When Boston College departed the Big East, former Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun vowed never to play the Eagles again.
Now neither team is in that conference, and both current coaches are open to playing each other regularly.These New England rivals match up for the first time in nine seasons Thursday night when the 18th-ranked Huskies meet the Eagles in the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden.When Boston College (1-3) announced it would leave the Big East before the 2003-04 season, Calhoun famously declared that he would never schedule the school again.These teams have not met since the Eagles' final Big East season in 2004-05. BC won the lone meeting 75-70 that season and these clubs finished tied atop the conference with 13-3 records.The situation has changed now that Connecticut (4-0) also is no longer part of the Big East, having joined the American Athletic Conference. Second-year Huskies coach Kevin Ollie went 8-0 against the Eagles in his playing days with UConn, and he wouldn't mind starting an annual series."It's a great team right in our region here and we had a lot of wars in the Big East," Ollie said. "I know I remember a lot of them when I played at the University of Connecticut. We'd love to rekindle that rivalry again, and coach Steve Donahue is doing a great job."Donahue is in his fourth season and has echoed those thoughts about facing Connecticut.Ollie reminisced about how the Big East matchups between these teams featured great guard play, and that should be the case Thursday.The Huskies' top scorers are guards Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, who combine to average 26.3 points. Napier is a native of the Boston area who is among the nation's leaders with 7.8 assists per game.While UConn has five players who average double figures in points, Boston College has less balance with three such players and the explosive Olivier Hanlan leading the ACC in scoring at 24.5 points per game.Hanlan scored a season-high 38 as BC earned its first win Sunday, 82-79 over Florida Atlantic."Hanlan is one of the top point guards not only in the ACC but in the country, being a sophomore," Ollie said. "He's doing a wonderful job."Both teams like to shoot 3-pointers, with the Eagles averaging 20.0 attempts and the Huskies 19.0. UConn is among the nation's leaders in 3-point percentage at 52.6.Neither Napier nor Boatright was UConn's leading scorer in Sunday's 77-60 victory over Boston University. DeAndre Daniels scored 24 points after totaling 19 over his first three games.There was concern despite the one-sided final score for the Huskies, who built a 19-point first-half lead that was cut to five at the break."I'm pleased with the 4-0 start but we want to have that killer mentality when we get up on teams to finish teams off," Ollie said. "Two of our four games we allowed teams to come back."Thursday's other MSG matchup is between Indiana and Washington. The winner of that game and this one will square off Friday, as will the losers of both games.