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The Morning Dish – Saturday, December 24, 2016

December 24, 2016 The Morning Dish No Comments

The last time UConn had six losses before the new year rolled in, the Big East didn’t exist and Richard Nixon was still in his first term as President. It was 1971 – also still some years before the Huskies would become a national power. While this year stands out for a couple of reasons, the Huskies have been trending downward to begin with. Friday’s 70-67 overtime loss to Auburn leads to the latest hit for this team.

UConn has won four national championships, all over a about a decade and a half. They’ve been a national power for over two decades. But they haven’t been the same for a while now, and this year is where the bottom is falling out, in part because they have been hit by a string of injuries.

UConn’s first two national championship teams were powerhouses; they were teams many figured to have a chance to make a deep run or even win it all. The team that won in 2011 was a good, not great, team that was taken on a magic carpet ride by Kemba Walker starting in the Big East Tournament, and Shabazz Napier did likewise in 2014. Neither team leaped out at anyone as a national title contender the way the Husky teams of 1998-99 and 2003-04 did. In fact, the 2013-14 team was a No. 7 seed.

Lately, the Huskies haven’t been getting the same level of talent as in the past, and that’s hurt them. In theory, they should rule the American Athletic Conference, as it is not nearly as strong as the old Big East in which the Huskies were annually a top team, but that hasn’t happened. In the first year of The American, the Huskies tied for third place, tied for fifth a year later and were sixth last year.

This year doesn’t look like it will be any different, with season-ending injuries to Alterique Gilbert and Terry Larrier coming first, and on Friday Jalen Adams suffered a concussion in the second half. Adams returned to the bench, which is a positive sign, but you never know with a concussion. With Adams, the Huskies have eight scholarship players. In past years, the Huskies could withstand an injury or two. This team, and other recent Husky teams, not so much.

Friday’s loss drops the Huskies to 5-6 overall and 2-3 at home. The Huskies have won consecutive games just once thus far, and their best win came over a Syracuse team that is likewise having a rough go of it. They are holding teams below 38 percent from the field at the defensive end, but they are only shooting 43 percent from the field and are getting out-rebounded. They have also turned the ball over more than their opponents, so they are losing the possession battle and that is costing them.

American Athletic Conference play beckons for the Huskies, though a January 14 trip to old Big East foe Georgetown also lies ahead. They open with Houston at home, then hit the road for Tulsa and Memphis. None of those games are gimmes, but they are winnable. They will tell us a lot about whether or not this team can right the ship.

One thing is for certain, though: the UConn Huskies of old aren’t walking through that door.

 

Side Dishes

Ted Sarandis and I talked about college basketball in our latest edition of Talking Hoops with Ted Sarandis. It’s lengthy, but well worth a listen.

It took overtime, but USC remained undefeated by knocking off Wyoming 94-92 to win the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic. USC certainly goes down as one of the pleasant surprises in non-conference play, as they ran the table at 13-0. Earlier in the day, USC secured a big commitment from Charles O’Bannon Jr., the son of the former UCLA star.

One score that will jump out at you from Friday is Wisconsin‘s 90-37 thumping of Florida A&M. The game was literally over at halftime, as Wisconsin scored 43 points in the opening frame.

In a big rivalry game, Seton Hall got a big double-double from Angel Delgado (19 points, 16 rebounds) en route to a 71-62 win over Rutgers in Newark. It’s the fourth straight win for the Pirates and the second straight year in which Delgado has posted a double-double in the game, and it’s his sixth straight double-double on the season.

Two more old Big East rivals met in Chestnut Hill, and Boston College used a 25-2 run in the second half, during which they made eight straight shots, to take over the game en route to a 79-67 win over Providence. We’ll have more on both teams a little later, so stay tuned.

In the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, San Diego State advanced to the championship game with an 82-63 win over Tulsa, breaking away in the second half. They will face San Francisco, who used a big second half and a career-high 17 points from Charles Minlend to beat Illinois State 66-58. Stephen F. Austin beat Southern Miss 67-64 and Utah beat Hawaii 66-52 in the consolation bracket.

 

Tonight’s Menu

As has become custom, Christmas Eve is a day with no games on tap as the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic takes a day off before the final round tomorrow. Merry Christmas to college basketball fans everywhere!

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College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

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"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
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"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
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