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Haith, Graham talk No. 2 UConn

ST. THOMAS, V.I. -- While I imagine most of you are spending your Saturday afternoon watching to see if the Canes football team will get some help in its quest to still make it to Tampa for the ACC title game, Frank Haith's basketball team is preparing to face No. 2 Connecticut Sunday night. Tipoff will be at 6 p.m. and the game will be available to watch online at www.watchbtihoops.com.

This morning, I got a chance to talk about the Huskies with Coach Haith and Jimmy Graham, who will likely draw the task of defending 7-foot, 3-inch NBA-bound center Hasheem Thabeet most of the night. Here's what they had to say. We'll start with Jimmy.

UconnQ: How is the mood of the team knowing you guys can obviously grab even more attention with a win over the second-ranked team in the country?
A: The mood of the team is real good. It is a big game because it is the No. 2 ranked team in the nation. They are pretty big. I was reading a magazine about [Hasheem] Thabeet about two weeks ago. It's good to face a player like that.

Jimmy_graham
Q: You guys have had some pretty special moments the last couple years, beating No. 5 Duke and the trip to the tournament, but what would beating the No. 2-ranked team in the country do for you?
A: I think this is a big game for us. I think every game for us is a huge game because we want to beat everyone. They are a very good team. But I think playing them early on is going to be very good for us. It's going to test us and show us the kind of team we are.

Q: Who is the biggest guy you've had to defend?
A: I don't know. There was this kid last year, 7-1. But the toughest was Jarvis Barnardo from Misssippi State. He was super long, really tall, another shot blocker just like Thabeet. The biggest thing is you just can't avoid him. You just can't be shy with him. You have to take it to him. He is pretty big. And Jeff Adrien, that kid is a beast. He had 22 and 11 last night. I watched most of the game last night and I'm really going to have to bring a lot of energy and try to lock those two down. I heard they were the best frontcourt in the nation. Now, we get to see how we stack up against it.

Q: Are you guys having fun out here? I heard about the Sky ride and how a few guys were scared?
A: The guy sky ride was scary. That thing was a little wobbly. We've had a little fun. But this trip is kind of like last year. We've really focused on this on being a business trip. Nobody has been out to the beach. Nobody has been out shopping. Everybody has been in bed 10, 11 at night. And we've just been focused on winning and what this tournament and this opportunity is for us. This is a big year for us. And each game is equally as important for us down here.

Q: Things are different than last year. You guys made it the tournament, proved yourselves. Is there not a moment where you sit back and exhale?
A: Never. Now, I'm a senior. We have a bunch of seniors on this team and we don't have a moment to exhale until that final game, hopefully in the NCAA tournament. For me everyday is just focus. Everyday is a workday. I think the whole team has that mentality, still playing with that chip and still trying to prove ourselves. I don't think we've proven anything. Yes, now we have a number. But it's not as high as I want to be. I think each game we're going to come out proving something.

FRANK HAITH
Frank_haithQ: Everyone back home is going to be excited about this game because both of you are ranked, the old Big East rivalry. Can you talk about why this is exciting for you guys?
A: Just the opportunity to play against a top five ranked team in the country. Any time you have a chance to do that, that's a plus. It helps the RPI. It helps everything you're trying to accomplish in terms of the big picture. UConn is a great team, great coach, great players. If you compete in this game, you want to play against the best. And that's what we enjoy in terms of playing in the ACC and this is another opportunity to play against the best one of the best teams in the country.

Q: How about in terms of preparation for the NCAA tournament? Does this game serve as a nice warmup or measuring stick -- even though its more than five months away?
A: I think we face it every night in our league. I think no league is undefeated up until this point. Virginia Tech lost last night on a last second buzzer. It's the first loss in our league and people don't talk about that. But I guarantee you the Pac 10 has lost games, the Big 12 has lost games, Big East lost games. Everybody has lost games. But we've only got one loss in our league and that's on a hail mary shot by Xavier. We face it every night in our conference. I think that's what the great misunderstanding of our league is all about.

Q: You guys have won some big games before obviously, but if you guys win tomorrow night some folks are going to say maybe beating No. 2 UConn is your biggest win. What do you say?
A: I think we've won some really big games since I've been here. I think in terms of a number, I don't know if we've beaten a No. 2 team in the country. Duke was maybe five I think. But there have been some great wins since I've been here. Winning at Florida was a huge win. Winning at Carolina -- I mean Clemson and some other teams have been in the league 50 years and haven't won there. I mean, there's been some big wins in our time. The NCAA Tournament win over Saint Mary's, winning at Creighton (I don't think they've lost one other non-conference loss in that building since then). I think this would be one of our biggest wins. This would be a good win, a great win if we're able to do it. But it's going to be a tall task. We know what we're up against us. Jeff Adrien, Hasheem Thabeet, I mean Kemba Walker is unbelievable as a freshman. [Jerome] Dyson, all those guys are good players and all players I think can play at the next level and that's a great opportunity for our guys to compete against.

