Smith Center, Chapel Hill
5:00 p.m., ESPN (Mike Patrick and Brad Daugherty)
by Brett Ayers
Offensive Schemes- UConn is a team that traditionally plays a very loose, free flowing game offensively relying more upon spacing, movement of players and offensive rebounds to generate points. UConn is not the kind of team that will come out and run a bunch of plays at you, in fact you will be hard pressed to see them run more than two set plays in any one game. They try to drive the ball to the basket either kicking it out for a jumper or getting a shot themselves. They also are very stagnant off the ball. Okafor is very capable down low and Gordon is a scorer from everywhere.
Defensive Schemes- Facing UConn is much like facing Duke in many respects. They want to play that chest bumping, in your face, grab, hold, slap at the ball defense. They are susceptible to being picked with off the ball picks and they tend to react in an out of control manner once the ball is driven on them. Make no mistake about it though, they are very athletic and will get right into your grill. This team takes on the personality of its coach here more than anywhere else. Coach Calhoun is one fast talking, tough minded and plain all-out explosive northeasterner who's will to win is willingly absorbed by his teams.
Players to Watch:
Ben Gordon- A 6-2 guard who is very talented and will be one of the best guards that UNC faces all year long. Can shoot it, drive it, has the pull up, a very complete player in many ways. I would, depending upon who he guards, look to take it at him.
Emeka Okafor- 6-foot-9, strong as an ox and awfully nimble. Will rarely leave his feet on the entry to his man down low, but is susceptible to pump fakes from a driving player or even more so when the ball is dumped off to his man when he comes to help. But, beware, he gets off his feet awful quickly. Because of this though, like in the OU game, he tends to at times not play as good of positional defense on the low block as he should from the get go knowing he has the shot block in his arsenal. Do not sleep on him offensively, very, very capable and getting better every single game. Smart, smart young man with a very bright future in this game.
Tony Robertson- He is a kid who also can do a little of everything. Likes the drive and pull more than anything. Wants to be aggressive on the offensive end but if you give him space he will drill the three ball in your eye. Very tough kid, as are all the UConn players.
Background Location: Storrs, Conn. Conference: Big East Nickname: Huskies Colors: National Flag Blue and White Head Coach: Jim Calhoun (17th season) Career: 634-287 Probable Starting Lineup: Taliek Brown (6-1, G, Jr.) – 8.1 ppg, 6.8 apg Ben Gordon (6-2, G, So.) – 21.8 ppg, 49% 3pt, 4.2 apg Denham Brown (6-5, F, Fr.) – 8.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg Hilton Armstrong (6-10, F, Fr.) – 3.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg Emeka Okafor (6-9, C, So.) – 16.3 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 4.9 bpg Key Reserves: Tony Robertson (6-2, G, Sr.) – 11.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg Rashad Anderson (6-5, G, Fr.) – 6.4 ppg, 39% 3pt Mike Hayes (6-8, F, Sr.) – 2.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg Shannon Tooles (6-5, F, Jr.) – 2.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg
Emeka Okafor ... Ben Gordon
Taliek Brown ... Tony Robertson
Carolina (10-5, 2-1 ACC) will face a UConn squad (11-1, 2-0 Big East) that beat the Tar Heels, 86-54, last season in Storrs, Conn. UNC is coming off a 68-66 home win over Clemson, while the Huskies beat Virginia Tech, 83-65, in Hartford, Conn., on Tuesday night.
Carolina leads the all-time series against Connecticut, 2-1. Saturday's game will be the second in the series to be played in Chapel Hill (UNC beat UConn 79-64 in 1990-91).
Last season, Caron Butler scored 29 points, 19 in the first half, to lead Connecticut to an 86-54 win over the Tar Heels in Storrs, Conn. Carolina played without Jason Capel, who was out with a concussion. UNC led 11-2 five minutes into the game, but the Huskies ended the first half on a 22-6 run and led by 18 at halftime.
North Carolina has played the fourth-toughest schedule in the nation, according to schedule strength ratings by the Collegiate Basketball News RPI rankings (through games of Jan. 12).
Georgia has played the toughest schedule, followed by Miami (Ohio), Stanford, Carolina and Arkansas in the top five. Ranked sixth-tenth are Arizona, Wofford, Michigan State, Saint Louis and St. Bonaventure.
Other ACC teams listed include: Duke (12th), Virginia (55th), Maryland (58th), Georgia Tech (80th), Florida State (81st), NC State (205th), Wake Forest (209th) and Clemson (221st).
The Tar Heels are one win away from becoming the second team in NCAA history to compile 1,800 victories. Carolina now has an all-time record of 1,799-655. The Tar Heels are just one win away from becoming the second school in NCAA history to reach 1,800 victories (joining Kentucky). Carolina also has 499 regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference wins, needing just one victory to become the first school in the ACC to reach 500 wins.
(Photos courtesy the AP. UNC Athletic Communications contributed to this report.)