Tuesday, January 19, 2010

UConn Seeks Craig Austrie Clone

After the insanity that Clement put you through Sunday night and yesterday, I bring you back down to earth.

While watching UConn blow a 19-point lead against Georgetown a couple Saturdays ago, two things were evident.

First, this team lacks a leader. That was to be expected given that AJ Price (and Hasheem Thabeet) is in the pros now. The production that these two players give you is irreplaceable.

Second, this team is missing Craig Austrie - an unheralded glue guy who was respected by teammates, and who also annoyed the heck out of the opposition. As for Austrie, he never averaged more than 7.5 points or shot more than 38% from the field, but he was the gritty type who'd change momentum by forcing a turnover or silence crowds with a contested 16-footer with only seconds to go on the shot clock and in the game. Apparently, the intangibles that Austrie brought have proved tougher to replace.

The season is by no means over. Yes, the team has lost 3 games in a row. Yes, Jim Calhoun is taking medical leave, but he's the type who would rather die than not coach. (And yes, I am loving every second of watching UConn fail.) That said, UConn has one of the 5 most talented front lines nationally, and should win four of their next six games. But, if they want to make noise at either MSG or during the NCAA Tournament, they will need a calming influence in the backcourt who has ice in his veins and never loses track of his defensive assignment during critical junctures of the game.

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