"They seem to be a guard-oriented team that is really quick," coach Mark Gottfried told reporters in Raleigh, N.C. "I think Kevin Ollie is trying to instill that in teams. They are really getting up in guys, getting after them. That will be maybe a little different than we've seen. I think those guys are excited about Kevin coaching them. They want to play well and hard for him."
The Wolfpack (4-2), ranked fourth at the start of the season, have slipped to 18th in the most recent AP poll, with losses to Oklahoma State and Michigan. N.C. State, too, had a hard time with UNC Asheville, winning 82-80.
So while this Jimmy V Classic game at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night (9 p.m.) will be an opportunity for UConn to increase its national relevance, it will also be an opportunity for N.C. State to do the same.
"It's going to be a great opportunity for us again to play on a national stage in Madison Square Garden against a great program like UConn," Gottfried said. "So, I think our guys will be very excited about it."
Gottfried also expressed some concern about DeAndre Daniels, who is becoming a bigger factor at the power forward spot, but stopping UConn's guards will be his priority. The Huskies top three scorers, Shabazz Napier (18.6 ppg), Ryan Boatright (13.7) and Omar Calhoun (10.9), are guards.
"They have to guard us," he said, "but we will have a hard time guarding [Boatright]. He's small, he's quick, he's little. Scott Wood probably gets the first assignment on him, but different guys will guard him throughout the game. He's a tough player to defend and I think Napier is a tough player to defend."
Better Business For UConn: Schedule Up
"The games themselves mean less; that's frustrating." Rovell said. "You can minimize the damage by and try to have confidence in your brand. You tell your fans and recruits, 'What happened is beyond our control. But what we can control is scheduling.' What UConn CAN do is schedule the most robust nonconference schedule anyone has ever seen. The message would be, 'We have to be in a position to start earlier, but if we take care of business in our weaker conference, we can be the same No.1 we were before.'"
The Huskies, who drew an unusually light 8,705 to the XL Center for their game against New Hamsphire, still have a strong basketball brand, and in college sports, Rovell said, brands tend to be more durable.
"Pro sports teams can fall harder because they don't have the ability to recruit," Rovell said. "There is greater ability for fan attrition. College fans are used to players staying for only two or three years, you're used to the cycle. People do get sicker of losing quicker today, the amount of times horrible seasons and bad losses are memorialized on Twitter does that, but it would take a while for UConn fans to say, 'I don't care.'"
How To 'Shock The World' Again
Peter Burns, author of the book, "Shock The World: UConn Basketball in the Calhoun Era," has another round of book signings coming up in Connecticut this month. Burns, an Ansonia native and UConn graduate, who teaches political science at Loyola University in New Orleans, is not as optimistic about the Huskies "shocking the world" a second time in the post-Calhoun era.
"To shock the world again would be to do the things Jim Calhoun did without Jim Calhoun as head coach," Burns said. "Because the question is, is it the program, or was it Calhoun? I tend to think it was Calhoun, and we may never see the glory days again."
Burns' book, which came out in October (Northeastern University Press), has been consistently in the top 100 among basketball books on Amazon.com, and it has extensive interviews with former UConn players — including Ollie.
"I've had a few things confirmed in my mind," Burns said. "It's [one extreme or the other] with Calhoun, there are those who love him and those who hate him and I'm never sure what I'm getting when people ask about him. But there is overwhelming support out there for Kevin Ollie. Everybody says, 'We need to sign Kevin Ollie.'"
Burns next signing will be at the Canton Public Library, Dec. 15 at 1 p.m. He will be at libraries in Naugatuck (Dec 18, 6:30 p.m.), Ellington (Dec. 19, 6:30 p.m.), and Woodbury (Dec. 20, 7 p.m.), and will sign books at Black Bear on Allyn Street from 5 to 7 p.m. before the UConn-Fordham game at XL on Dec. 21.
Evans To Practice?
R.J. Evans, who has a collar-bone area injury, hopes to practice Sunday and still hopes to return Tuesday night, although that seems a long shot. He told the New London Day, "I'm not going to rush it. If I don't feel like I'm close to 100 percent, I won't put myself out there." … N.C. State will wear special uniforms commemorating Jim Valvano, who coached there. They will have the form of a basketball net on the top with Valvano's famous phrase, "Don't Ever Give Up," across the chest.