Tag:Kemba Walker
Posted on: February 7, 2012 10:10 am
Edited on: February 7, 2012 10:26 am
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UConn may look it, but Huskies not dead yet

It's hard to figure that UConn could be this flat and uninspiring. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Jeff Goodman

UConn looks like a dead team -- and I know dead teams when I see them. 

I swear I saw one last March 5. That was Senior Night in Storrs, when Kemba Walker went through the festivities despite being a junior, when the Huskies couldn't beat a Notre Dame team without its best player on the floor for the final 8 minutes, 29 seconds. 

The Irish led, 60-52, when Big East Player of the Year Ben Hansbrough went to the sidelines with his fifth foul. UConn regained the lead less than three minutes later, but the Huskies couldn't hold on for the win. The loss dropped Jim Calhoun's team to 9-9 in Big East play. 

That sure looked like a dead team. Dead and buried. At least that's what everyone thought. 

It was like a morgue in that locker room after the game. That was UConn's fourth loss in the past five games and every head on that team was down. No one had any answers, least of all Walker. 

"No clue," Walker said as he shook his head on that day when I asked him what was wrong. "I have no idea." 

Then came the magical, the unlikeliest of runs that started with five wins in five consecutive days to win the Big East tournament and concluded with six more to claim the national title. 

Do I think it will happen again with this team, which was obliterated in the Yum! Center last night by Louisville?  No. But I've also learned never to count anyone out after what happened a year ago. 

My colleague Gary Parrish made plenty of valid points in his column last night. This team doesn't have Kemba Walker. Right now, it also doesn't even have its Hall of Fame coach -- who is out with what appears to be a serious back injury. 

But many of these guys have dug out of the deepest possible hole. 

The Huskies are now 15-8 overall and 5-6 in Big East play with a road game against 23-1 Syracuse in the Carrier Dome up next. Freshman Andre Drummond was abysmal last night, Jeremy Lamb hasn't lived up to expectations some put on him prior to the season and Shabazz Napier has been an enigma. Alex Oriakhi was relegated to bench duty for much of the season, a move I still feel has hurt this team in a variety of ways.  

It certainly doesn't appear promising for this group of Huskies, but if there's one thing I learned last year is that some teams can come back from the dead. 


Posted on: December 23, 2011 10:45 am
 

Podcast: The story of UConn's incredible 2011

By Matt Norlander

Fresh off winning the third national title in program history, Aaron Torres wasted no time writing the story of college basketball's most unlikely champion. Yeah, UConn's a national program with top-rated recruits coming in almost every year, but the 2010-11 team wasn't expected to make the NCAA tournament, let alone win the title, by some people.

Torres hops on to discuss his first book, "The Unlikeliest Champion," which chronicles all the details of the amazing run. Hear stories you've not yet been privy to, and see why last year's Huskies were so special beyond the obvious reasons. We also get into this year's team, which has more talent, but could very well fall short of doing what last season's squad accomplished.

Give Aaron a follow on Twitter, too. Consider it your stocking stuffer to him, and buying the book can be the Christmas gift.

What to hear where:
  • From the beginning: Holiday niceties and the story of how/why Torres wrote the book.
  • 9:00: The best and worst and non-existent interviews for this book.
  • 13:15: The process of writing a book so soon after an event like this. Most books about big seasons or teams come years after the fact. This is a different approach.
  • 18:58: Think about it: last year's Big East tournament could end up being the final great memory of the league's postseason bracket.
  • 21:00: The podcast talk shifts to UConn this year and comparing it to last year, plus what Calhoun's been frustrated with in the past six, seven years.
  • 27:01: Discussion of 2011-12 Huskies and the Big East race. Could be a great one! A lot of moving parts in the Big East right now, and UConn ... we're not sure what it's going to be, but it's starting to look very good, no matter if Calhoun is sour on his team's overall effort right now.

You can listen to the CBSSports.com College Basketball Podcast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The podcasts are posted here and simultaneously through iTunes (link below). Each Wednesday CBSSports.com national writers Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish hop on to banter and bicker. Mondays and Fridays are reserved for the most prominent voices in and around the game. Here's the iTunes subcription link. We also have an RSS feed for you to track. I don't believe they are making Zunes anymore, but nonetheless, I've been instructed to link you on how to listen via that device, too.


