Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Did That Just Happen?

On March 7, the day before the Big East tournament started, a fellow reporter asked me, “Do you think there’s a chance, if they lose to DePaul, that they won’t even go to the NCAA tournament?”

I actually had to think for a moment before replying, “No, they’ve done enough already to get in.”

And they had. Still, that the Huskies being sent to the NIT – not to mention losing to DePaul – was even being considered tells you just what a rut they were in. Four losses in their prior five games, and virtually no momentum heading into the Big East tournament as the league’s ninth seed.

Nearly a month later, they’re national champions.

Unbelievable. I mean, seriously … did this just happen?

Granted, it was the Land of Misfit Toys this year in college basketball. All four Final Four participants were oddballs with amazing stories of their own. VCU, which had to win five games just to get to Houston as a First Four participant. Butler, the first team from Indiana ever to reach consecutive Final Fours. (I still can’t get over that one, considering the hoops tradition of that state).

Even Kentucky and its “problem child” coach, John Calipari, overcame youth and some early-season struggles to get on an impressive roll and find itself in Houston.

But UConn’s road may have been the most improbable, and not only because it won the whole thing. I mean, seriously: five wins in five days to win the toughest conference in America’s tournament? Nine wins in 19 days, overall, to get to Houston – six of them over Top 25 teams?

Once they got there, of course, there was no denying them. Kemba Walker was on a mission. Calhoun wasn't about to let Brad Stevens and Butler -- as classy and respectable as they are -- stand between him and his third national title. Look no further than the message on the whiteboard inside the Huskies' locker room.

"We Didn't Come Here to Win the Semi's" it says, in case you can't read it. Never found out who wrote it, but the fact that it could have been anyone -- Calhoun, Walker, another starter, a reserve, an assistant coach -- tells you the unified resolve of this team.

A merry band of freshmen, a couple of sophomores and one superstar, and they’re national champs? It just doesn’t make any sense.

And yet they did it. Truly amazing. National champions. And a month earlier, you had to pause for a moment to consider whether they were NIT-bound.

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Anonymous Pat said...

Check out these limited edition Waterford trophy replicas: http://crystalclassics.com/waterford/collectibles/2011ncaaball.htm

April 5, 2011 at 8:43 AM 
Blogger MikeMC said...

Dave, I was appalled at all of the very negative stories posted by the premiere sports media writers about the "ragged, embarrassing" UCONN-Butler game [their words and not mine]. I thought UCONN's defensive game plan and their effort in carrying it out was magnificent. Have any of the respected BE coaches [Dixon, Boeheim, Thompson etc..] commented on the game?

April 6, 2011 at 3:23 PM 
Blogger David Borges said...

I have to be honest: I didn't exactly paint a picture of a beautiful game in my game story. Sorry, that's just the way I saw it. No question, UConn's defense deserved a lot of credit. But Butler missed a lot of easy, wide-open shots, as well.

I think as much a culprit as any is the fact that the game is played in a huge, expansive football stadium. It really is hard for shooters to get a feel with that kind of background. Shooting percentages often are down in national championship games, and I suspect this is one of the main reasons.

April 6, 2011 at 9:02 PM 
Anonymous DJ said...

Watch the entire 2011 Huskie NCAA and BIG EAST run!
11 games in 26 days AVAILABLE ON DVD!

April 7, 2011 at 10:08 AM 

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