The 6’1, 237 lb Williams was drafted in the fourth round by the Houston Texans after playing college ball for the University of Connecticut. At UConn, Williams was clearly programmed to find the QB as his 30.5 sacks are still a team record.
If football doesn’t work out, there’s always the dance team…
However, upon further investigation, this beef has more sides than just the stuffing above. According to Reddit, Adams and Briscoe began their rivalry at the Ballislife All-American Game in early May, which naturally, as all great head-to-head matchups do, resulted in a social media war. The posts have since been removed but not before Twitter users grabbed these screenshots:
As high-profile players attending high-profile programs, both will be taught the ramifications for such youthful behavior. Nonetheless, it was funny. However, there can only be one winner and given the recent history of Kentucky-UConn matchups, it’s Adams.
It has definitely been an adjustment year for Tyler Olander, transitioning from a senior season which saw him struggle to find minutes to a professional league competing against seasoned veterans. Last month, Olander was loaned from Siauliai to fellow league member Mazeikiai in order to get the young lefty more playing time. Loans are common in European basketball, especially in situations where a player is signed to a long term deal- as Olander is. Olander will finish up the season with Mazeikiai but his rights remain with Siauliai and he will return to the club next season.
In his first three games with Mazeikiai, Olander has averaged 7 points and 5 rebounds in 14 minutes. His last game against #3 Lietuvos Rytas was by far his best, dropping 14 points to go along with 9 rebounds.
Speaking of adjustments, check out this mid-air adjustment by Olander in this week’s BEKO-LKL Top Ten plays.
President Herbst, AD Manuel, Coach Ollie and all those who bleed blue:
We are two years into this new conference. No longer a member of the most dominant conference in college basketball but rather, the American Athletic Conference. A conference reminiscent of the island of misfit toys in the Christmas classic Rudolph- the schools no conference wants to play with. Pittsburgh Big Monday rivalry games have been replaced with lazy Sunday’s in Houston. ESPN College GameDay is no longer with Syracuse, but SMU. And finally, after much research, I can officially confirm the win over Tulane will count towards our conference record, not exhibition.Yes, the outlook sure seems bleak at times and I am reminded by every AAC-Google-search-autocorrected-to-ACC of what could have been. But, does conference realignment alone mean Connecticut is no longer home to the college basketball capital of the world? Absolutely Not.
Tonight, we turn the page.
This weekend’s blowout loss to SMU albeit disheartening was by no means disqualifying. As with any season, the ultimate goal is and still remains to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. From there, anything can happen. Now, we must shift our focus off this season’s frustrations and onto how we can position ourselves for continued postseason success. Success that will translate from year to year, keeping in mind our position in a new conference.
Schedule for an at-large, play for an automatic
March Madness can be achieved in one of two ways- an automatic bid (win the conference tournament) or an at-large bid (selected by NCAA committee based on performance). At-large bids are awarded based on a number of different criteria, none more prominent than the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). To summarize , you are rewarded for beating teams who beat good teams on a scale of 1(best)-351(worst). Click here to see how RPI is officially calculated. Although other rankings do exist that may be more accurate, RPI is primarily used by the NCAA selection committee. Similar to the SATs and college admission, if a strong RPI doesn’t get you in, it at least gets you looked at.
The eccentrically formed American Athletic Conference simply cannot compete with the strong numbers posted by powerhouse programs in the former Big East. Numbers that are highly scrutinized by the selection committee, and, will ultimately decide a team’s postseason fate. In contrast to the Big East, the AAC is more on par with a pair of mid-majors- the West Coast Conference (WCC) and Missouri Valley Conference (MVC). Here is a comparison of the percent of conference members in the top 50 of numerous statistics evaluated by the selection committee. As illustrated below, the level of competition found in the 2011 Big East is far superior to the 2014/15 AAC, WCC, and MVC.
Big E. 2010/11
*Ratings Percentage Index, Strength of Schedule, Conference RPI, Conference SOS*
Without the Big East to inflate our postseason resume, how can UConn ensure an at-large bid without winning the conference title? For that, we will take a look at mid-major college basketball powers Gonzaga (WCC) and Wichita State (MVC).