Hasheem_thabeetQ: Have you guys ever faced a 7-foot, 3-inch center?
A: I don't think so because he's probably the only one in the country. I don't think there's one everynight. I know Hasheem very well, I recruited him. Classy kid. I'm happy for him. He's done well. We were very hot in the recruiting trails for him and I got to know him well and you can just see he's become a more efficient player. His timing is much better than it was. He's shooting the ball much better. He's going to have a bright future at the next level.

Q: It's has to be a huge advantage for UConn when they've got a guy like Thabeet and you've got 6-8 Dwayne Collins and 6-8 Jimmy Graham in the post?
A: It's a huge advantage for them against everybody. I think with a player like that the one mistake you can make is to avoid him because he's going to get you. You got to go right at him and attack him and hopefully our guys can do that. Now, with that said, he's probably going to block some shots. He's averaging four blocks a game. He's going to get some shot blocks and we can't let that deter us.

Q: Their team is loaded with experience. You guys have a ton of experience too. This might be one of the best matchups in the country in terms of guys having played together is it not?
A: No question. They're very seasonal. They've been through it. I watched them last night. They have a sense of confidence about them and a lot of it has to do with personnel, Jeff Adrien, AJ Thomas, Dyson and those guys have been around a long time and Hasheem coming back for another year. They've been around for a lot of games and they know how to win. There's no substitute for that.

Q: Normally, you don't get these type of matchups three games into the season. Is there a benefit to playing them this early in the season?
A: Play 'em early, play 'em late, you just want the opportunity. You can look out in Maui or in the Coaches versus Cancer tournament, everyone was hoping for a Duke-UCLA final. But it didn't work out that way. It's great to have an opportunity to play a team ranked as high is good anytime. The fact we play them early? I don't know. I think they're playing very good basketball. They may not -- according to coach Calhoun -- not hit their peak yet. But I don't know if we've hit our peak yet. It's early in the year. It's on the schedule and when we're supposed to play.

Q: Can you talk about signing Durand Scott and what it means? I guess from the outside, people see it as a huge victory not just because he's a great player, but because you beat UConn and Pittsburgh, two very good teams, in their own backyard. Is that how you see it?
Durand_scottA: Durand is a very good player. We've been recruiting him a very long time. He fits a huge need for us because we're going to be losing a lot of perimeter players. I'd even go to Garrius Adams -- State and Wake wanted him. Donnovan Kirk, Michigan State wanted to recruit him. I think we've done well. Our staff has done a good job creating a buzz about our program and we've worked hard at it. All three of those kids are going to have a great effect on our program.

Q: Two games in, anything you haven't seen yet that you wanted to see?
A: I think we're getting better each game. I thought obviously Lance Hurdle coming back yesterday was huge and you can see the difference he makes in the game. I felt the strides he made last season were going to be unbelievable. He plays 22 minutes and has 13 points, no turnovers and three assists. Just his poise, he makes a difference. Defensively, we've been sound. We got to continue to get our offense flowing better. I think Jack didn't have one of his games yesterday. I think he's pressing a little bit and we'll see a better Jack McClinton on Sunday.

Comments

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1st!

Manny, I couldn't wait 'till your Tuesday "Expert" questions.

With the NC lose to NC State, are we back in this #@%&ing Coastal Division hunt again??? I checked, it looks as if it's so.

no we're not because virginia lost. unless virginia tech loses, we're out of the race.

I'm still depressed

How wuld a VT loss help us.. the way i c it wer out

We can't win the Divsion anymore, but need VT to lose so we can finish 2nd and get a much better bowl game.

According to ACC spokesman Mike Finn, here is what must happen: North Carolina must lose at least one of its remaining two games (vs. N.C. State on Saturday and at Duke next Saturday); Virginia (vs. Clemson) and Virginia Tech (vs. Duke) each must win Saturday; Virginia must beat host Virginia Tech the next Saturday; and the Canes must defeat N.C. State.

Big Game for the CANES vs. UCONN.
Miami will win a close one.....
UM 79 UCONN 75

Lets Go CANES

when you see Texas Tech, tonight....that could have been, our offense. and they did it with Texas and Oklahoma, getting the cream of the crop.

and JH would be perfect, with that offense.

