Saturday, March 25, 2006

Uconn..OOf..What an escape...

I am writing this Blog after going through an emotional roller coaster watching Uconn Huskies taking on the Washington Huskies in the Sweet sixteen match up in the washington regional. So what do we know about Uconn. They have the best talent in the country. All five of their starters have a chance of making it to the NBA. Marcus Williams is the best point guard in the country. Rashad Anderson is the best sixth man in college hoops. Hilton Amstrong is the best shot blocker in college hoops. Rudy Gay is the best talent in the country. Denham Brown can be a great offensive presence on the court leading the huskies against kentucky in the previous round. Uconn has the best bench in the country including players like Adrien, Austrie, Anderson and Nelson. But after all is said and done, there is an important quote about the time. "THEY can win it all if they play to their POTENTIAL". If they play their A game as sports correspondents call it, no team can challenge them.

But what have we seen through the Big East tournament and the early round of the NCAA Tournament. They can play the worst game of all the teams in the country, they can dig a 10ft hole and bury themselves in it and then when everybody thinks they are done and when they have provided enought heart wrenching moments to their fans they can climb out of the pit with some great plays and win the games. This is what happened in their first round game against Albany. Albany who? Have any Basketball fan heard of them? Not until they showed up on the court to play Uconn in the first round game at the NCAA championships and they could well have produced an upset if not for Uconns A game showing up in the last 10mins of the game. Well, me being a UConn fan was really emotionally drained after that game and hoped that it wouldnt happen again and that I could watch their other games drinking a cool Draught of BEER and have fun while doing so. I hoped that their worst display of Basketball was over and that I could enjoy myself watching them win comfortably from the next round. But no that wasnt going to happen, not to a Uconn fan. They played a better game against a great Kentucky team which wasnt intimidated by their No.1 Ranked opponents. It was a close game and we won it by 4 points with a score of 87-83. Not a real nail biter but a close call. So having watched Uconn basketball for three years I hoped that now the team would get together and play solid basketball from the next round. Little did I realize that the worst was yet to come.

The stage was set. It was the sweet sixteen match up against Washington Huskies at the Verizon arena at Washington DC. Sports correspondents picked Uconn to win IF THEY PLAYED UPTO THEIR POTENTIAL. Sounded pretty simple. Most Uconn fans who have seen them play upto their potential know the team can dominate any opponent. Weve got the size inside the paint, a great point guard and a great perimeter shooter. But we have only seen them play upto that level in short bursts in the whole tournament. SO it was an intriguing match-up, nothing gr8. We hoped that theyll win it comfortably even if they played a mediocre game.

But Alas, jus when u think they cant play worser than they did in their first round game against Albany, they proved us wrong. The game started pretty well. Uconn started it with a easy dunk and followed it with a three pointer and another jump shot. We lead Washington 7-2 after the first couple of minuites. Seeing the UConn offense execute perfectly I relaxed a bit and hoped that they wont cause a heart attack this time around. But soon the turnovers started and Washington took full use of the opportunities and attacked the Uconn basket. They quickly went up by 9 and were leading us half way througn the first half. By that time Uconn had turned over the ball about 15 times. But even then we hung close to Washington and I was waiting for a run from Uconn in the offensive end. Just as if the players had heard my prayers, Uconn went on a 11-2 run to equal the scores at 28 apiece. But Washington executed well in the offensive end especially Brandon Roy and J. Williams and they soon lead Uconn by 8. But Uconn played solid defense and executed well at the end of the half to make it 45-40. Uconn had turned over the ball 15 times in the first half. Considering such a situation, the score board was agreeable. It could have been much worse. But this was the highest first half points by any opponent against Uconn this season. Hey! but we did hang on and they just had a 5 points lead. I hoped that Calhoun would give the guys a hard time in the locker room and that the players would play well in the second half and execute well in both the offensive and defensive ends. In the first half they played like it was a practice game and that they can just practice their alley-hoops and dunks, most of which was intercepted by washington players leading to the Turnovers. Washington played with a lot of heart, they played to win. Uconn was jus happy hanging out there. They played as if they could make a run whenever they want to and win the game. It nearly cost Uconn the game and I believe most Uconn fans had a heart attack during the final minuites of the game.

