Over at our UConn counterpart, http://www.theuconnblog.com/ Andrew Porter invited us to partake in a Q&A in anticipation of the UConn / SHU tilt tonight. Additionally, you'll find my response to their questions on their page, should you be interested in venturing over to their site. So, without further ado, here are the questions we asked along with his responses:
1. With Kemba gone, who is your team leader?
If you're looking for a vocal leader and floor general type the answer is point guard and co-captain Shabazz Napier. It's not really accurate to just list one leader though, Kemba was the heart and soul of last year's team and he's irreplaceable, along with Napier, Jeremy Lamb has also stepped into Kemba's shoes -- not vocally -- but on the court he's the new go-to scorer and the one opposing defenses have to key on.
2. Tempo of the UCONN offense, what are they running as their base defense?
UConn is at its best when they're running and it can seem like they're able to score in transition with little to no effort. However, they have had problems trying to run a halfcourt offense (they often seem to have only two plays: an alley-oop to Andre Drummond or a contested three). It feels like they get out to a big lead, decide to slow the pace down and immediately let the other team back into the game.
The Huskies play almost exclusively man-to-man and try to use their height and length to smother opponents. They'll occasionally press, but they don't have enough backcourt depth to do it consistently.
3. SHU's Herb Pope has been a monster on the boards and fillin' it up, who will draw Pope assignment?
Pope will be covered by Drummond, who made a bit of news today when he said he didn't know who Pope was. The beat writers covering the team seem to think that comment was meant innocently, but I'm sure Pope will try to leave an impression. Still, he'll have his hands full. Drummond is a 6'11", 275 lb. freak of nature, who is going to be one of, if not the top pick in next year's NBA draft. He's good on the boards, can score at will, has developed a nice taste for shot blocking and dunks like he's trying to take the rim off the basket.
Pope will be by far the best opponent he's faced, so I'm interested to see the matchup between Drummond's raw physicality and Pope's experience.
4. How many players are in the Huskies rotation?
Eight or nine, but it's a little tougher than usual to answer that question since, sophomore forward Roscoe Smith has a hurt wrist. He's expected to play, but he won't get starters minutes and there is a good chance German import Niels Giffey will see decent court time as a result. There is a lot of front court depth -- Drummond will be paired with both of Tyler Olander and Alex Oriakhi, and Smith and DeAndre Daniels split minutes at the wing. UConn only uses three guards, Napier, Lamb and Boatright, but they often all play at the same time, and when they do UConn's offense might be at its best.
5. Prediction on outcome?
I'm very nervous about this game. The Huskies have been without Jim Calhoun for more than a week now, and while associate head coach George Blaney is a fine substitute, the extended absence doesn't make me feel comfortable. More than that though, I worry because UConn has a lot of very young talent. The three freshman in the rotation will be playing in their second-ever road game (and the first one was at South Florida, so it hardly counts). They also make the type of mistakes you'd expect a young team to make -- they let opponents hang around for too long, have low-intensity stretches and make some poor decisions -- and I worry that the senior leadership of Seton Hall might be able to capitalize on that.
In the end I think UConn's talent probably pulls it out, but it'll be close and I would not be surprised to see the Pirates pull the upset. I'll guess at a 72-67 score, and note that the higher scoring the game is, the better it bodes for UConn.