Thabeet vs. Blair—Something’s Gotta Give
I haven’t been more excited about a 1-on-1 matchup this year than I am about Hasheem Thabeet and DeJuan Blair. Thabeet, the 7’3″ junior from Tanzania, had a career high 25 points and 20 rebounds vs. Seton Hall on Saturday. In addition, he swatted 9 shots and when that ISN’T a career high for someone you can start to understand how good he is. Thabeet missed his second triple-double in the last month by the one block, but I doubt he or Jim Calhoun is complaining. He ranks second in the nation in field goal percentage and blocks and has been the leader of the #1 ranked Huskies. Not only does Thabeet get the blocks but he alters every possession. ESPN has started to pick up on this even though I will go to the grave saying that I observed and started talking about this first. Anyways, during his game vs. Syracuse, he blocked 7 shots and altered 9 more and pulled down 16 boards. Forget about the offensive end for anyone dumb enough to knock Thabeet. While his 13.5 points a game don’t compare to a Luke Harangody or a Tyler Hansbrough, you’d be a fool to sell him short on O. He compliments Jeff Adrien (the UConn version of Wes Matthews in terms of value and lack of spotlight) and A.J. Price perfectly and is the main reason the Huskies are looking down on not only the Big East, but the nation as well.
If Hasheem Thabeet is the definition of the proverbial “immovable object”, then DeJuan Blair is the NCAA’s “unstoppable force”. Don’t think for one second that the 8 inches Blair will give up tonight will stop him. Blair’s thick build and tenacious drive has brought him to the top of the leaderboard in offensive rebounds, averaging an astonishing 5.8 a night. He averages 15.4 points a game and hauls in 12.3 boards a game as well. It may be cliché, but it’s true that Blair’s fire and intensity gets the team going every night. Blair also has his sidekicks in Sam Young and Levance Fields and I think there is a good chance we are looking at a preview of the Big East Championship Game tonight in Hartford. Possibly a Final Four matchup as well.
I like Connecticut to continue their 12 game winning streak tonight because A) I believe they have the most talent in the nation, Jerome Dyson or not, and B) they are at home.
Thabeet will get his boards and Sporscenter Top 10 blocks, but I think Blair has a monster game. Look for UConn’s defense on Fields to be a difference maker in what should be the best game of the year to date.
Projected Stat Lines:
Hasheem Thabeet: 7-12 FG, 16 points, 14 rebounds (4 offensive), 4 blocks, 1 steal
DeJuan Blair: 6-9 FG, 15 points, 11 rebounds (3 offensive), 1 block, 1 steal
UConn 81, Pitt 75