College Hoops Monday: Your Commentary
In terms of NCAA Tournament importance there's really only one game you need to watch on Monday night. UConn hosts West Virginia with the opportunity to pick up one more resume-building victory at their fingertips. Just one week ago Jim Calhoun's team was given up for dead by many as a result of their loss to Cincinnati, a performance that Coach Calhoun described as "embarrassing". Few people gave them a shot to beat the Wildcats in Philadelphia but behind an outstanding performance from Kemba Walker the Huskies knocked off the Wildcats to resuscitate their NCAA Tournament hopes. Saturday brought about a workmanline victory at Rutgers, a game that while winning doesn't mean much a loss would have been catastrophic.
West Virginia has a lot riding on this game despite the fact that they'll be in next month's NCAA Tournament. The top four teams in the Big East standings receive a double-bye in the upcoming Big East Tournament and while two of the top four seeds (UConn and Pittsburgh) lost last year in the quarters most tend to prefer the extra rest going into the season's final weeks. Forwards Da'Sean Butler, Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones all have the ability to score as well as punish opponents on the offensive boards; with the Huskies not being the same caliber of rebounding team as in years past this is an area where the Mountaineers could take control of the game on the road.
Look for Bob Huggins' squad to employ quite a bit of zone, either in the form of their 1-3-1 or their "point drop", to get the Big East's worst three-point shooting team to fire away from behind the arc. But UConn has done a solid job against zones of late, most recently handling Rutgers' 2-3 and nearly knocking off Syracuse by working the ball around and finding the gaps. This is where Walker and Jerome Dyson come into play; they're going to have to penetrate WVU's defense as well as knock down a few perimeter shots in order to make the Mountaineers play. And if they can also rebound with the likes of Gavin Edwards and Alex Oriakhi they will have a shot at home.
7p ESPN West Virginia at Connecticut
7p ESPNU South Carolina State at Norfolk State
9p ESPN Oklahoma at Kansas
9p ESPNU Alcorn State at Alabama A&M
7:30p Morgan St at Maryland-Eastern Shore
8:30p Texas Southern at Arkansas-Pine Bluff
8:30p Prairie View A&M at Mississippi Valley St
Connecticut over West Virginia: The XL Center in Hartford is a far less hostile environment for visitors that Gampel Pavilion on campus, which makes a West Virginia win a definite possibility. But unlike the UConn team that went through losses to Providence and Marquette you get the feeling that they finally understand "what time it is". Dyson and Stanley Robinson lead the way in a five-point Husky victory.