DES MOINES, Iowa. — Count UConn head coach Kevin Ollie among the fans of Colorado big man Josh Scott.
CU head coach Tad Boyle said he expects the Huskies to double team his post players, and UConn’s leader pretty much confirmed that strategy without directly saying so.
Ollie heaped praise upon CU’s leader in scoring and rebounding, giving evidence of his team’s defensive plan of attack for Thursday’s first-round battle in the NCAA Tournament.
“Tad does a great job of getting those guys in their offensive and defensive packages,” Ollie said. “Of course it starts with Scott down low. He’s a perimeter player. He’s a down-low player. He’s so versatile, so we’re really going to have to do a great job guarding. It’s just not our bigs — it will take a conscious effort on all five on the basketball court to understand his tendencies. Then they have great 3-point shooters.”
The national champs just two years ago, Ollie has rebuilt his roster through a pipeline of transfers. Leading scorer Shonn Miller (Cornell) and starting guard Sterling Gibbs (Seton Hall) both arrived at UConn this year as graduate transfers who played the past three years at other schools. Junior guard Rodney Purvis spent his freshman season at North Carolina State.
It may have taken the various pieces time to mesh, but the Huskies have the look of a team peaking at the right time after their winning run through the American Athletic Conference tournament.
“It’s just a lot of work from the coaching staff, from the players understanding what we want to do as a program,” Ollie said. “It takes a while for them to really get their voice in the locker room. But Sterling and Shonn Miller have come in and played some really productive basketball for us.”
Another staff departure
A staff that has remained largely intact throughout Boyle’s six-season tenure is suffering another loss, as strength and conditioning coach James Hardy is set to leave CU for a position with the New England Patriots.
Hardy has spent nine years at CU, the past seven as the basketball team’s director of strength and conditioning. His move comes on the heels of assistant coach Rodney Billups’ imminent departure to take the head coach job at his alma mater, the University of Denver.
Matching the program-record of 21 regular season wins and returning to the NCAA Tournament have kicked in a number of incentives in Boyle’s contract.
CU’s regular season win total added another $110,000 to Boyle’s base salary — $30,000 for reaching 15 wins, $20,000 for reaching 17 wins, and another $30,000 apiece for reaching 19 and then 21 wins.
Reaching the NCAA Tournament kicked in a $105,000 bonus, and a win against UConn on Thursday would add another $30,000.
“We’ve been consistent in being in this tournament. I think last year was an anomaly. Being back is where we expect to be. Now from this point forward we just have to win some basketball games.”
— CU athletic director Rick George.
The Buffs will look to reverse their Irish luck on St. Patrick’s Day. CU was eliminated from the NCAA tourney in the second round by Baylor on St. Patrick’s Day in 2012 and lost at Oregon in the NIT opener in 2004.