Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hail to the ... Huskies?

So, if you are anything like me, I would bet that you didn't have UCONN winning the national championship this year in the NCAA Tournament.

In fact, I had them winning 2 rounds, and then losing in the sweet 16.  I knew they had a pretty good team this year (but not great).  I knew they had a great player is Shabazz Napier.  I knew they had a former player (Kevin Ollie) as head coach.  And, I knew they had spent last season ineligible for the NCAA Tournament.

That's about all I knew.

So I was surprised when the Huskies won it all.  But not too surprised.  Because the college basketball NCAA Tournament is a crapshoot and a half.  Just this year there were an 8 seed and a 7 seed playing in the title not such a big story.

However, you know what a BIG story is?  How the University of Connecticut is now, PERHAPS, the most powerful men's BB program in the nation?
(Their women's team is undoubtedly the best program in the nation)

Don't believe me?

Well, since 1999. The UCONN Men have won 4 National Championships.
Duke has won 2.
North Carolina has won 2.
Kentucky has won 1
Kansas has won 1
Louisville has won 1
Michigan State has won 1
UCLA has won 0

So the University of Connecticut Huskies have won as many titles in the past 16 seasons, as Duke, North Carolina, and UCLA...COMBINED.

Not bad for a University that was once joked about on Cheers.  (Rebecca Howe mentioned that she was a graduate of the University of Connecticut...and Norm Peterson mentioned that they were big fans of their basketball team "the fighting tax accountants".)  (PS... I can't remember if he called them tax accountants or tax attorneys, or what...but I couldn't find it online...but I clearly remember the University of Connecticut joke)

In fact, when you look back at what Coach Jim Calhoun's quite remarkable.  Calhoun was hired by UCONN in 1986.  While UCONN was a member of the powerful Big East Conference, they were pretty much perennial 'cellar dwellars'.  Coach Calhoun changed all that.  In 1990, they won the Big East Tournament for the first time (Which.... by the way, I totally watched that game), and Coach Calhoun was named the National Coach of the year that time.

Coach Calhoun took UCONN from a joke to a perennial contender.
By 1999, he had won the first of 3 National Championships he would gather while running the Huskies.  Calhoun was known for being cantankerous and difficult and a general pain in the butt...but he was a great coach.  In his time at Connecticut, he would win 8 conference championships, 7 conference tournament championships...and sending 27 different players to the NBA.

Even more remarkable, when you think about it...UCONN had no tradition going for National Titles, no name recognition, no glamorous location  (It's located in Storrs, Connecticut).  Not quite the recruiting draw that it would be at places like UCLA or Duke, or heck... any of the traditional powers.

So the next time you consider the "blue bloods" of the college basketball landscape, the Kentucky Wildcats, the Kansas Jayhawks, the UCLA Bruins of the world.... You should include UCONN.  They deserve it.

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