It begins with our non-conference strength of schedule.
Four years ago, we could rely on the strength of the Big East to float us into the tournament when we were on the bubble. The Big East Conference had the #1 overall RPI out of all D1 Conferences, including a ridiculous 10 teams in the top 50 (above). Given the ultra-competitiveness of the Big East, each week provided an opportunity to boost RPI, or, recover from a RPI-crushing loss. The last week of Big East conference play in 2011 saw UConn win at Cincinnati (31) then lose at West Virginia (16) and home to Notre Dame (12). On paper, yes that’s a 1-2 mark but when you take a deeper look at the numbers the road loss at West Virginia was essentially negated by the win over the Bearcats and UConn enters the conference tournament off a home loss to a tough Notre Dame squad. Definitely not an ideal stretch entering tournament play but also not bubble bursting due to the quality of our opponents.
After easily defeating DePaul (217), the Huskies faced Georgetown (6), Pittsburgh (7), Syracuse (17) and Louisville (18). Though we beat all four, my guess is we earned the at-large bid after the quarterfinal victory over Pitt. The Big East was supremely competitive but it also provided opportunity to control fate with your play. Glancing at the chart below, Big East members played on average 10 games against RPI top 1-25 teams in 2011. That is 10 opportunities to prove yourself against an elite team, 10 opportunities to demonstrate growth over the course of a season. Opportunities that simply do not exist in the AAC, WCC, and MVC.
Big East 2011
*Louisville removed for accuracy
For further comparison, let’s look at a recent stretch of UConn AAC play. Starting January 25th with a win over South Florida (215), UConn lost on the road to Cincinnati (29) followed by another road loss to Houston (239). This time, although the Cincinnati loss is not a “bad loss” in terms of RPI (and most importantly, in the eyes of the committee) Houston is inexplicable. Additionally, although we won our next two games, Eastern Carolina (242) and Tulane (182) combined hardly account for the Houston loss- especially when it allows Doug Gottlieb to do this:
In any case, the days of mourning the Big East are over. A new era is underway and we must not be shortsighted. How do we compensate for a lack of quality competition in conference play for years to come?
Schedule for an at-large…
To answer that question, let’s take a look at the resumes of both Wichita State and Gonzaga in relation to our Huskies. Also, note the 12/13 Wichita State and 11/12 Gonzaga profiles from years they did not win the conference tournament, but earned an at-large bid. These are the numbers that got them in the big dance.
UConn’s non-conference strength of schedule (NCSS) is particularly alarming considering a conference strength of schedule (CFSS) over 100. Aside from the obvious fact they are winning, both Wichita State and Gonzaga have a significantly stronger NCSS. To date, our best non-conference win comes over Dayton (32), hardly head-turning. We desperately need to schedule quality non-conference games, and lots of them. Even January’s win over Florida- though quality at the time- means nothing after the Gators recent struggles. Our schedule must be packed with talent to compensate for unexpected down years.We cannot afford to play in mediocre tournaments, we need to face off with the elite. Recent home-and-home series have been announced with Georgetown, Arizona and Ohio State along with planned participation in the 2016 Maui Invitational. This type of aggressive scheduling is necessary should we need any wiggle room in conference play due to poor performance or injury.
The consequence of failing to schedule for an at-large bid results in the one word so evil it can drop a slipper straight off a cinderella’s foot…
The Missouri Valley Conference has seen 5 RPI top 40 teams snubbed in recent years, including the most infamous snub of all time. In 2006 Missouri State’s bubble was popped after posting a 21 RPI- the best of any team ever left out of March Madness. In 1998, Gonzaga missed out on an at-large bid after losing in the WCC Finals- despite claiming the regular season crown and defeating #5 Clemson. Don’t think it can happen in the AAC? Just last year SMU posted a 23-9 record with a 53 RPI but was left out of the tournament following a first round loss in AAC play. Makes you feel a little better about this weekend…
…until you realize we are in the same conference…
…which brings me back to this year. Schedule for the at-large bid…
…play for the automatic.
