should we expect bad? What’s slowing him down? Are the heavy minutes wearing him out?

The heavy minutes are definitely a concern — he played 40 against Notre Dame and I’d expect to see the same tonight —  hopefully he’ll be able to string a few good games together because without Boatright around to back him up, UConn needs him to be productive and protect the ball if they want to win

This looks like the beginning of a 3 game stretch that precedes the killer stretch of the season. Could you see UConn being flat for this one? Or is the NCAA tournament rematch proper motivation?

I doubt UConn will be flat because they seem to finally have a bit of momentum going and the Boatright nonsense seems to have lit a little bit of an extra fire under them — at least it did against Notre Dame. I doubt the tournament rematch will mean much of anything to the team, but it might be a nice reminder that Cincinnati is actually pretty talented.

Speaking of the tournament, Oriakhi dominated inside. What’s going on with him this year?

It mostly seems like a mental hang up. It’s easy to picture Oriakhi at the start of the year thinking that he and Drummond would dominate the front line together, but their skills weren’t as complementary as everyone hoped, so Oriakhi’s seen his minutes cut. That has to be incredibly frustrating. With that said, UConn’s win over Notre Dame on Saturday was easily Oriakhi’s best game of the season and it showed that it is possible for him and Drummond to coexist, and if they can replicate that they’re going to be almost impossible to stop.

Speaking more of the tournament, who on UConn is going to get away with multiple travels with Kemba in the NBA?

That would have been Boatright, who plays a lot like Kemba did as a freshman. I guess UConn will just have to settle for beating you guys the old fashioned way.

Last season the famous story was that fans talked shit to Kemba in 5/3 Arena, which motivated Walker for a big second half. Will UConn fans be so generous to taunt Bearcats players this year?

I’m sure they’ll be more than willing to taunt (this is the first post-break game for the students, so they’ll need to get back into cheering shape), I’m just not sure there is a Kemba on the Cincinnati roster who’ll be able to do something about it.

Is there a way to sum up what’s happening with Ryan Boatright?

Short version: The NCAA sucks. 

Long version: He was investigated and suspended for six games prior to the season because he got a plane ticket paid for as an AAU student (all of this predated any contact with UConn). The NCAA has now reopened the investigation and offered no timeline of when he’ll be cleared. However, media reports have indicated that the NCAA’s tipster is a jealous ex-boyfriend of his mother’s with an ax to grind. It’s delightful.

We know Syracuse writers love cooking shows and St John’s writers love early 2000s teen dramas, so what do UConn writers watch?

We’ll take the two-hour block of old Nickelodeon shows they run at midnight. Hey mother@#$%ing Arnold. 

Dangerously tempted to bust out football head. I’ll keep it bottled. Thanks a lot to Andrew for taking the time to answer my questions. The UConn Blog is a daily stop if you follow the league closely or not. There was a good article about what UConn will miss from Ryan Boatright yesterday. There is much more to be found there every day. Thanks a lot to Andrew.