JOE D’S NOTEBOOK

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SUNDAY CUP O’ JOE- MONDAY EDITION: A day late but ready to go, here are some things on my mind.

For 30 minutes yesterday, the UConn men’s basketball team looked like they were running in quicksand against Rutgers. Tied at 32 with 10 minutes to go, the Huskies were looking at the type of loss that would have erased many of the good vibes from earlier this season. But they didn’t lose. Instead, they made shots, got stops, grabbed rebounds and took away a 66-54 win to get back to 500 in the BigEast.

It was a terrific day for Shabazz Napier. He earned a great deal of praise from Kevin Ollie and Glen Miller during the post  game. It wasn’t just that he scored 19 points, it was the way that he played. If his left shoulder was bother him, he didn’t show it. Shabazz played thru the pain and was the leader that UConn needs him to be Without his leadership, this edition of the Huskies is in trouble. Sunday, Shabazz played that way.

Also,kudos to Niels Giffey. He didn’t have spectacular numbers but he played good defense, and was a stabilizing factor. Giffey is caught between a rock and a hard place. He isn’t as athletic as Omar Calhoun or DeAndre Daniels, the two players he takes time away from. But UConn is a more balanced team when he is in the game and playing well.

So the Huskies start this five game stretch of “winnable” games with a win. I have to laugh at people who tell me UConn should go 5-0 during this stretch. Really? Should go?. Maybe you could say that about other UConn teams, not this one. And when has a game at Providence ever been easy. Or at St.John’s (now 5-3 and tied for 3rd in the league). This UConn team has to scrap and fight and claw for every win. So “winnable” games is as laughable as “7 day forecast”.

And a word about Rutgers, soon to be headed off to the Big 10. Let’s look at the Scarlet Knights pedigree. In their 18th year in the Big East, they have NEVER had a winning season. They have had TWO years when they reached 500. They have had ONE 1st team All Big East player. They are LAST in the league in home attendance.They have the WORST basketball facility in the conference  And their football program has NEVER been to a BCS bowl. The State University of New Jersey. There are the facts.

Big East commissioner Mike Aresco was the guest speaker at the monthly Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce breakfast, a terrific event put on by Chairman of the UConn Board of Trustees and chamber president Larry McHugh .  Aresco preached patience to the crowd and praised the work done of UConn president Susan Herbst in trying to stabilize the conference. But he also confirmed that the men won’t be allowed in the Big East Tournament this year because they are ineligible for the NCAA tournament. In this last year of the Big East tournament with Syracuse and Pittsburgh, it would have been nice if the conference presidents had rescinded their earlier decision. Fat chance. Schools that have been irrelevant in college basketball for the last 15 years couldn’t wait to get the chance to stick it to UConn.  Good luck to the  Catholic 7, some of  you won’t be relevant there either.

The UConn women continue to roll with everyone anticipating the February 18th showdown with defending national champion Baylor. What is so impressive about this edition of the Huskies is their balance. On any night, one of several players can lead the way. And watch the senior season of Kelly Faris has been very, very enjoyable.

Had the chance to sit down with new football offensive coordinator T.J.Weist last Friday for SportsTalk. Impressed how the gentleman carries himself and the quiet confidence he has about his new position. He learned offensive at the foot of the legendary Homer Smith. That, in and of itself, is a pretty good pedigree.

When I drive by the UConn Baseball/Pitching Facility, there are always a handful of cars on hand. That means springtime can’t be far behind and it also means that Jim Penders players are anxious to get the season underway.

The women play Villanova on Tuesday and the men are at Providence on Thursday. Both games hit the air at 6:30. Hope you can join us.

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