Jim Calhoun and Tom Izzo talk occasionally on the phone. They have since 1998, when Izzo’s Michigan State team visited Gampel Pavilion in December of that year, lost 82-68 and three months later, joined UConn in St. Petersburg for the Final Four. Imagine what their conversations would be like this week.

Jim Calhoun and Tom Izzo talk occasionally on the phone. They have since 1998, when Izzo’s Michigan State team visited Gampel Pavilion in December of that year, lost 82-68 and three months later, joined UConn in St. Petersburg for the Final Four.

Imagine what their conversations would be like this week.

“I consider him a dear friend,” Calhoun said of Izzo, whose second-seeded Spartans will meet Calhoun’s Huskies on Saturday in the Final Four in Detroit. “So, you know, it’s always great that he’s there and I’m there. Sometimes you don’t like to be playing against someone you have so much admiration and respect for.

“But the idea is we’re both there. We’ll go at it again, and I guess the only faults would be if we beat him, I think he’ll be upset, but could take it a little more. And I would probably feel the same way.”

Calhoun may not take a loss so easily if it really happens, but he and Izzo heaped praise on each other during a national conference call.

Making his third Final Four appearance, Calhoun (805 career wins) called Izzo “one of the best coaches in America, and best people in America.”

Izzo, looking for his second title in five Final Four tips, said he’s always been impressed by Calhoun’s ability to find and develop players.

“I mean there are so many of those guys who you say, ‘God, where did he come from, you know? Didn’t seem like he was on everybody’s All American list,’” Izzo said. “And he wasn’t.  He was just a player. He’s a very good judge of talent, I think.

“I kind of like the fact, too, that he tells it like it is,” Izzo added. “He doesn’t build up his players. He’ll also tell you if his players are playing good. And I kind of appreciate that.”

Team America

Already named a Second Team All-American by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, Hasheem Thabeet added a Second Team nod from The Associated Press on Monday.

And he wasn’t alone. Seniors Jeff Adrien and A.J. Price were both named Honorable Mention All-America. Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin, North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough, Pitt’s DeJuan Blair, Arizona State’s James Harden and Davidson’s Stephen Curry made up the First Team.

Coincidentally, Thabeet and Adrien also made the Huskies’ injury list. Thabeet practiced Monday but is nursing two slightly sprained fingers on his left hand he suffered on a fall during Saturday’s regional final victory over Missouri. Right-handed, Thabeet isn’t expected to be limited at all this week.

“It gets better every day,” he said.

Adrien, meanwhile, practiced “a little bit” Monday, he said, as he recovers from what Calhoun called tendonitis in his right knee. Adrien said the knee hasn’t bothered him throughout the year, but after knocking knees with a Missouri player, it started giving him trouble.

“We bumped knees and I kept playing, (but) after the game, I felt everything,” he said, adding the knee is also bruised. “I definitely should be good by Saturday.”

Brace yourself

Jerome Dyson walked around Gampel Pavilion freely, even hoisting up a few halfcourt shots. Exactly six weeks removed from surgery to repair the torn meniscus in his right knee, the junior guard was cleared Monday to remove the leg brace he’s used.

Dyson said he’s right on schedule as far as his rehab goes, and has largely focused on strengthening his quad and calf muscles, plus riding a stationary bike for 20 minutes a day.

“We wouldn’t mind him miraculously showing up,” Calhoun joked. “It’s not going to happen.”

Dyson won’t play this weekend, but he said it’s not totally impossible.

“I feel good,” he said. “The doctor’s telling me if this was basically my last year and if I had to, there still would be a chance of me playing. But the risks outweigh the positives at this point. … If they don’t want me to play, I’m not going to play.”

Here we go again

It’s Price vs. Michigan State — Part II.

Thirty years after his father, Tony, led ninth-seeded Penn into the Final Four — where it faced Michigan State in the national semifinal — A.J. Price will do the same this weekend.

He’s hoping for a different result, though. Led by Magic Johnson, Michigan State ousted Penn in a 101-67 victory en route to the 1979 title.

“When we were watching the game (Sunday), he was saying, ‘It looks like you’re going to be playing Michigan State,’” A.J. recalled his father’s words, referring to the Spartans’ 64-52 upset of Louisville in the Midwest regional final. “We both found it kind of ironic, 30 years later, going back to the Final Four and playing the team that he lost to. We found some irony in that.”

Tickets available

UConn Final Four travel packages, comprised of game tickets and hotel rooms, will be available for purchase by the general public beginning Tuesday morning.

Fans interested in purchasing Final Four packages through UConn may do so between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. by calling 1-888-GO-UCONN or by visiting UConnHuskies.com. Packages may also be purchased which include charter air travel to Detroit.

Pricing information for all UConn packages is available at UConnHuskies.com.

Norwich Bulletin