Jim Calhoun: “We are on to the Sweet 16 to face a real, real good San Diego State team.”
March 23, 2011 – 10:45 am by timgunter
Connecticut and San Diego State open up the round of 16 play in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, with each looking for a win and a berth into the Elite 8 of the West Region. The Huskies are coming off of a solid victory against Big East conference foe, Cincinnati, and they continue to piggyback off the play of guard Kemba Walker, who scored 33 points in the victory over the Bearcats. It has been a rough go for most of the 11 Big East teams in the tournament, which started with a 11 but dwindled down to two after many failed to get out of their first or second round games. The Aztecs have a Big East look to them with lots of athletic, physical players in the 6’5’’ to 6’9’’ range, and are similar to that of Cincinnati with more talent. Needless to say, UConn is going to have their hands full but they are on a run like no other, winning seven games in a row, five of those on consecutive days.
Jim Calhoun joined WFAN in New York to talk about the team playing well the first two games of the tournament, the notion that the game against San Diego State is going to be a fast-paced game, and if he is surprised the way the Big East teams did so poorly this year in the tournament.
On the team playing well the first two games of the tournament:
“Yeah we have and I thought the biggest thing everybody is talking about is being fatigued and etc. We jumped out against Bucknell and never gave them a chance, quite frankly, even in the basketball game. They are a good team and then against Cincinnati we led by eight at halftime but then let up a little bit. Sometimes those 20 minute halftimes can do that to you. Regardless we did let up and then we came back and Kemba took the game over as he has so many times this year, kids played great defense down the stretch. They only scored one out of the last eight times they had the basketball. We are on to the Sweet 16 to face a real, real good San Diego State team.”
On the notion that the game against San Diego State is going to be a fast-paced game:
“Well the best thing with us is getting up and down the floor. When you get Jeremy Lamb and some of our other kids, obviously, Kemba, we are very good in the open court, we need space… In the Big East quite frankly we did not get into space and there are games with Cincinnati where it is a little bit more of a grind but that is only because they know us so well. You are 100% right. We need to get into some space and we are going to try defensively to do a little something different, at times we should get into our pocket to try to get them not necessarily in space but to try to do something a little different against them.”
How they are going to have their hands full with SDSU:
“All you have to do is look at their players. When it is all said and done and you take away the names sometimes on the front of our jerseys and you see guys get up and down, you see guys playing above the rim, you see guys making incredible athletic plays then you know they can be anybody. Steve Fisher has been around a little bit, national championship at Michigan, he had a couple of pretty good players in the Fab Five and this reminds me of, I will be very honest with you, maybe an older-type St. John’s team, kind of like some Walter Berry-type players and that type of thing with the big athletes running. You are 100% right, no reason why they can’t beat anybody. I think all four teams can win.”
If he is surprised the way the Big East teams did so poorly this year in the tournament:
“Well not Cincinnati when you saw matching up two league opponents, I was a little surprised, quite frankly, on the Syracuse game. Marquette just played so hungry, they played so hard. A couple of the other ones, I mean I never saw anything quite like the Pitt game, you got I think both calls were justified…You had to call them there is no question. The bottom line is that I still believe in our league and I don’t think that single games make a difference. The reason we got the notoriety we did, St. John’s absolutely clocks Duke, and they go right through the rest of the schedule. You can’t take that away and say they are not doing well in the tournament. There are some disappointments, I am sure, no more than the kids and the coaches on this team, but if you took the quality of play, the consistency over the season, our league beat an awful lot of good people along the way, and I think Purdue, we beat a lot of good people. Bottom line is, I don’t think we have to apologize for the way we are playing. We are just happy we are surviving ourselves, we would like to have some of our neighborhood buddies with us but they are not, so we play on.”
What is the key to get through the Regional weekend:
“You come out in the first week and I always think we have lost one game in 17 tries in the first round, and it is very important for us to play like a regular weekend, a Saturday-Monday game, like a big Monday… I should not call it a flat period but this game particularly, you know when you get 40 minutes away from a Final Four you kind of know what the stakes are, the kids know what they stakes are, but this game is a little different. You are not quite there yet. You have got another game to play and you got to try to make it a regular game as best as you can and that is what we are trying to do. All of our activities are that way, etc., and we are just trying to make it a regular game… One of the reasons I have always wanted to be out west or someplace else, better chance we can actually make it like a regular game.”
UConn Head Coach Jim Calhoun previews the Sweet 16
Tags: Aztecs, Big East, Connecticut, Connecticut Huskies, NCAA Tournament, round of 16, San Diego State University, SDSU, Sweet 16, UConn, West bracket