Crossfire: UConn Q&A, Part Deux

That's right, we went toe to toe with TWO UConn bloggers in anticipation of tomorrow's game.  I traded Q's and A's with Samuel Greenberg of The Center of the Universe.  You can find my A's to his Q's here.  Meanwhile, his A's to my Q's are below.  Did I make that sound confusing enough?

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For the weaknesses category, I came up with free throw shooting and forcing turnovers. How is that correct or incorrect? What other weaknesses do you see in this UConn squad?

I think your assessment of UConn's weaknesses is absolutely correct. Foul shooting and turnovers have been a considerable problem for this year as well as during the last two. There are no other problems in UConn's game that has come up as consistently or often as foul shooting. Coach Calhoun puts his players on the line for hours on end during practice. In fact, Assistant Coach Blaney is in change of working with players on foul shooting and he coached a Holy Cross team that had a far better percentage than UConn. In all honestly, neither UConn fans or UConn staff has had any explanation for our poor free throw shooting. It just seems to be a characteristic of the players that we recruit. While we have some players who are exceptionally good, namely Craig Austrie, our big men have lost big games for us because of this.

With Jerome Dyson out, who has been UConn's MVP over the last few weeks?

Despite all of the discussion regarding Hasheem Thabeet, there is no question that follow Dyson's season-ending injury, no player has stepped up more than Stanley Robinson. Robinson has a complicated history at UConn and the characteristic that had best defined him was his inconsistency.  UConn learned over the course of the season to both play and win without Robinson on the roster and with him scoring few points. However, when we lost Dyson's production the only player than increased his numbers substantially was Robinson. More importantly, Dyson was a huge defensive force that was lost and Robinson's ability to shit shut down Purdue's leading scorer in the second half on Thursday is a great example of Robinson's recent contributions.

One of our co-writers said in our podcast last night that Stanley Robinson is basically one of those weird hybrid UConn guys who does okay in college and thrives in the pros.  He seems to have picked up his game in the tourney. Is he someone you count on at this point, or is it pretty much "Whatever you get from him is icing on the cake"?

I don't think UConn has ever been able to count on Stanley Robinson.  However, I do think in the last few games he has been a player looked to for big plays. Far from being "icing on the cake" UConn depends now on his defensive and offensive presence to win games. Frankly, it my opinion that Robinson's first bad day during this tournament will be UConn's last this year.

What all do you know about Missouri besides the full-court press?

That's a great question. Nothing. As you probably know, this is the first time UConn will play Mizzou and all I know is what I have heard on ESPN in the last few days. I know that Mizzou is a tough team with a great jump shot.

What scares you most about Mizzou?

The potential for Mizzou guards to get Thabeet into foul trouble really concerns me. If Thabeet is off the floor you could go on 10, 15-point runs by continuing driving it up the paint. If you take the ball right into Thabeet and get the right calls, there could be a very close game come Saturday.

One thing that stands out in the stats is that UConn has fantastic defensive numbers without really fouling much.  What is the secret to UConn's defensive success?

I think the biggest reason is trust. Most of the time, there is a trust that if you let a shot go by, there will be someday to rebound. The team knows that if you can't stop somebody, another player will be there in the lane. A lot of teams end up trying to hard to stop a shot from being taken and end up fouling. UConn can count on its rebounding and shot blocking.  In addition, Calhoun is an excellent coach.

What will carry them over the top and into the Final Four?

For UConn to win on Saturday and the rest of the way here on out, they have to play their own game. If Mizzou or anyone else is allowed to set the tempo, UConn will lose. The two things that will put UConn in a position to win is keeping the best players out of foul trouble and playing constantly.

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