JOE D’S NOTEBOOK March 7th
FRIDAY, 3/7/14: For whatever reason, Senior Night for the UConn Men hasn’t had the same emotional tug as it has for the Women. The main reason is probably that most of the time, the best men’s players leave before they become seniors, an option not available to the women.
But this year was totally different. Wednesday at Gampel, it was a chance for the fans to pay tribute to the three fourth year seniors who have been instrumental in guiding the program thru the rough season that was 12-13. And the fans paid tribute to Tyler Olander, Neils Giffey and Shabazz Napier. They thanked the trio with their cheers and applause and by packing Gampel. And kudos to Coach Kevin Ollie who started the three plus Lasan Kromah against Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights tried to spoil the night by being a much tougher adversary than most expected. But in the end, thanks o Napier and Giffey, UConn was able to escape with a 61-56 win. Shabazz was…Shabazz with 26 points while Niels saved the best night of his career for last (at least at home) by getting a career high 16. But it was far from perfect. RU got too many easy buckets. And for the 5th time in the last six games, UConn got out rebounded. Trends that must stop Saturday against Louisville.
And it is on to the KFC-Yum Center for the regular season finale. A building where UConn has played three of its worst games in recent years.Two losses to the Cardinals and the embarrassing blowout to Iowa State in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Louisville has had the upper hand on UConn recently winning 7 of the last 8 meetings, the long loss being the 2011 Big East Tournament Championship game. You do remember the Big East, of course . And Louisville has a lot to play for tomorrow. It is their Senior Day and the Cards can claim at least a share of the AAC Regular Season title. A Louisville win and Cincinnati loss gives the Cards the outright championship.
But UConn also has a lot to play for, still trying to improve their NCAA profile. And with a UConn win and SMU loss to Memphis, UConn would finish third in t he league and get Houston in the first round and not Memphis, at Memphis, in the final game of Thursday’s quarterfinals.
1:30 pre game tomorrow from the Ville. A reminder that the Women’s AAC Quarterfinal game will be heard on 96.5 TIC-FM.