After being thoroughly drubbed by West Virginia, the Scarlet Knights return to the court to face an equally wounded UConn team. Just like the Mountaineers, the Huskies lost to Seton Hall. Well, they didn't just lose, they got pushed around. UConn is going to be very angry tomorrow night.
As if losing wasn't enough, the #8 team in the country is expecting their coach Jim Calhoun to return from a 3 game suspension. Rutgers is going to have a fired up team on their hands.
Questions with The UConn Blog and keys to the game after the jump...OTB: What has been UConn's strengths and weaknesses this season?
TUB: UConn's strength is its length and athleticism. The Huskies are fast and when other teams try to run with them it rarely works out well because the Huskies become overpowering. The Huskies have struggled in the halfcourt though, especially against zone defenses. They've got tons of talent, but a lot of it is raw and they can struggle to get set and run their offense.
OTB: How will Calhoun's return affect the Huskies?
TUB: Hopefully he'll be able to motivate the team to reach their potential. George Blaney, his associate head coach who filled in during the suspension is a fine coach in his own right, but he's nowhere near the firebrand that Calhoun is. The Huskies struggled in two out of the three games he missed and having him back will hopefully provide them with a little more consistency both on and off the court.
OTB: Besides Jeremy Lamb and Napier, who's your best player?
TUB: That would be freshman Andre Drummond, who has been inconsistent but has tremendous physical ability. He's a 6'11", 275-pound freak of nature and is projected to be in the top few picks of next year's NBA draft. He's a good rebounder, a great shotblocker, and he's developed a nice rapport with Shabazz Napier which leads to a lot of easy alley-oops.
OTB: Can Mr. Drummond say something to annoy some of Rutgers players before the game?
TUB: I imagine he's learned his lesson from saying that he did not know who herb Pope was. The beat writers covering the team seem to think it was just an honest comment he didn't know would be taken as offensive, but it seems like it was a good example for him of his new platform with the media.
OTB: What's your prediction for the game?
TUB: UConn's struggled a bit of late, but with the return of Calhoun I'd expect to see them come out strong. I'll take the Huskies at 74-60.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Match UConn's Intensity: Like I said, UConn is going to be very angry, and likely be very focused. Rutgers cannot afford to come out sleepwalking or get deflated in this game. If they do, expect a replay of the West Virginia game. Rutgers has to focus on winning each possession, both offensively and defensively.
2. Rebound, Rebound, Rebound: The Huskies have always rebounded the ball well. Rutgers is going to have to box out and grab the missed shots. If UConn is out-rebounded Rutgers and pulling in offensive rebounds as well, the Scarlet Knights will be in big time trouble. This is all about finishing defensive possessions.
3. Someone Besides Eli Carter: Carter has been great since Florida, maybe even before that. But someone else has to assist him. It'd be great if Gilvydas Biruta could get back into the routine, and take the ball to the hole. If he can draw fouls on the UConn big men, it'd give Rutgers a heck of a bump in adrenaline.
4. Force Turnovers but Hold On to the Ball: Simple, right? It comes down to making plays. If Rutgers can force turnovers, they'll be able to run, which will help their offense, especially early in the game. And if they can hold on to the ball, UConn won't be able to fast break.
5. A Good Early Start: Rutgers needs to be in a rhythm and make early shots. If they miss them, the team clearly gets deflated, and UConn will take advantage of that. If RU comes out shooting hot, their confidence will remain high.
6. Dane Miller, Dane Miller, DANE MILLER: This is the obligatory key, and will be until Miller becomes consistent. Which Miller will show up? If it's Florida and Monmouth Dane, this will be a close game. Otherwise? A UConn blow out.
The game is at 8 pm at the RAC. Be there, be loud, be proud.