New York - Coach Jim Calhoun has insisted the last two days that he will not campaign for UConn making the NCAA tournament.
Then he spent a good deal of time doing just that after Thursday's 58-55 loss to the top-seeded Syracuse in the Big East tournament quarterfinals. UConn (20-13) will learn its postseason fate on Selection Sunday.
When asked about qualifying for the NCAA tournament, Calhoun went on a long rant about UConn's resume, highlighting a strong strength of schedule that ended up including three games - all losses - against Syracuse, which is projected to be a top seed in the 68-team field. The Huskies were very respectable 34th in Monday's NCAA RPI.
In his rambling response, Calhoun sprinkled in his trademark biting sarcasm.
"Well, let's see: 22 of our games played against top 100 competition," Calhoun said. "That's not a very good schedule, but they say it's number one in the country. We had 10 wins against top 100 teams.
"…. We probably have as many quality wins for anybody in our position. … I trust the (NCAA) basketball (selection) committee. … We're one of the top 30 teams in the country. I don't make those decisions, but I know who we are."
The selection committee also will factor in Calhoun missing eight games on a medical leave of absence. The Huskies went 3-5 without him and 3-1 since his return.
Most projections agree with Calhoun. As of Wednesday night, Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com had UConn a No. 9 seed.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim believes the Huskies are NCAA tournament-worthy.
"I think Connecticut is a really good team," Boeheim said. "I would be shocked if they don't win two games in the NCAA tournament at the minimum."
A surprise contribution
Sophomore Tyler Olander, a reserve forward, emerged from a prolonged funk to make a solid contribution. He finished with four points, eight rebounds and four assists in 26 minutes.
"I'm happy with it," Olander said. "But I made a few mental mistakes that proved pretty costly at the end, so I'm not happy about that."
He played a total of only six minutes in the previous two Big East games against DePaul and West Virginia.
But Calhoun went to Olander because of his ability to pass from his spot in the middle of the zone.
Olander saw his most playing time since going 26 minutes at Syracuse on Feb. 11, when he had seven points, three rebounds and three assists.
A rebounding challenge
UConn answered Calhoun's challenge to rebound from a poor effort on the boards in Wednesday's win over West Virginia, which held a decisive 47-31 edge.
"I was embarrassed (Wednesday)," he said. "The only other time we were outrebounded as badly as we were is (against) a guy named Alonzo (Mourning) and another guy named (Dikembe) Mutumbo," Calhoun said of the former Georgetown duo. "The next time we played them we outrebounded them.
"… So we appealed to them … and they responded."
The Huskies won the rebounding battle against the Orange, 46-34, led by freshman Andre Drummond's 10.
"We tried to go for as much rebounds as possible and keep them off the glass," Drummond said.
News and notes
Defensive stand: UConn held all three conference tournament opponents to under 40 percent shooting (Syracuse 38.5, West Virginia 34.7 and DePaul 32.4). … UConn struggled from the foul line, going 30-for-56, 53.6 percent. It went 5-for-10 Thursday. … Playing with a sprained right wrist, freshman Ryan Boatright went 2-for-9 from the field and had five points.