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Posted on: April 5, 2011 5:30 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2011 5:30 pm
 

Counting down the top 10 moments

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Monday night’s title game between Connecticut and Butler ended the 2011 NCAA tournament on a somewhat sour note, as Butler had a historically bad shooting night and neither team was particularly impressive for 40 minutes. This year’s Big Dance, though, was a lot more than just the national championship game. The Final Four was the most unpredictable in history, with zero No. 1 or No. 2 seeds reaching the national semifinals for the first time ever. Two mid-majors reached Houston, including one that would not have been included in the NCAA tournament last season. There was Cinderella runs, upsets, buzzer beaters and outstanding individual performances – everything you could ask for in an NCAA tournament. When we reflect on the 2011 NCAA tournament, what moments will stand out? Here’s one man’s take.

10. John Calipari and DeAndre Liggins: The battle between Kentucky and North Carolina in the Elite Eight was one of the best games in the NCAA tournament. Big baskets by both teams, trash-talking from players, intensity all over the place. Up one with 35 seconds left, Kentucky’s DeAndre Liggins knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Wildcats a four-point lead they would never relinquish. Liggins went over to head coach John Calipari, who hugged Liggins and gave him a kiss. Kentucky was going to the Final Four.

9. First day finishes: The first Thursday of the NCAA tournament is always must-see basketball. Last year was arguably the greatest first day in history, but 2011 gave it a run. Within the first seven games of the day, we had Butler senior Matt Howard’s game-winning layup against Old Dominion; Temple’s Juan Fernandez’s leaner to beat Penn State; and Richmond’s Kevin Anderson’s running fallaway with 18 seconds left to clinch a win over Vanderbilt. There were two other buzzer-beaters in that first set that we’ll get to in a bit.

8. Derrick Williams’ block: Similar to what he did against Washington in the regular season, Arizona forward Derrick Williams saved the Wildcats’ win against Memphis with his block of Wesley Witherspoon in the final seconds. It seemed as if Witherspoon had an open lane to the basket, but Williams stepped over from the other side of the basket to send Witherspoon’s shot the other way. Arizona would escape, 77-75.

7. Bradford Burgess’ layup: Down one with the ball under Florida State’s basket with 7.1 seconds left in overtime, everyone was curious what Shaka Smart was going to design. Bradford Burgess slid to the basket, though, getting a perfect pass from Joey Rodriguez and beating Derwin Kitchen for a game-winning layup. Florida State would fail to get a shot off at the other, allowing VCU to win, 72-71, and advance to the Elite Eight.

6. Title game guards: Connecticut’s Kemba Walker and Butler’s Shelvin Mack knocked down too many big shots throughout the tournament – we could make a top 10 of plays by just Walker and Mack. Walker scored 33 points against Cincinnati, 36 against San Diego State and hit a clutch step-back jumper against Arizona to help get the win against the Wildcats. On the other side, Mack simply refused to miss in the final minutes of games. He knocked down a huge 3-pointer against Florida with 1:21 left to give Butler a lead, then went on a tear against VCU in the national semifinals.

5. Demonte Harper’s jumper/Kenneth Faried’s block: This was another one of the fantastic finishes from the first Thursday. Trailing by two in the final seconds, Morehead State’s Demonte Harper hit a pull-up jumper from the top of the key with 4.2 seconds left to give the Eagles a one-point lead. At the other end, Louisville’s Mike Marra seemed to have an open 3-pointer to win it – but Kenneth Faried skied out and blocked the shot, preserving the first round’s biggest upset.

4. VCU beating Kansas: Everyone knew VCU needed to play the perfect game to beat Kansas. Well, the Rams weren’t exactly perfect – and they still managed to win by double-figures. They became the third No. 11 seed to reach the Final Four, but they were the first team that needed to win five games in order to get to the national semifinals. Just three weeks earlier, people had been complaining that VCU was even in the NCAA tournament – Shaka Smart and company proved everyone wrong.

3. Arizona vs. Texas ending: Talk about a change of emotions. Texas led Arizona by two in the final 15 seconds, when Derrick Williams was blocked by Tristan Thompson. Jordan Hamilton called timeout when he picked up the loose ball. On the ensuing inbounds, Cory Joseph was called for a five-second violation – although the five seconds were only about four and change in reality. Arizona would throw it in to Derrick Williams, who finished a 3-point play to give the Wildcats a one-point lead. J’Covan Brown missed at the other end – Arizona would survive. Again.

