STORRS — Repeating as champion is a challenge that fascinates coaches. How does one keep a team together, motivated and focused as it battles the "hangover?"
"We have a lot in common," Auriemma said after a practice this week. "Our playing styles are very similar. We discuss a lot of those things when we see each other. Florida won back-to-back titles [in 2006-07], just like we have."
Auriemma has known Donovan more than 20 years, going back to Donovan's days at Providence with Rick Pitino. They've run into each other at various camps, and at a gathering of coaches in Gainesville that Donavan has each summer. In September, Donovan and Auriemma were both at the Jimmy V dinner in New York, and were locked in conversation for quite a while.
"You tend to develop friendships with those [coaches] guys who aren't in your league," Auriemma said. "… We exchange and discuss ideas about how to handle our teams, the things you try to stress. And I don't mean the kind of offense or defense you play. It's more philosophical about the game and how to handle the team at different points of the season."
'Scoe Crashing Boards For UNLV
Roscoe Smith, who transferred from UConn in the spring of 2012 and had to sit out last year, has re-emerged with UNLV — in a big way.
Smith is averaging 15.6 rebounds per game, tops in the nation, and has twice pulled down over 20 in a game, for the Runnin' Rebels, who are 2-3. He's also averaging 12.6 points.
"The effort that Roscoe brings is what I want to epitomize our group," UNLV coach Dave Rice told the Law Vegas Sun this week. ""He feels like every single rebound, every single loose ball is his. He takes a lot of pride in it."
Smith, 6-foot-8, started 33 games as a freshman during UConn's championship season, but played less, 14 starts and 18 , minutes per game, as a sophomore. He wanted to play small forward, which did no figure to be the case at UConn and, with the Huskies ineligible for the tournament in 2013, he transferred three months before Jim Calhoun retired.
In Vegas, Smith playing the role he wanted, playing 31.6 minutes, providing a vocal, high-energy presence — and he's producing. So it appears he made the right move for himself.
UConn and Florida have played only once in men's basketball, and it was a painful game for UConn. Donyell Marshall missed two free throws at the end of regulation, and the Gators beat the Huskies, 69-60 in overtime in the NCAA Tournament on March 25, 1994 at Miami Arena. … Donavan has assembled an ambitious non-conference schedule for Florida this season. The Gators (6-1) lost at Wisconsin early this season. They beat Florida State, 67-66 at Gainesville on Friday night, now play at UConn and then at home against Kansas next week. … UConn, after its win over Loyola (Md.) on Tuesday night, had Wednesday and Thursday off for the holiday, and returned to practice on Friday night. The Huskies will be available to reporters after practice Sunday. … As of Saturday afternoon, UConn still had scattered single seats available for the game vs. Florida.
John Altavilla contributed to this story