Maybe the American isn’t so bad after all. One HUGE advantage to playing in a weak conference? The conference tournament aka the automatic bid. Realistically, no matter how we struggle during the regular season, the AAC tournament could punch our ticket on a yearly basis. I like the idea of sealing our own fate as opposed to leaving it up to the NCAA (we are still the UConn of old in that regard).
LRPI measure’s a team’s RPI in road/neutral games only- a statistic we can use come tournament time (neutral sites). Here is a look at the average LRPI of each AAC member over the past 5 seasons.
As the numbers show and five games in five days proved, we are a tournament team like few others in the conference. Given our performance, there is still no combination of AAC teams I am scared of come March. Take last week’s match-up with Tulsa. We held the #1 team in conference (at the time) to 31% shooting in a 25 point blowout win. Ball movement was the best I’ve seen all year and the Huskies fed off the crowd’s energy.
Update: We get that crowd for the tournament.
Remember, Hartford hosts the AAC tournament this year. The average distance for AAC members to travel from their campus to the XL Center? 1,155 miles or 17.5 hours. That’s Hartford to St. Louis- ON AVERAGE! Aside from Temple (211 miles), the next closest school is Eastern Carolina (615 miles). As fans, we need to emphasize this advantage with a sea of blue and white. I saw what it did last year at Madison Square Garden and there’s no reason to think it cannot be recreated. Yes it is improbable, but hey, we feast on the improbable. We are after all, and will continue to be, the Hungry Huskies.
Undeniably, this is a new era for UConn basketball. Our struggles will be heavily documented and triumphs largely unnoticed. We no longer present ourselves along with the power of the Big East, but in a cloud of doubt cast upon by a weak conference. Gonzaga, currently sits at #3 in the AP poll with many calling the current squad best in school history. Yet in his column earlier this month, Yahoo Sports analyst Pat Forde still asked the question of “whether the WCC sufficiently seasons Mark Few’s program for NCAA play”. Regardless of our trophies, regardless of our NBA pedigree and regardless of our tradition, this same question will be asked about our Huskies.
But you know what, Houston, we don’t have a problem. Actually, we have an advantage. We are once again the underdog, problem is- we do just fine as the underdog.
Let’s continue this new era, and let’s start with this season.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless UConn Country.
Khalid El-Amin got the sweet taste of victory after leading UConn to the 1999 National Championship, and has not stopped since. BC Goettingen (Germany, BBL) received much criticism this off-season when they brought in the 35 year old El-Amin, fresh off a 2013-14 season he spent rehabbing an injury. The move was based off El-Amin’s European track record, which speaks for itself. Joining Besiktas (Hilton Armstrong’s current team) of the Turkish League in 2003, El-Amin dominated for two straight seasons -averaging 20 points a game and leading the league in assists- including an MVP performance at the 2005 Turkish League All-Star Game. Next, El-Amin signed in Ukraine where he led Mariupol of the Ukrainian Basketball Superleage to the 2006 Championship, earning both regular season and playoff MVP honors. Following stints in Turkey and Lithuania, El-Amin won his most recent title in 2011, with Zagreb of the Croatian A-League.
Goettingen’s bold move has paid immediate dividends as El-Amin has led the club to a #10 ranking in their first season back in the BBL(first tier German league, think Niels Giffey) after winning the German ProA title last season (second tier, think Enosch Wolf). Goettingen has 16 regular season games remaining to move up to #8, the last playoff berth. The club took a step in the right direction this afternoon, defeating #5 EWE Baskets behind 15 points/3 assists from El-Amin.
His performance was worthy of an appearance in the BBL “Tweet of the Day”, comparing El-Amin to 2004 German Footballer of the Year Ailton, who like El-Amin was small and chubby but quick (thank you Enosch for the explanation).