2. Brandon Knight’s game winners: Both of Brandon Knight’s last-second shots could be top-five moments. In the second round, Knight drove the lane and made his only basket with 2.0 seconds left to hold off upset-minded Princeton. Knight was at it again in the Sweet 16. Facing top-seeded Ohio State, Kentucky was tied in the final 10 seconds. Knight drove past Aaron Craft and pulled up from the right elbow, knocking down a jumper with 5.4 seconds left to give Kentucky the win.

1. Pittsburgh vs. Butler ending: As soon as it happened, everyone knew it would be the defining moment of the 2011 NCAA tournament. Andrew Smith gave Butler a one-point lead with 2.2 seconds left on a layup. On the ensuing desperation play, Pittsburgh’s Gilbert Brown was bumped out of bounds by Shelvin Mack. Brown went to the free-throw line, making the first. He would miss the second free throw, with the rebound falling in the arms of Butler’s Matt Howard. When Howard tried to turn and heave it towards the other end, Pitt’s Nasir Robinson barreled into him, committing a foul 90 feet from the basket. Howard would hit the game-winning foul shot and send top-seeded Pitt packing.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 27, 2011 3:44 pm
Edited on: March 27, 2011 7:10 pm
 

West region wrapup: UConn wins again

Jim Calhoun loves to cut down nets in the West

Posted by Eric Angevine

The Connecticut Huskies are the champions of the West region. If that phrase sounds familiar, it should. The same was true in 1999, 2004 and 2009. Two of those seasons ended in national championships. Apparently, Jim Calhoun thrives on cross-country travel. Who knew?

UConn can make this the third time they ride Pacific waves to the national title if Kemba Walker keeps playing the way he has. The super junior has averaged 26.7 points and 6.5 assists per game in the NCAA tournament, showing that he can lead his team to victory as a dominant scorer or a deft distributor. He has the Huskies on a nine game win streak at just the right time of the year. By now, it would seem crazy to bet against his ability to will the team to wins number 10 and 11.

He doesn't do it alone, no matter what you've heard. Without Alex Oriakhi in the middle, the Huskies would be dead in the water. The sophomore is tops at establishing defensive position and starting the break going the other way off of an opponent's miss. He's instilled some of that toughness in freshman Roscoe Smith as well. Looking at freshmen, however, it's the two first-year guards who impress the most. Shabazz Napier has shown himself to be a ball-hawking defensive player with an ability to drill the open jumper, and Jeremy Lamb has been a breakout star, using his long arms to disrupt on defense and throw down spectacular dunks on offense.

Ordinarily, a team with so many freshmen would not be a Final Four favorite. But factor in the decades of experience from Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun, and it all seems to average out. Plenty of excitement still to come from these Huskies.

Regional MVP: Kemba Walker, without a doubt. He has weathered strong challenges from Nolan Smith and Derrick Williams and come out the other side even stronger. Walker keeps defenders cross-footed with his ability to drive to the hoop or step back for a trademark lethal three-point dagger. Most impressive is his indomitable will to win. He never seems to get tired.

All-regional team

Kemba Walker, UConn
Jeremy Lamb, UConn
Derrick Williams, Arizona
Kyle Singler, Duke
Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State

Game to remember: Arizona's three close games -- two wins and a loss -- were each memorable in their own way, but it was the one blowout that made the biggest impression. Sean Miller announced that the Wildcats were back ahead of schedule with a 93-77 demolition of the defending national champion Duke Blue Devils. Derrick Williams' 5-6 from deep provided the first-half highlights, then a series of monster dunks from he and his teammates completed the shocking result.

Game to forget: UConn's 69-58 win over Cincinnati was a necessary step along the way to the Final Four, but nothing about it will stand out in the memories of fans (unless it's Kemba's NBA-ready five-steps-without-dribbling drive to the hoop) in retrospect. Even Walker's 33 points were sort of been-there-done-that for the national Player of the Year favorite.

Biggest disappointment: Duke. When Kyrie Irving returned just in time for the Big Dance, it almost seemed unfair. This team was built to win a repeat national championship, with senior leadership, bulk inside, hot shooting outside, and a legendary coach. With every reason in the world to win out, the Blue Devils fell flat against an overlooked Arizona team, leaving Coach K to wait until next year to claim the D-I coaching wins record. It's probably going to be a little anticlimactic for it to come against Furman (or whoever) in December rather than in a national title game.

