Behind Enemy Lines: The Courant's Dom Amore

In order to get a different perspective on the Terps-UConn game this Friday at the Barclays Center, Terrapin Times spoke to UConn beat writer Dom Amore of the Hartford Courant. Here's what he had to say:

For the second straight year Maryland is opening its season at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Once again they'll be taking on a nationally-touted opponent -- this time the Connecticut Huskies on Friday at 6:30 p.m.

In order to get a different perspective on the game, Terrapin Times spoke to UConn beat writer Dom Amore of the Hartford Courant. Here's what he had to say:

Terrapin Times: A lot of Terps fans are looking forward to hearing how this coaches' luncheon goes on Friday with Jim Calhoun and Gary Williams, two guys who maybe don't have the best relationship (laughs). How do you see that going down and those two getting back together?

Dom Amore: There hasn't been a lot of talk about it, as Jim has been [away], so he hasn't been around. I don't know Gary Williams, but I know Jim pretty well. My guess is that they'll let bygones be bygones with what happened with Rudy Gay and all that. I think they'll probably joke about all this and make light of some of the past differences. They've both accomplished a lot in their careers and they're both retired now, so the wars are over. I have to believe they wouldn't have agreed to do this in the first place if there were animosity.

TT: And speaking of Rudy Gay and recruiting, does UConn still prioritize the D.C. and Baltimore areas? I know they've dipped in down here in the past with Gay, Jerome Dyson, Al Mouring and guys like that…

DA: Connecticut did just get a commitment recently from Sam Cassell Jr., a player they were on before he even committed to Maryland. So I do think that's an area they'll continue to look at. It's a rich area and they'd be foolish to ignore it. There are a lot of coaches they know down there and have connections with around the area, so they'll continue to have a presence there for sure. UConn is a national program and they're going to be everywhere where good players are.

TT: What kind of hype is there around this game, the season opener at the Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, two good teams going at it?

DA: [Fans] are really excited about the season, mainly because of the way last season ended. They had a better-than-expected team last year and everybody is back from the ineligibilities so people are excited about that. There are high expectations and the fans are eager to see what this team is made of.

And the football team has really been a disappointment at 0-7. There was a lot of talk early when this game was scheduled like, What are fans going to do with UConn [football] playing Louisville Friday night and the Maryland [basketball] game at the same time? Well, there's not much of a choice anymore (laughs). Fans are getting their tickets for the basketball game and not worrying so much about football.

TT: What do fans think about Maryland, and what's the thought on Mark Turgeon's program and what they bring to the table?

DA: Well I think any program from the ACC is going to carry a lot of weight for Connecticut. There's always been grumbling over the years that UConn didn't play a strong enough non-conference schedule, and obviously with the Big East having all those ranked teams, [UConn] made the [non-conference] schedule soft. But now they know in order to have their RPI where it needs to be they're going to have to play two to four heavyweights in the non-conference.

So the chance to play Maryland, a young team with a lot of excitement, that means a lot to the fans. Anytime UConn can play an ACC or Big Ten team, there's a lot of opportunity there for the team and a lot of interest. And these teams have played each other in the past, games in Cole, the NCAA tournament, and I think fans remember those games. All of those things make this game a must-watch for Connecticut fans.

TT: What are the major strengths of this UConn team, and where are the question marks?

DA: Well, UConn just played an exhibition against Southern, and the one thing that came out of that is the big men asserted themselves. Though [UConn was] out-rebounded in the game, that's kind of a superficial number considering they blocked 10-plus shots and had 61 points in the paint. So I think UConn is going to have more of an inside game than last year.

Obvious strengths though are UConn has great guards and experienced guards. Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright have been together a long time, and Omar Calhoun is a good player in his second year. There's just a lot of experience in skill, and that's obviously a big advantage in college basketball today. Not many major Division I schools have that kind of experience with guys leaving for the NBA and whatnot.

Up front was a big, big question mark last year. On paper it should be better this year just because they have more numbers and talented players led by Tyler Olander. But they don't have the experience, so we don't know how good they're going to be. We really don't know how well they're going to rebound or effective they're going to be on the offensive end.

TT: I know it's still early and it's hard to gauge in the preseason, but how do you see this game going down?

DA: I can see it being a pretty close game. I think the crowd will be mostly UConn but not totally. I can see it being 60-40 in UConn's favor, but it's close enough for Maryland folks to get on the Amtrak and get up to Connecticut fairly easily. So I think it's going to be a true neutral site game.

I would give UConn a little more of an advantage because of their experience. I think they're probably a little better prepared for this kind of game this early, because of what they went through last year with this kind of [early] game and getting ready for Michigan State. So I'd give them an experience edge a little bit, but at the same time, with Maryland getting settled in under Mark Turgeon, I'd expect they'd be more prepared as well.

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