After a rough 36 point loss at the hands of Giffey’s ALBA Berlin (see above photo) to start the year, El-Amin has put together quite the season, averaging 14 points per game in 29 minutes with his 5.9 assists good for fourth in the BBL. Since highlights from today’s game are not yet available, here are top plays from a game back in December where El-Amin dropped 28 points en route to an upset of #4 Ratiopharm.
Although nearly 16 years removed from his Storrs days, El-Amin still bleeds blue. In fact, this past summer I watched him hit the game-winner in the Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic at Mohegan Sun. At the 2:10 mark of the interview below, El-Amin talks about his love for UConn and the disbandment of the Big East Conference.
“I represent UConn everywhere I go, I’m a Husky for life.”
Andre Drummond made two huge plays in the waning seconds of Friday night’s game against the Indiana Pacers. First, deadlocked at 96-96 with :24 seconds remaining, Drummond coaxed Pacers All-Star big man Roy Hibbert into an offensive foul. Then, on the ensuing possession, Drummond followed a Brandon Jennings’ miss for his 16 point on his 16 rebound, giving the Pistons 10 wins in their last 12 games.
I have not been shy in proclaiming Drummond a Hall of Famer, barring injury. His athleticism is so freakish, he could completely redefine the center position in the NBA, similarly to how LeBron James redefined the small forward. In just his third season, at a mere 21 years old, Drummond is averaging roughly 12 points, 13 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. To average these numbers, with a game so raw he barely has a viable post move or sense of defensive positioning, is a scary thought for Eastern Conference opponents.
Though impossible to imagine at this point in time, Drummond’s athleticism will eventually fade. His ultimate reputation will be decided by technique, development and execution. As SI.com’s Rob Mahoney puts it in his article linked below: “He will always appear capable of more, because in some sense he’s capable of almost anything.”
Ladies and gentlemen, watch out for Andre Drummond.
It wasn’t pretty, but we won. Most importantly, we won how we need to win big games- clutch free throws, production from role players and the emergence of the X-Factor at just the right time. It would have been easy to throw in the towel after Florida’s last run with 12 minutes remaining. The Huskies, coming off a disappointing home loss to Temple, could not seem to buy a basket or get a call. The turning point in the game belongs to Ryan Boatright on a play straight out of the Book of Kemba. Down 52-41 with 10:30 remaining, Boatright missed short on a deep three. However, instead of admiring his shot, he crashed with a vengeance and came up with his own miss, finding Calhoun for a triple that sparked an 11-4 run. That is exactly the type of inspiring effort that can change the course of a game, as it did this afternoon.
This is the most important takeaway from today’s game. We simply will not win big games without knocking down clutch free throws. There is no way around it. Our last three losses- Temple, Duke and Yale- saw FT%’s of 42%, 54%, and 67% respectively. Today, we shot a 2014-esque 85% including a perfect 6-6 in the final minute. I’m not going to lie, when Boatright stepped to the line up 61-59 with 4 seconds remaining, visions of Texas and Yale danced in my head. This time though, he made them count in a difficult environment on the road. We need this trend to continue if we want to win big games…
…which looking at the schedule is basically just Cincinnati (Woo AAC!).
The puzzle is finally starting to piece itself together. Boatright, the clear leader, did a little bit of everything with 14 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists- numbers at this point we can expect to be a given. What has not been a given, is where we get the remaining production. Tonight, it came from two unexpected sources – Omar Calhoun (12 points) and Terrence Samuel (10 points)- while Daniel Hamilton struggled to find his shot. Also, Amida Brimah contributed 10 rebounds and 2 blocks, showing the length and mobility on the defensive end that has scouts drooling. As I said last year time and time again, it doesn’t matter who we get it from as long as we get it.
Rodney Purvis. Yes, he had a few big games against mediocre teams but today was his true coming out party. With just 2 points in the first half, Purvis caught fire in the second knocking down both the three to give us our first lead as well as the three to put us up for good. Purvis needs to be our #2. It can’t be Daniel Hamilton- it needs to be Purvis. Hamilton is talented but he is young and has been plagued by costly late game turnovers. Purvis needs to step up as the reliable number two option like Deandre was to Shabazz and J-Lamb/A.O. were to Kemba. The reduced late game pressure will serve both Hamilton and fans well.
