HARTFORD, CT - DECEMBER 3: DeAndre Daniels #2, Andre Drummond #12, and Alex Oriakhi #34 of the Connecticut Huskies stop Rickey Scott #3 of the Arkansas Razorbacks in the first half on December 3, 2011 at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
After a few games off waiting for conference play to begin, we are back with the latest edition of Bulls Recon. Andrew from our good friends at The UConn Blog stepped up and delivered for us during the holiday season. In this edition of Bulls Recon, we talk Jim Calhoun's suspension, grabbing the best walk-on in NCAA history, and of course, Big East Expansion.
1. Jim Calhoun decided he wanted to start his 3 game suspension against USF and forgo a trip to Tampa where it was 80 degrees on Christmas day. Who will be taking the reigns for Calhoun?
Well it wasn't Calhoun's choice since the NCAA made the call (there is no way Calhoun would pass up a chance to sneak in 18 holes of golf in December), but he's gone all the same and his replacement will be long-time associate George Blaney. Blaney has plenty of experience as a coach, he had the head job at Holy Cross for almost a quarter century and spent a few years at Seton Hall before coming to Storrs in 2001 and he has filled in for Calhoun several times over the years. His highlight was a win over No. 1 Texas two years ago, though he's had his fair share of losses. The biggest difference between the two coaches is personality, Blaney is much calmer and doesn't share Calhoun's quick hook. That could prove helpful since he's more likely to give struggling players a chance to work through their issues.
2. UConn has been dominant at times, but also have some weird results that make you scratch your head like the UCF loss and the Fairfield game that hung around just a little too long. Is this just a team still figuring things out as they try to replace Kemba?
In a lot of ways yes, they have massive amounts of talent, but they're still young and replacing Kemba has meant relearning how to put all the pieces together. I'm not worried too much about the Fairfield game -- it took place in a half-empty off-campus arena and it was the only thing standing between the team and winter break, so taking their foot off the gas is understandable. Still, UConn is headed in the right direction. Freshman point guard Ryan Boatright has only played five games with the team (the last one he missed was the UCF loss) but he added some much-needed depth in the backcourt. Andre Drummond has started to turn it on too, he's won the last two Big East Rookie of the Week awards, is scoring a lot more and acting like the shot-blocking and rebounding machine we hoped he'd be.
3. You know, those APR sanctions are supposed to hurt teams, but you guys still pull in guys like Andre Drummond as a walk-on. How are you enjoying his one year on campus before he heads to the Association?
It's been delightful, he's still raw (just watch him shoot free throws), but he's an easy bet to pull a double-double and he's getting better by the game. He also dunks anything near the rim and has started to develop a nice connection with Shabazz Napier. He's a freak and a force to be reckoned with, and I can't wait to see him against some of the other big men in the Big East.
To be honest I haven't thought about it much since we're in the middle of basketball season and most UConn fans are still holding out hope that they won't be in the Big East by the time Boise gets here.
5. What do you think it will take for USF to pull off the upset? Is there a weakness that the Bulls can exploit, or will it have to be the "whole roster suffering 2nd degree burns for staying at the beach too long and relying on Neils Giffey" type thing?
UConn's weakness will be its inexperience. This is the first true road game of the year for the Huskies, and for guys like Drummond and Boatright the crowd will probably be the toughest they've ever played in front of. Plus, USF has given UConn trouble in Florida a few times over the past couple of years, so I won't rule anything out.
6. Predictions? How much will UConn win Wednesday night, and how many UConn fans make the trip down to the Forum?
UConn wins 78-67, going up by about 20 at one point before letting the Bulls crawl back into it and saving face in the last three minutes. Not sure how many UConn fans will be there, but I'm betting any that are will be retirees, so they won't be making a ton of noise.
Thanks again to Andrew for helping out today, and make sure to head over to The UConn Blog for my answers to his questions later today.