The UCONN scouting report and copies of every one of their games were left in Coach Pearl’s hand Monday night right before the team left for Tuesday’s game at Georgia. This was done so that Coach Pearl could get a head start on his preparation for UCONN while the team was away. However, when we returned to the office early Wednesday morning the first question Coach Pearl asked me wasn’t about UCONN, it was about what he needed to do to keep things as normal as possible when he returns. It kind of caught me off guard. Sure Coach Jones and our staff have had a few adjustments to how we operate but that’s because it fits their personality and abilities better. But to Coach Pearl’s credit, we really didn’t change much when he was gone. Why would you? He’s one of the winningest active coaches in the country. What he does and how we operate has been proven to be successful. With that said, as a former player, I know that the return of Coach Pearl will have an impact on the way our guys prepare and perform Saturday. For some, it will be an energy boost. For others, an adjustment will need to be made.
It’s really unfortunate that the focus of this game is going to primarily be on both program’s NCAA situations, and Coach Pearl’s return rather then both teams success and the players in each uniform. The kids deserve for their play to be discussed and noticed as much as possible but I understand that this is just one of the many ramifications we must face for our past actions. I strongly believe that every person writes their own “headline” each day in life by how they carry themselves. Everybody messes up here and there but those that are kind and respectful to others, work hard and do things the right way will eventually leave a positive lasting impression on everyone around them thus creating a positive personal headline. Hopefully, the caliber of basketball being played and the effort that is given will induce a great basketball game so that can become tomorrow’s headline.
Our team has had a very good 3 days of preparation……and thank goodness, because we are going to need it! UCONN is ranked #8 in the country because they have a GREAT player, really good guard play, a very capable low post scorer and a great defensive team that leads the country in shot blocking. So what do you do? How do you beat them? Do you put your defensive focus on National Player of the Year candidate Kemba Walker, or do you let him get his numbers but focus on stopping everybody else? On offense, how do you do what we do best which is attacking the basket when they have 3 great shot blockers?
First and foremost we cannot let UCONN get out and get easy baskets in transition. I honestly believe they are “just” a top 25 team when they are forced to play a half court game but they maybe the best team in the country when they are able to get out in the open floor in transition. When they are in the half court we will really have to communicate and help one another. Their guards are great drivers who receive a lot of ballscreens and their bigs are really good low block scorers and offensive rebounders. Defense and rebounding MUST be our staple tomorrow if we have any chance of winning this game. Villanova, started their game out down 10-0 because they were shooting like Shaq shoots free throws. But they were able to stay in the game and have a chance to win it because their tough defense never wavered.
Offensively, we must play with great poise as we handle their ball pressure in this hostile environment. They are going to make great plays and go on runs but we cannot let that effect how hard we cut, how quickly we move the ball or the shots we take. We must execute our stuff by making sharp cuts, setting great screens and sharing the ball!
Adversity will be faced, adjustments will need to be made, but one thing that cannot change if we want to continue this two game win streak is the urgent energy and effort we have played with recently. What will Sundays headline be?