M.H.- TX Tech O looks like crap now! And JH wouldn't fit into his O, to slow of release and not enough arm.

then again......lol

Never thought TT would be shut out, in the 1st half..

Ok = RAC

I've been murderized..

And if Bradford returns how are the Canes supposed to play with these guys next year?

Manny -

What do you know about Jai Lucas coming to the U?

Is the ACC going to have anybody rank after tonight? They are just beating each other up. I hope the Noles beat the Turds next week. They need to control the ball against them. Can you imagine if the Noles beat them? A team that is not even in the top of the ACC beats the mighty Turds. I would love to see it happen. If Miami beats NCST next week, we will have a good bowl game. It won't be easy though after what NCST did to UNC. I have to say I didn't see it coming. Oh, well, you just never know what will happen in the ACC.

I've gone from euphoric about our UM football successes to completely scared in only a few days. I am PETRIFIED about the NC State game!

A few weeks ago, that team had a horrible record and it looked like an easy win on our schedule.

But after they destroyed UNC? After we played like garbage against Ga Tech? After we played like girls in the cold weather? After the Canes were stripped of their manhood and whatever swagger they had gained? After Shannon has again confirmed that he's going to stupidly start Marve no matter how amazing Jacory Harris plays? (yes- by doing so it seems like Shannon wants to be sure we never, ever, EVER have more than 10 points before halftime.. NEVER)

Cane fans- I am the FIRST to pray I'm wrong, but I have a lousy feeling in my stomach about our next game. We are capable of walking into NC State and playing like garbage again... being trashed and kicked in the balls.

I feel like this team must be deflated with our performance at Ga Tech and being knocked out of legitimate ACC contention, and ticked off that Shannon will CONTINUE to start Marve no matter how he plays on the field.

Anyone else worried as I am?

By the way- I am almost praying we don't win the ACC and play a team like an Oklahoma, Alabama, USC, or Texas Tech in the Orange Bowl.

Don't you fellas realize what they'd do to us? We'd lose 66-10 (like at Syracuse), 40-3 (like vs. LSU in Peach Bowl), or get trashed as we did vs. Ga Tech. A loss like that would set the program back even further. It hurts to say, but we're not ready yet to face that kind of competition, especially until Shannon agrees to let Jacory start in place of Marve and play him for 4 quarters.

It's tough to swallow, but what would be better for our development as a team, as well as recruiting, is to go to a 2nd or 3rd tier bowl game, play a decent team, and win.

A final record of 9-4, or 8-5 with a bowl win over a somewhat good team would do us more overall good than getting humiliated by a top-tier team in January.

Thoughts?

manny, jai lucas to the U? any word

NJcane,

I fear a GT type game very time out. I still have this eye-twitch thing from last year. I do agree, we can stink it up next week.

(OU is about to put up 70+ vs TT,...wow!)

About Marve. I had a nickname for Brock Berlin. Mr Roboto. Although Marve is MUCH more mobile than Berlin, he still has a little Mr. Roboto in him. He is very deliberate and will absolutely LOCK in on his receiver.

I didn't want to get into the QB starter thing, or, the OC thing before the end of the year. 11 games is enough. Jacory in . Nix out.

Not many 'Cane fans around,..."what exit"

NJ,

There is definately something to your second post.

I don't mind Gator/ND

NJshoreCane- thanks for replying. Do you still live up in NJ? If so, maybe we could get a party together for UM's bowl game... I live in Ocean County. Let me know!

Canes fans: What happened to Allen Bailey this year?

Before the season, we were told that he was a unique talent, a freakish monster with out-of-this world speed and size. According to UM coaches, he's the strongest guy on the team. We were told that he was going to be the best talent on the defensive side of the ball. For sure, we were told, he was the closest thing to an NFL prospect and sack machine we'd have.

But after 11 games.. what has be produced?

Yes, I know he strained his chest or something like that and missed the first game. I'm factoring that in.

But, I mean.. COME ON. What are his stats thus far? Does anyone know? (I think he was in on a sack maybe 2 games ago). And how come nobody is bringing up his name in terms of underperforming talents?

What's the problem over here- is he playing half-injured? Is it coaching? Is he only a workout wonder but not really an awesome player once he gets on the field?

Manny- please write about Allen Bailey and tell us what the hell is going on with him!

Is it true ESPN is reporting that Nix has resigned effective at end of season?!

Is it true ESPN is reporting that Nix has resigned effective at end of season?!

Posted by: CanedAgain | November 23, 2008 at 12:45 AM

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No not true

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