Blaney Finds New Voice

Who says an old coach can't learn new tricks? After so many years as a basketball coach, George Blaney may have discovered a new and useful tool during halftime of Connecticut's 80-54 victory over DePaul Wednesday night.

UCONN NOTEBOOK

According to the UConn players, Blaney was yelling, stomping and even punched the chalkboard in the team locker room. They were surprised – and with good reason. Blaney isn't known for emotional outbursts. But the Huskies responded with a solid second half and Blaney said Thursday that it might have been "a good sign."

"I think I outdid Jim [Calhoun] last night as far as yelling," Blaney said on the weekly Big East men's basketball coaches' teleconference call.

Calhoun won't return to coaching the Huskies until Feb. 25 at the earliest. UConn announced Wednesday that Calhoun's medical leave has been extended through next Monday's game at Villanova. Wednesday night's game against DePaul was the fourth he has missed as he receives treatment for spinal stenosis. In addition to the Villanova game, Calhoun will also miss Saturday's game against Marquette.

That means Blaney will continue to be in charge of the team as the season winds down toward the Big East tournament. Blaney, 72, was extremely animated on the sideline during UConn's victory over DePaul and admitted he was worn out after the game.

"Well, I'm hoping that I live," Blaney said after the game. "If I work as hard as I worked tonight, I'm not so sure. I would love to have him back [next week]. I want him to take care of his back first and get to a place, in his mind, that he feels comfortable enough to coach."

In a release, UConn said Calhoun has been through "a number of evaluations" as doctors attempt to diagnose the specific cause of his lower back discomfort. Those doctors are trying to determine the best course of treatment.

"I am happy that we seem to have located the problem and I am currently moving forward with treatment," Calhoun said. "We have to give that treatment time to see whether or not it is effective.

"I'm hoping by the middle of next week, we will have a much clearer picture of where we are and when I can look forward to getting back to doing what I do."

After the Villanova game, only three regular season games remain prior to the Big East tournament. UConn plays Syracuse on Feb. 25 (ESPN GameDay), at Providence (Feb. 28) and Pittsburgh (March 3).

Blaney said he usually talks to Calhoun twice a day.

"His voice was great [before the game Wednesday]; it was the best I've heard since he's been hurt," Blaney said. "You know him. He assimilates all information. Once he assimilates all that information, he's the clearest guy that I know and can go, here's what we do: one, two, three. And that's in basketball and that's in life. I've never seen anybody able to break things down as quickly as he does. This one took longer than I've ever seen before because backs are so screwed up."

HATHAWAY: MORE TRANSPARENCY

If you happen to enjoy the concept of bracketology, you will be interested in this news. The NCAA is opening up and sharing more of the data used by the Division I men's basketball committee.

The RPI information has been there for a long time. Now you can get the RPI, the nitty gritty sheets that the committee looks at every day – and my favorite, the teams sheets that tell you everything you want to know about your school. A few years ago, I participated in a mock selection event in Indianapolis at the NCAA offices. I understand the process so much better and I thought the team sheets were the most valuable tool provided.

Just go to www.ncaa.com/selection-101

Also go to the Connecticut Home page here at UConnPlaybook.com and check out the transcript of the media's first call with former UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway, serving this year as chairman of the basketball committee.

I asked Hathaway about the NCAA suspensions served by Ryan Boatright and Calhoun, in addition to the time Calhoun has missed with his spinal stenosis. I asked how the committee would evaluate those situations.

Here's Hathaway's reply: "One of the things I made very clear and up front to everybody on the committee, was that in no way, shape or form would I comment on the University of Connecticut. I've recused myself obviously from all of those conversations for obvious reasons.

"So let me say this: In the past we have dealt with player suspensions and we have dealt with coaches' suspensions. We have dealt with a wide range of situations like this. The bottom line is the committee is aware of player and coach availability. Each of the 10 members will factor that into their thinking. They will decide how to weigh that in their thought process.

"But, quite frankly, at the end of the day, it's who did you play, where did you play them and how did you do."

I followed that up with this question: Is it very similar to the way you would handle an injury though; correct?

"It is. It is," Hathaway said. "And again, we had a coach suspension last year. We had coach suspensions last year; we had injury situations. We've had injury situations at the end of the regular season where we had to make determinations as we seeded for the tournament. So the bottom line is that we view the availability to compete. We view how those teams have performed during the regular season. And, quite frankly, it's pretty cut and dry that we look at how they performed. Each committee member evaluates in their own way, and has to vote as they see fit."

By the way, UConn's losses last week to Louisville and Syracuse didn't hurt the Huskies one bit in the RPI. They stayed at 21, the same place they were the week before. And if you haven't heard, UConn's strength of schedule ranks first in the nation, through games of Feb. 13.

"Certainly committee members look at strength of schedule, and they look at non-conference strength of schedule, because that reinforces to what we talk about all the time to everybody we talk about this process, and that is who do you play and where do you play them. So certainly those are factors as we look at selection," Hathaway said.

UConn's non-conference SOS is ranked fifth.

HUSKIES OF HONOR

Former UConn stars Worthy Patterson and Bill Corley became the newest inductees to into the Huskies of Honor Wednesday night at halftime. Patterson, who hit the winning shot in 1954 when UConn upset Holy Cross at Worcester Auditorium, traveled with his family from Southern California for the ceremony. Corley, who still holds the single game scoring record of 51 points, died in 1999 but was represented by his family. There are now 20 men's basketball honorees in the Huskies of Honor. Word is that the next round of inductees will be more recent stars from the Jim Calhoun era. . . . Freshman center Andre Drummond got through the DePaul game with less pain than he anticipated. Drummond sprained his right ankle against Syracuse and needed help getting out of bed on Sunday. Drummond said he received three or four treatments a day from trainer James Doran. "I think so," Drummond said when asked if Doran has the magic touch. "I don't know what he did, but it feels a whole lot better." . . . Blaney on Saturday's opponent, Marquette: "Marquette is one of the tougher teams in the league. They play really strong defense and they attack both offensively and defensively. Whether they play their bigs or they don't, they're very physical."


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