Best individual performance in a losing effort: Tempting to give Derrick Williams the nod for overcoming foul trouble against UConn to score 20, but his shooting touch was off, to the tune of 5-13 from the field and just one three-pointer out of six going in. So, we'll reach way back to the second round and Talor Battle's 23 in a narrow loss to Temple. If his last-second heave hadn't hit the scoreboard, it very well might have gone in. The kid was on fire like that.

Most memorable moments

Derrick Williams blocks Wesley Witherspoon to preserve a 77-75 Arizona win over Memphis in the second round.

Temple's Juan Fernandez nails a leaner at the buzzer to beat Penn State 66-64; second round.

Darius Morris of Michigan barely misses a runner in the lane, Coach K wins his 900th; third round.

Derrick Williams gets the old-fashioned three-point play inside and Arizona beats Texas 70-69; third round.

Jamelle Horne's second-half dunk puts Arizona up 77-63 on Duke, Sweet 16.

Jeremy Lamb skies for a steal and runout dunk to punctuate UConn's 74-67 win over San Diego State, Sweet 16.

Williams and Horne miss back-to-back three point attempts as Arizona falls to UConn 65-63 in the Elite Eight.

Kemba Walker hits a step-back jump shot with a defender in his face, 115-ish and counting.

Team to watch out for next year: If Williams comes back (yeah, right), it's Arizona. It might be anyway. Michigan really impressed with its poised group of young players in a near-upset of Duke, as well.

See you in Houston, Kemba and company.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 27, 2011 12:21 am
Edited on: March 27, 2011 12:35 am
 

Huskies Houston-bound; simply improbable, amazing

Posted by Matt Norlander

No sooner do I write about about the baffling nature of Butler's back-to-back Final Four berths ... and in walks UConn. Equally gobsmacking in many ways. A 30-9 record and going to the Final Four. Still undefeated in tournament-format play this season.

Shake your head, clap your hands wildly and accept this incredible run from one of the most unlikely major-conference Final Four teams of the past decade.

There were signs of this, though no one could be expected to deconstruct the writing on the wall. When Connecticut was thought to be a middling team with faint NCAA tournament hopes, back in November, it rolled through the Maui Invitational. That was Shocker No. 1. It put UConn into the top 10 in the rankings after not having a number next to its name prior to that tourney. Then the five-wins-in-five-days extravaganza two weeks ago in Manhattan, something that hasn't ever been done at any level of college basketball before. And now four more Ws, getting UConn to 12-0 this season in bracket play, and a round-trip ticket to Houston.

...

You kidding me with this team? It's still playing? If you ever want to make the case momentum can exist in college basketball, point to these boys.

What are the adjectives you'd like me to use? We've got a whole bin to pick from here that would be appropriate. We can use unprecedented. Remarkable. Freaky. Anomalous. Scary. Unstoppable. Kemba-catapulted. I'll stop now because I've got a blog post to finish.

Huskies fans, don't hate me for saying this, but, this doesn't seem right. I mean, it does, because Connecticut has the best player in program history (that's official now, by the way; I'll check in with more on that next week from Houston), but the team doesn't feel Final Four-esque. No matter how much it wins, all the praise it rightfully gets has that backdrop of can't-believe-this-is-happening to it. That's why we're so surprised! The unexpected, unexplainable aspect of this is paired with all the love it is receiving. One hand feeds the other. They are worthy, but still, we keep our fingernails close to our scalp, scratching for answers.

How it's getting done, I'm not entirely sure. One player doesn't ever carry a team to a title; that's an easy storytelling tactic to fall back on, but it's always more than just one guy. This team finished ninth in the Big East. You know this. I'm reminding you, because it's flat-out stupid how good UConn looks right now. It's better than ninth-in-the-Big-East, and better than the 4-7 record it finished its regular-season slate with. Behind Walker's era-defining play and the surge of freshman Jeremy Lamb (I told you about him earlier this season), Connecticut's dream season continues.

Nothing but respect and happiness for making this bracket fun and keeping a star player in the mix. A beautiful tandem that always delivers.

Last thing: Can you imagine UConn and Butler meeting in the title game? It'd be the most unlikely championship game in the modern tournament era. I think I'm rooting for it, regardless of who wins Sunday.

Photo: US PRESSWIRE

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 26, 2011 6:56 pm
 

Video: UConn band talks Elite Eight strategy



Posted by Eric Angevine

Two members of the UConn band (face-painters, no less!) predict how many points Kemba Walker will score, who else will step up at crucial junctures, and what song they play when they really need to get the team fired up.