The second half started with a 5-0 run by Washington who took a 50-40 lead. Both teams traded baskets and the lead was about 8 points when Rudy Gay was fouled by Brandon Roy. Both players started mouthing off and a double technical was called on the players. Brandon Roy now had 4 fouls. He was Washingtons most dominant player. But he had to sit out the next 8 mins due to his foul trouble and Uconn took advantage of this situation and went on a run to equalize the scores. But Washington hung on to the lead and when Brandon Roy came into the game they lead Uconn 68-64 with about 7 mins to go in the game. 5 of the washington players had 4 fouls. The sensible thing for Uconn to do would have been to draw fouls from the Washington players. They should have given the ball to their big men inside, Boone and Armstrong and tried to draw contact going to the basket. But Uconn settled for jump shots and missed the opprtunity to foul out Washingtons Best Players during the last ten mins of the second half. Washington was leading Uconn by 75-72 with around 3.30 to go in the second half and everybody could sense that Uconn needed a stop in the defensive end. I prayed for a stop. And we got it. We got the stop that we needed with around 3 mins to go . But in the ensuing posession Rudy Gay turned over the ball with 2:30 in the clock and Washington took a time out. When play resumed Washington took a jump shot but it rimmed out, but they got the rebound and fired a three. This was the worst scenario for Uconn. I need to mention one tit bit at this point. I was watching this game with my Bro and his friend. When Rudy Gay turned over the ball I was totally frustrated. My Bro at this point predicted that Washington would take a three and that Uconn would go down today. And Washington did take a three and it went in. With 1:53 to play Washington lead Uconn 78-72. At this point when my Bro told me that it was all over for Uconn, I told him that we were in deeper shit during the final four game against DUke in 2004 and that we went on to win the game and expected them to repeat it this time around. But this one was too much to take. The situation seemed terrible for Uconn. In the following posession Boone made one of two free throws,then we made a stop at the defensive end and Rashad Anderson scored a three to make it 80-76 with 21 seconds to go int the game. The shot clock was off, we still trailed them by 4 points. It was a two posession game. We needed to get a quick basket, hopefully a three. At this point Marcus Williams made a great run to the basket at the offensive end and scored. A foul was called on the play and so it was a three point play and he made the free throw. It was a blessing for Uconn. Why they fouled him nobody knows, it was a bad decision, one that would come back to bite them. BUt even with the three point play Washington had the ball with 11 seconds in the clock and leading Uconn 80-79. They inbounded the ball and Uconn had to foul to stop the clock winding down. But now we had a chance since even if the washington player made both the free throws, we could tie it with a three. The foul on Williams in the previous play had changed the whole scenario for UConn. Brandon Roy was the player fouled in the inbounds. The clock read 7.9 Seconds. He made both the free throws. So Uconn needed a three to tie the game and take it to overtime. Everybody in America knew who would take the three point shot in that play. But the Washington player didnt. By this time my heart was already in my mouth. The ball was inbounded and Marcus Williams took it to the other end of the court towards the Washington Huskies basket and then changed direction and passed it to WHo? RASHAD ANDERSON. He took the shot, I closed my eyes. And then I heard the magic words blasting from the TV. " HE made it. He made it". I opened my eyes and then jumped for joy. What a comeback. It was as if Uconn was out of the tournament a second before and now we had new life. Uconn players were jumping for joy while the Washington players looked dejected. It wasnt over, we were going to overtime. What a shot! Could well be the shot we would remember for a long time if Uconn goes on to win the National title. But the drama wasnt over yet. In overtime Uconn played solid-D and made some good shots to lead by 5 with 18 seconds remaining. Washington made a three. It was a two pint game with 16 seconds remaining. All Uconn had to do was hold on to the ball and they will walk out of the arena as Winners. BUt hey! its Uconn, we never let our supporters relax a bit. We provide great adrenaline rush and world class horror flicks for our fans. Rudy Gay is to inbound tha ball. Denham Brown was open at the other side of the court. But Rudy finds a Washington Husky Player, Ryan Appleby 15ft from the Basket and throws it to him. I could see the films from yesterdays game go through my mind in which Gonzaga in a similar situation leading the game turned it over to UCLA who scored and won the game. AS I watched the play unfold now in this game, Ryan Appleby instead of shooting the ball, turns around and passes it to Joel smith who by the way is standing behind the three point line and if given a chance could drain a three pointer. But Marcus Williams made a great play and intercepted the ball before it reached Joel Smith and that essentially sealed the game for UConn. A victory nonetheless. And once the Buzzer sounded I had a great sense of relief and so did many of the Uconn fans I suppose. WE'll all live another day to watch the Uconn Huskies play and hopefully hopefully we'll not have any more heart attacks like today.
Go HUSKIES!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Who will make it to the Big East Tourney?

I am starting out my blog by making a bold prediction on the Big East Tourney. The Big East is a beast and the tourney will be a great build up to the NCAA championships. With a week to go before the tourney kick starts, there is still a battle at the bottom of the standings for the 11th and 12th spot to make it to the tourney. Louisville, providence, St.Johns, Notredame and Depaul are all wrestling for the final two spots. Louisville, Providence and St. Johns are all tied up with a record of 5-9 in the conference. Notredame and Depaul are tied at 4-10 just a game behind the other three. With two games to be played by each team before the Big East tourney anything is possible. Louisville has the toughest schedule ahead with games against Marquette and #2 Uconn. They need to win atleast one of them to assure themselves of a place in the Tournament. Notre Dame has a reasonably easier way, with games against providence and DePaul. If they can win both of these games they are into the tourney. But if they win only one, they have to hope that the others fare badly. Providence has a game against Notre dame and one against marquette. The providence Notredame game will decide whether Notredame stays in the hunt for the final spot or not. Depaul has games against Syracuse and Notredame. Again Syracuse would need to win this game to boost their chances of making into the NCAA tourney.St. Johns play #4 Villanova and Rutgers in their final two regular season games. If they can get one win out of these matches, theyll be through to the big east tourney.

I am going to make a bold prediction on the two teams that would take the final two spots in the Big East tourney.I believe Notredame will win their final two games and march onto the Big East tournament. They are too good a team to not make it to the Tourney. Remember the scare they gave UConn last week at Hartford Civic Centre. If it wasnt for Marcus Williams' final second shot things couldve been different. They have lost their last 8 games by a total of 22 points. Dont let their record bluff you out. They are a damn good team with great perimeter shooting. They will get into the Big East tourney and will cause some upsets in the tourney as well.

The other team thats gonna make it to the Tourney is St. Johns. The just need one win to get into the tourney. They play Rutgers at home in the last game of their regular season and the crowd is going to roar for every basket and every defensive block. They also hold the psychological advantage by beating Rutgers at Rutgers' home just a couple of weeks back. Its a decisive game and they know the importance of winning that game and I believe they will win that game to get into the tourney.

Its going to be an exciting week of hoops with every match having a major impact on the standings and the victors will continue their season, another week into the Big East tourney.