I think Jim Calhoun and UConn deserve a salute for winning the Maui Classic. The Huskies beat Missouri Valley Conference favorite Wichita State, No. 2-ranked Michigan State and John Calipari's young, talented 'Cats. Kemba Walker was absolutely brilliant, baby!
Remember, Connecticut was picked 10th in the Big East preseason poll. Do you think they would be picked 10th after coaches saw what happened in Hawaii? The Big East is deeper than some predicted before the season. Louisville has talent and Marquette is going to win its share of games.
Calhoun has been under a lot of scrutiny for the Nate Miles situation. The Hall of Famer was not found to have done anything wrong. The program was hurt by it, but now the Huskies are working hard on the court and making more noise on the national level.
This is a team that handled adversity, went to Hawaii and played good basketball against three quality opponents. My friends, Mr. Walker has been virtually unstoppable in the early portion of this season. He had 42 points in a game against Vermont and then he burned the nets in Maui.
After getting into foul trouble and scoring just two points in the first half against the Shockers, Walker scored 29 in the second half. The Huskies rallied from a nine point deficit to advance. He then helped Connecticut stun the Tom Izzo-led Spartans by pouring in 30 points and hitting a key jumper late in the game to get the Huskies into the Maui final. In the championship game, he posted 29 big points as the Huskies beat Kentucky by 17.
This is a young Connecticut team. Alex Oriakhi stepped up and played big in Maui, both scoring and cleaning the glass. Youngsters like Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier have shown flashes of brilliance too. The bottom line is, Calhoun and company have come through with flying colors after the expectations were not that high.
Walker is the kind of player who can carry the team on his back. He impressed many playing against the U.S. Olympic team in workouts over the summer. Those games have helped Walker's stock rise, baby!
It is early in the season, but Connecticut's run at Maui was as impressive as anything so far.