Where's UConn's Love?

By Josh Herwitt - January 29, 2008

Every week we get the pleasure here at CSTV.com of examining and debating the new set of rankings that come out every Monday, and while I haven't discussed the previous polls much this season, this week's AP Top 25 is arguably missing one team that's deserving of a ranking.

But there's a good chance UConn will be in next week's after No. 21 Saint Mary's (CA) fell at San Diego, 63-55, Monday night in West Coast Conference play.

The Huskies, who stand at No. 27 in this week's AP poll, have rattled off four straight wins, including two over Top 15 teams in the past 10 days.

It started with an impressive 16-point win over then-No. 13 Marquette in Storrs and continued at Cincinnati in a 84-83 squeaker over the Bearcats.

And despite missing out on an opportunity to score season-defining wins over Memphis at the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic in the Big Apple and Gonzaga at The Hartford Hall of Fame Showcase in Beantown, UConn made a statement last Saturday in Bloomington, Ind., with a season-changing win over then-No. 7 Indiana and star freshman Eric Gordon, who was limited to 14 points.

Yet what was more impressive was the fact that sophomore guards Jerome Dyson, UConn's second-leadings scorer, and Doug Wiggins were both suspended for the game and did not travel with the team to the game against Indiana.

The Hoosiers, in the meantime, were out-rebounded by a 44-28 margin and held to just 37.1 percent (23-of-62) from the field in the loss, which marked Indiana's first in 13 games and first at Assembly Hall in 29 outings.

So with less than 48 hours to get ready to return to conference play against an improved and healthy Louisville squad at the XL Center in Hartford, Calhoun still wasn't sure what kind of team he had in being short-handed for Monday's big tilt with the Cardinals.

Forty minutes later, though, he found out that he does have that team that he thought he had at the beginning of the season.

"These guys, the character they displayed makes me proud that they wear the uniform that says 'Connecticut' on it," he said after his team took down Louisville, 69-67, in front of 15,120. "I'm exceptionally proud of them. I couldn't be more proud of what they're doing."

Under Calhoun's direction, A.J. Price's leadership and Hasheen Thabeet's rapid development, the Huskies are a force to be reckoned with in the always competitive Big East, where road wins are cherished and home wins are a requirement for NCAA Tournament standing.

"When you feel that pride in your chest, when you feel that a guy is giving you everything he possibly can give you, when you see the emergence of A.J. Price as a leader on and off the court," Calhoun remarked. "Price is starting to prove that he's one of the best guards in the country."

Price has certainly been that guy for Calhoun's still rather young yet talented team, which has propelled itself near the top of the Big East standings in a current tie for third place.

But still, Calhoun, having done it for 35 years now, understands that there's a long road ahead, and the druthers of the Big East can wear on any team, short-handed or not.

And that's all the more reason why the Huskies will need to continue the momentum that they're carrying now through the month of February and into the month of March, particularly this Saturday when No. 18 Pittsburgh travels to Hartford for a nationally-televised game.

"This is a very fragile team," the Hall of Fame coach maintained. "I've said that before, [but we're] becoming less fragile certainly."

With Calhoun's patience and guidance, the Huskies are now starting to find themselves with the conference season in full swing, and you just never know when the same kind of magic from the 1998-99 and 2003-04 seasons could make its return to Storrs again.

Posted by Josh Herwitt at 04:24 PM on January 29, 2008

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