Connecticut at Louisville 7:00pm ET - ESPN 01.22.2007
A sight most Connecticut fans are now seeing is one they believed would never be possible as long as Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun was prowling the sidelines with his scowl; the Huskies tied for 10th place in the Big East conference with a 2-3 record. Can Connecticut rebound to get back into the conference race? If so, it has to start tonight at Louisville.
Coach Calhoun and his athletic director knew in the off-season that they were going to have one of the youngest and most inexperienced teams in years and wanted to build their schedule early in the season in such a manner that would allow his young team to grow and hopefully build confidence before league play started. Unfortunately the schedule was so soft it even made fellow Big East coach Jim Boeheim blush. Boeheim at Syracuse is notorious for scheduling games against colleges that many didn't even know exist. Even Hostess called about making Calhoun a spokesperson. Dunderheads not really following or studying the game saw UConn at 11-0 and ranked them 10th in the country despite playing against only five teams that oddsmakers could even place a spread on. As league play commenced, reality set in, this squad may have talented players, but it is not a team. After shooting better then 50 percent in starting undefeated, the Huskies have matched that total just once in last seven outings and that being against St. John's who is even lower in the standings in the Big East.
Connecticut would seem to be a major fade team on the road with 1-3 straight up and against the spread record. At home the Huskies average 80.4 PPG, shoot over 50% and outrebound the opposition by double digits. On the road this these Hukies are more like lap dogs, scoring 60.5 PPG, shooting 38.5% and make 52% of all free throw attempts. Headed to Louisville, this is not a great combination.
This is not a vintage Cardinals team you would expect from Pick Pitino either. His teams are known for pressing defenses, shooting the ball with great effectiveness and having athletes crashing the boards. Right from the start of the year, it was evident this was not going to be a great shooting team. Currently the Cardinals are making 43.4% from the field and make an ordinary 33.9% from behind the arc. The defense can still turn up the pressure, with opposing teams making only 40.5% of shot attempts, but not as effective as Pitino would like because they don't make enough shots to press as frequently he would prefer. Another element that would only come from seeing Louisville play they are not a good half-court defensive team. Any team with guards that have penetration skills or can force the Cardinals to play 25 or more seconds of defense has the ability to break them down.
Connecticut is a three-point road underdog headed to the state of Kentucky according to Sportsbook.com. The Huskies are 5-14 against the spread in next game after a outrebounding an opponent by 15 or more. Louisville has a negative trend working though too, posting 9-18 against the spread record after 1 or more consecutive wins.
This is the opener for Big Monday with a 7 Eastern start on ESPN. The sports betting trends page is always full of interesting numbers, be it college basketball, NBA or NHL action.
About the Author: Bob is an experienced sports writer and handicapper who has written for the sports industry for over a decade. He has been a regular contributer to Sports Scene, a sports consultant for television's 33 Made and other major motion pictures.