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Posted on: March 26, 2011 12:02 pm
Edited on: March 26, 2011 1:30 pm
 

Elite Eight: No. 5 Arizona vs. No. 3 Connecticut



Posted by Eric Angevine

Be honest. If Kemba Walker and Derrick Williams don't somehow combine for 80 points in the regional final game in Anaheim, you'll feel a little bit cheated, won't you?

The crazy thing is, you would be completely justified in feeling that way.

Watching these two superior players all season long has been one of college basketball's major joys - must-see TV for those who couldn't make it to Tucson, Arizona or Storrs, Connecticut on a regular basis. To have them matched up against each other on the same court is enough to make a college hoops fan giddy. Heck, it's enough to make disinterested bystanders sit up and take notice.

If we assume that Williams and Walker will put on a show, and more or less cancel each other out on the score sheet, how do we determine who has the winning edge?

There are a couple of noticeable things going on with Kemba's game right now that bear watching. As his scoring load has increased against ever tougher opponents in the tournament, his other stats have naturally declined.

Kemba Walker's tournament lines

vs. No. 15 Bucknell: 35 minutes, 18 points, 8 rebounds, 12 assists

vs. No. 6 Cincinnati: 39 minutes, 33 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists

vs. No. 2 San Diego State: 40 minutes, 36 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists


This is working out OK for the Huskies because other players are specializing in areas that once also fell heavily on Kemba's shoulders. Alex Oriakhi has always been UConn's pillar of strength inside, but now he's getting help on the defensive boards from freshman Roscoe Smith. Combined, the two forwards had 17 boards against a tall San Diego State team. All but one of Smith's rebounds came on the defensive end, which was crucial to getting the Huskies' offense downcourt in a hurry, where they could get easy buckets or foul shots in transition. Shabazz Napier played tough defense and doled out six assists in limited action, and Jeremy Lamb proved to be a crucial secondary scorer with 24 points and a perfect 3 of 3 from behind the arc.

For Arizona, the upset of Duke was revelatory. Sean Miller showed that his collection of role players could actually function as an ideal unit, as long as nobody else minded that Derrick Williams would be doing most of the scoring. Apparently, nobody does, which seems wise.

Derrick Williams' tournament lines

vs. No. 12 Memphis: 36 minutes, 22 points, 10 rebounds

vs. No. 4 Texas: 29 minutes, 17 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals

vs. No. 1 Duke: 35 minutes, 32 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals


Williams has actually found other facets of his game as the tournament has progressed. Not found, per se - they've always been there - but he's figured out how to work other parts of his game into tight contests on the big stage. Williams' ability to do all this, including blocking a shot here or there, without fouling much is truly impressive.

Williams can get his own shot, that much is obvious, but it really helps that he has fellow sophomore MoMo Jones playing at such a high level right now. Jones got into double figures in scoring on Thursday, but his value as a leader is tough to define with statistical measures. Jones dished six assists in the rout of Duke, which was by far his highest total of the tournament. Williams was freed up to do damage from the wing (5 of 6 from deep) by the workmanlike rebounding of Solomon Hill, Jesse Perry and Jamelle Horne inside. Kyle Fogg, Kevin Parrom and Jordin Mayes showed the ability to knock down shots when left open by the extra attention paid to Williams.

It's tough to draw a defining edge out of that morass of numbers, but the name that keeps sticking out is that of Jeremy Lamb. The freshman's stellar play of late has made Kemba Walker even more dangerous, and Lamb will likely become the rallying point for this team if Walker leaves UConn for the NBA at the end of this season, a possibility that seems more likely the deeper the Huskies go in this tournament.

Fortunately, we don't have to know who will win. The fact that we have no clue is what will make this game such an exciting, intriguing centerpoint to this day. Whichever team comes out of this melee alive will be a welcome sight for fans with an eye on Houston next weekend. For opponents, not so much.

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Posted on: March 25, 2011 3:09 pm
Edited on: March 25, 2011 3:10 pm
 

Video: Jeremy Lamb praises Kemba Walker



Posted by Eric Angevine

UConn fans: hope in your heart of hearts that this Lamb kid sticks around three years like Kemba did (yes, I'm assuming there will be no fourth year). He may be amazed by watching his talented teammate, but the rest of us in Anaheim went away shaking our heads at the incredibly athletic play Lamb made to seal the game. He leapt in the air and snatched a seemingly safe D.J. Gay pass from the sky, then sprinted down the court to throw down the dunk on the other end. Spectacular.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com