NCAA tournament: Huskies, Spartans share similarities
By Mike Anthony
The Hartford Courant
DETROIT ó Last Thursday in Glendale, Ariz., it was all about Hasheem Thabeet. UConn’s 7-foot-3 center had 15 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks in a Sweet 16 victory over Purdue.
Last Saturday, it was all about Kemba Walker. The 6-1 guard had 23 points and dazzled with an array of drives and crucial transition ball-handling against Missouri in helping push UConn into the Final Four.
UConn can win big. UConn can win small. The Huskies can win with speed or with power. They’ve proved that. And, like any team that has made it this far, they’ve been tested by a variety of styles and standout players that place different demands on a team.
“You cannot win, I don’t believe, without being a multi-dimensional team,” coach Jim Calhoun said. “Carolina can run like crazy and half-court defense you, too. They can run great offense off the court. Same for Villanova. They can trap you, press you, they can spread you offensively and play a half-court game.”
How about Michigan State, the Huskies’ opponent in the first of two national semifinals Saturday night at Ford Field? The Spartans could test UConn in both areas. With a versatile big man in Goran Suton, a scoring point guard in Kalin Lucas and a talented forward in Raymar Morgan, the Spartans have balance. There are similarities between these teams, starting at the point. A.J. Price averages 14.7 points and 4.8 assists. Lucas averages 14.6 and 4.6.
UConn’s main advantages are in size and athleticism.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino, whose team lost to the Huskies on Feb. 2 at home and to Michigan State in the Midwest Regional final, has seen both up close.
“Connecticut’s the physically most talented team in the country,” Pitino said Sunday. “The frontcourt size is very imposing. They can play fast. They can play slow. They don’t give you anything at the rim.”