Again, it wasn’t pretty and we have much to work on. There were still plenty of late game defensive lapses and communication issues that left me scratching my head. However, we won the way we will need to win big games and that is a HUGE step in the right direction.
The season is still young. We play in a weak conference and host the conference tournament aka the automatic bid will always be a possibility regardless of record. It doesn’t matter how we played in December, how we play in January or how we will play in February, all that matters is how we play in March.
Tonight, UConn battles #2 Duke at the Izod Center in the latest chapter of a storied rivalry. The Devils in Blue hold a slight 5-4 series edge although UConn’s victories have come on a much bigger stage (1999 Championship/ 2004 Final Four). Duke, featuring likely 2015 #1 overall pick Jahlil Okafor, enter tonight’s match-up at 9-0, having won all nine games by double digits. UConn, at 4-3, comes off a blowout win over Coppin State where sophomore center Amida Brimah exploded for 40 points and 12 rebounds. Thoughts on what UConn needs to do to compete:
First, set your timer to 4:54 and hit start…
Build off Coppin State
Coppin State was a step in the right direction for the Huskies. UConn made it a priority to get the ball inside and it paid dividends with Brimah/Facey combining for 65/106 points (who suggested that). Through getting the bigs involved we relied less on the three ball and more on the free throw (18 3PA vs 33 FTA). Duke is known for great team defense and will pack it in when we drive- leaving the three open. WE MUST NOT SETTLE FOR 3’S. We don’t have the shooters to beat Duke on the outside and must continue to move the ball until we find an opening to attack (see pick and roll below).
Another thing to look for is how Boatright reacts to the defense collapsing. Will he force shots like he has done in the past? Or, will he play like a true point guard and move the ball?
Brimah will certainly have his hands full tonight against freshman big man Jahlil Okafor (18 points/9 rebounds on the year). Depending on the flow of the game, we may need to double Okafor at times to prevent Brimah from getting in foul trouble. Another way we can take heat off Brimah is by limiting entry passes. If our pesky guards can put pressure on Duke up front, that will severely limit their ability to find Okafor down low. The less touches- the better.
Offensively, Brimah does not need to score for us to win. Although I predicted tonight to be his breakout game, realistically we need Brimah to defend, box out and run the floor making Okafor work in transition. However, Brimah scoring is a good sign because much of his offense is created for him (think Hamilton/Boatright lobs). If Brimah/Facey are scoring that means our guards are penetrating and dishing which will free up the outside shot.
The pick and roll will be huge for us tonight as we do not have a big man who can challenge Okafor one-on-one. The bigs need to set solid screens and make Okafor defend the pick and roll. We have the athletic guards to challenge Okafor at the rim and get him in foul trouble (see X-factor). If Okafor picks up a quick 2, tonight becomes a whole different game. Looking back at Duke’s closest game (Wisconsin), Okafor battled foul trouble and put up a human 13/6. We can live with that. The 25/20 he put up in his most recent game against Elon? That will hurt us. Our guards need to attack the rim off the pick and roll and put Okafor in a position where he cannot beat us- the bench.
Rodney Purvis. I am so tired of the “Ferrari out of the garage” reference because you know what- HE IS STILL IN THE GARAGE. I have yet to see Purvis attack the defense – either in transition or half court- the way he did at NC State. Every UConn star has their coming out party on a big stage- what bigger stage than UConn-Duke? If Purvis can get out and make some plays in transition he will ignite the pro-UConn crowd in the building, creating a Garden-esque atmosphere a la last March.
Has your timer gone off yet? If it has, that is the amount of time Duke has trailed all season. 4 minutes and 54 seconds. Yes, we started moving in the right direction against Coppin State but if it doesn’t work against Duke, don’t panic, right now they may just be the better team. However, that’s not to say we won’t be the better team when it counts.
For good measure let’s end with One Shining Moment from 1999: