The late February/early March monster weekend tussle with UConn on CBS has become a bit of an annual tradition.
--Spread check: Connecticut by 4.5.
--As if catching the Huskies while they're playing their best basketball of the season wasn't a bad enough break, Louisville will walk into Gampel Pavilion (where UConn is 8-0 this season) on Connecticut's Senior Day.
--One of the seniors being honored is Jerome Dyson, whose Husky career has included leading the team in scoring as a freshman, being suspended for failing a drug test as a sophomore and missing UConn's Final Four run of a year ago because of a knee injury.
"It's been crazy," Dyson said. "Everything that has happened, I never could have envisioned."
Dyson, a political science major who is on track to graduate in May, comes into Sunday's game without having taken part in a Big East tournament victory or an NCAA Tournament victory. He is also the best overall player on a team that has injected hope into its season with a three-game winning streak.
"It's been a blessing in disguise, everything that has happened to me," Dyson said. "A lot of ups and downs throughout the four years, so there will be a lot of emotions [Sunday]. It's going to be a must-win game for me. I'm going to give everything I've got knowing there won't ever be another game here at Gampel."
--Dyson might be Connecticut's best overall player, but it has been the play of sophomore point guard Kemba Walker that has ignited the Huskies during their current three-game winning streak.
"Kemba Walker is one of the best point guards in the country, I don’t have any question in my mind about that," Calhoun said. "It’s a joy for me to coach him and watch him play."He led the Huskies in scoring with a career-high 29 points in last week’s upset over then-No. 3 Villanova and paced the team with 21 in Monday’s win over No. 7 West Virginia.
In the midst of the Huskies three-game winning streak, the sophomore floor general has played his best basketball of the season. Walker is averaging 22 points per game, is shooting 86 percent from the charity stripe (31-of-36) and has limited himself to only seven turnovers during the stretch.
The Bronx, N.Y. native has now surpassed the 20-point plateau eight times in his Connecticut career. UConn is a perfect 8-for-8 in those games.
--While the emotion of Senior Day is always difficult to overcome, the Huskies understand that they need a win over Louisville in order to ensure that this actually will be their final home game.
They understand that they can’t let the emotion linger. While they will surely miss playing in Gampel, the only way they will return to play here is if they’re playing in the NIT, and none of them want that. But with the Huskies toeing the line between the NIT and their desired destination, the NCAA, the seniors understand this is no time to let emotions take over the day.
"Everybody knows that," Edwards said. "Everybody has a sense of urgency now. We can’t really have any slip-ups or the (NCAA) tournament chances could be real slim. Everybody’s confident for these last three games because we realize now how well we can play.
"Everybody knows the possibilities we have. If we go out and play the way we have been, we’ll be all right."
--This year's Husky senior class (they're not fat) has been as controversial as any to come through the program.
"It’s going to be very emotional," said Robinson. "I’ve been here for four years, it’ll be a scary feeling. It’s nothing like high school, I’m in college now. I hope I’m not going to end up crying."
The usually stoic Dyson thinks he’ll be able to contain the tears.
"It’s just hard to put it into words," said Dyson. "I’ve been through a lot here these past four years."
All three players have.
"I’m kind of glad I’ve gone through everything I’ve gone through, the trials and tribulations," said Edwards. "It’s made me better as a person and a player. I wish I could have maybe got some more playing time or been more successful, but I’m glad everything turned out the way it did."
--AnVillen highlights from the first UConn win:
--Louisville's lack of athleticism and willingness to play defense means that it has to force turnovers and shoot the ball remarkably well in order to win games.
This Louisville team is one of his weakest in the nine seasons Coach Rick Pitino has been on campus. He will tell anyone.
But for Pitino, there is an easy remedy to that: making shots.
“We’ve got to execute, we’ve got to keep our turnovers down,” Pitino said Friday. “We’ve got to confuse our opponent with multiple defenses because we don’t force the turnovers like we have in the past. So we’re a different basketball team this year, and the guys are doing fairly well at it, because we don’t have the defensive athleticism that we have in the past.”