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A month for the ages for UConn

POSTED March 27, 2011
BY Patrick Tiscia
Twitter: @PatrickTiscia

It’s time for an always fun trip to the vault.

From February 3, 2011, by yours truly:

“On Wednesday night, I went to the brick-a-thon between UConn and Syracuse. Despite one of the dumber fouls committed in the history of basketball in the final minute, I loved what I saw from UConn freshman Jeremy Lamb and would not be surprised to see him in the NBA in two years. Make sure you get a chance to see him in person before he leaves.

As for Kemba Walker, he’ll be in the NBA for sure next season, but you can bet NBA scouts will be watching the film from this game to see how to defend him. Syracuse’s zone was relentless and Walker was unable to drive to the hoop and couldn’t shoot over it because of his height.”

In that game, Walker shot a horrendous 3-of-14 and finished with only eight points. The Huskies shot 36 percent from the field, 62 percent from the foul line and committed 14 turnovers.

If anyone at the XL Center that night says they predicted what was to come for this team, they’re either a better liar than George Costanza or they should start their own psychic business.

At best, the Huskies looked a team that, maybe, could squeak out a first round NCAA Tournament win. What has transpired in the last three weeks, from the five-game run to the Big East Tournament title to the Elite Eight, is, perhaps, the most remarkable story in the program’s history outside of their shocking victory over Duke in the 1999 championship game.

The only comparison in recent sports history I can come up is the 2007 run to the Super Bowl by the New York Football Giants.

It’s common sentiment that the Giants’ run was one of the Cinderella nature, but if you look closely at that team’s roster, they were just as talented, especially on defense, than anyone. They underachieved in the regular season and were lucky to make the playoffs. Once the Giants got there, they were fortunate enough to get their act together just in time to pull off a four-game winning streak that will never be forgotten.

This UConn team, though, wasn’t an underachiever in the regular season. They were picked 10th in the always reliable (last two words are full of sarcasm if you didn’t notice) Big East coaches poll and eventually finished ninth.

Then how do you explain all of this?

To me, it comes down to one thing: maturity. Since they are always on TV, playing in front of 10,000-plus crowds every night, many of which in NBA arenas, it’s easy to forget that these college players are, indeed, just kids.

Other than Walker, who came off the bench two years ago in UConn’s run to the Final Four, no other player had any considerable experience in big games unless you count last year’s drive to the NIT.

And also don’t forget the luck of timing. These Huskies couldn’t have picked a better day/week/month to pull together as a team and realize their full potential. Remember, only three weeks ago Jim Calhoun was blasting his players for lack of heart when it came to rebounding in a loss to Notre Dame in the regular season finale. Since then, they've rattled off eight consecutive wins in a tournament atmosphere. Talk about waiting until the last second, but, hey, better late than never, right?

Whether its time is up Saturday against Arizona, or whether this game will be just another step on a dream run to a championship, this UConn season will rank amongst the most memorable in its storied history.

The cool thing about this one, unlike the others, is that no one saw it coming. Those are always the most fun. Just ask the Giants.

Twitter: @PatrickTiscia

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