Coach Kevin Ollie and his Connecticut team will not have the chance to defend their NCAA title this season, but all is hardly lost as they prepare to host Arizona State in the first round of the NIT Tournament at Gampel Pavilion Wednesday night.
Not only will the Huskies be looking to advance to the point of being able to raise yet another banner, their game will be one of the ones where NCAA officials will be experimenting with a 30-second shot clock and a smaller lane. The new wrinkles are all aimed at shaking the game from the kind of scoring doldrums that has dogged play all this season and beyond.
A recent ESPN poll found that nearly 60 percent of all Division 1 coaches favored reducing the shot clock down from the 35 seconds it now stands at. Many even advocate for aligning it with the 24 second shot clock used by the NBA.
“You want games to be wide open a little bit more,” said UConn coach Kevin Ollie. “You don’t want to turn on the TV and it’s 40-40 with two minutes to go. I don’t think anybody wants to see that. But at the end of the day, we want to start teaching our guys the fundamentals. It starts at a young age. They’ve got to be coached the right way, proper spacing, get guys open, screening.”
More often than not, for the Huskies (20-14) keeping things exciting seems as simple as putting the ball in the hands of senior guard Ryan Boatright. The dynamic point guard has averaged 17 points, four rebounds and four assists this season. In leading the Huskies into the American Conference Finals, Boatright topped 18 points at least twice, including draining a game-winning jumper against Cincinnati.
Still, the Huskies have averaged just 64 points per game this season, prompting Ollie to lament “there are not a lot of shot-makers anymore.”
Over the next several weeks, the Huskies hope to move their coach to reconsider his thinking.
UConn will most likely face Richmond in the second round if they were to defeat Arizona State (assuming Richmond, a No. 1 seed, defeats St. Francis New York). Richmond finished fifth in the A10 standings and were on the verge of making the NCAA Tournament as an at-large bid. UConn fans looking to support the Huskies through the NIT can use Hipmunk.com as your travel accomadations resource. According to Hipmunk, Richmond hotels start from $79 and flights to Richmond, Virginia from Pittsburgh International are easy to reserve with a few clicks.
In all, UConn has won three of their last four, with Rodney Purvis (11 points, two rebounds), Daniel Hamilton (11 points, eight rebounds, four assists) and Amida Brimah (nine points, five rebounds) all making key and consistent contributions.