From the get go, let’s make a couple of things clear on this Tuesday morning, always the most bittersweet one of the year.
Today’s story is not whether John Calipari shall, as former Wildcat star Rex Chapman says, leave the real and true, forever and always la la land — the Big Blue Nation — and hobble off with a bad hip to LA LA to coach Kobe and whoever those other guys are that wear Lakers unis these days?
The story is not how many of the current Cats shall be one and done, if not “Succeed & Proceed,” and jump into the NBA draft?
The story is not whether today is the last we’ll hear the name of Tyler Austin Black, or how long it will take for him to be just another vaguely remembered anecdote to Wildcat lore like Humsey Yessin?
No, my fellow hoopaholics, this morning’s story is the University of Connecticut Huskies.
Because UK’s run, we kind of saw coming.
But, Shabazz1 and friends emerging from the miasma of a 33 point not so yummy — for them — smackdown a month ago today, uh, not quite foreseen.
(Quick view through my Red & Black eyes. I repeat this dumbfounding stat, one that is of some comfort this day to Louisville fans. The Cards throttled UConn thrice. By an average margin of, ahem, 18.33 points.)
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While the kleig lights have focused most of that are they really “student” athletes? dialog Lexington’s way, it must be remembered that UConn had to sit out last year’s tourney because of failure to meet academic progress guidelines.
So, do we put an asterisk by the name of this year’s champs in the record books?
Of course not.
Because, let’s talk fact, THE undisputed premier college basketball power for the last decade and a half is the University of Connecticut.
Last night was the school’s fourth crown, following title runs in 1999, 2004 and 2011. It’s the third they’ve won in the Lone Star State, the first with Kevin Ollie at the helm, not Jim Calhoun.2
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The question I feel compelled to ask, since I’ve been harping all season that the champion would be determined at the FT line, is whether that’s where last night’s title tilt was decided?
The Huskies were a perfect 10/10. UK was 13/24.
For the tournament, UConn hit a seriously impressive 101 out of 115 freebies. That’s 88%. Which obviously was of importance in an 8 point OT W over St. Joe’s (18/20), a 12 point W over ‘Nova (22/28), a 5 point W over Iowa State (20/22), a 6 point win over Sparty (21/22) and a 10 point blistering of Florida (10/13).
Is it what won the game last night?
I dunno. It sure didn’t hurt. The Cats missed 11, and missed those early and late and consistently throughout. Randle missed the second of two, down 50-54 with 5:04 to play. Aaron Harrison miseed the front end of a 1+1, moments later with the same score. Poythress missed a +1 down 52-56 at 3:47.
So, yeah, FTs made a difference.
Such that I cannot disagree with Cal’s strategy at the end to try to defend and not foul a team that wasn’t missing at the line.
Was that the biggest factor?
Not so sure.
Connecticut won the battle of the boards, 34-33. The winners were +2 in the second half and all even at the offensive end after the break with 5. The victors tallied but one less 2d chance point, 6, than UK’s 7.
I’d say the absence of Willie Cauley-Stein, for the first time since he went down, was really significant. So too, the overanxiousness of Julius Randle, who tightened up a bit, so much did he want to win in his home town.3
What did UConn do better than anything?
They adhered to the long time admonition of my pal, Mr. Bunny, who called me this a.m. to remind me.
“Do not relinquish the lead.”
Several times, UK had the ball down but a digit. UConn never relinquished the lead.
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One can generalize that guards rule in these title runs. Experienced guards way more often than not.
So it was this season.
Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatwright controlled last night’s game. As they have the entire tournament.
Last night they combined for 36 points, six steals, six assists, and, oh yeah, 10 rebounds.
On the other end, they were the key defenders that prevented James Young and the twins from driving to the hoop enough to affect the outcome.
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While, post-game, ESPN’s Stuart Scott and Steve Levy were slobbering all over Coach Cal’s comments to the press, I thought the soon to be Lakers coach? more than a bit disingenuous.
He kept excusing his team’s gaffes’ because, “They’re freshmen.”
Well, John, you reap what you sow.
And, by the by, before you pack for LA — if that’s your intention — understand this, around here, it’s always about the program. You can talk talk talk all you want, about, when the season’s over, it’s about the kids, but it ain’t so. The ones who stick around, who really become part of the Blue or Red family, those are the special ones, the ones fans truly adore.
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My favorite play of the night?
Ryan Boatwright’s amazing reverse layup at the 13:08 mark of the opening half. He dribbled into the paint, then, covered by Cats without a shot, he scooted out to the left corner, then making a reverse pivot back along the baseline, under and behind the goal, and back over for a spin in from the right side. It was the capper of an 11-2 UConn run to make the score, 17-8.
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The dumbest observation of the night?
I received a call from The Professor part way through the second half.
“I’ve only watched about five minutes of the game. But, Connecticut is the worst team ever to play in the Final Four.”
Uh, whatever, dude.4
UConn was not only not the worst team to ever play in the Final Four, it’s not even the least good Huskie team to win the title. The 2011 champs wouldn’t have even made the Dance, had they not, as a #9 seed in the Big East tournament, won five games in five days to get an automatic bid.
There have been a number of less than stellar Final Four teams through the years. That LSU squad of Dale Brown’s that U of L beat in the ’86 semis comes immediately to mind.
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My favorite visual of the night?
Bill Clinton and W, watching the game together, in a box.
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Creepiest moment of the night?
That very, very, very weird commercial, during the first media timeout, featuring Charles Manson-eyed Gary Busey, when he says, “Hello, lamp. Hello, pants.”
Would you buy a product based on that?
I also feel compelled to inquire, why is the father of that framily a hamster?
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The question going forward for UConn is whether the school can continue its success playing in the AAC, instead of the Big East?
The major question for Kentucky going forward is whether Cal’s really leaving, and who shall replace him if he does?
— Seedy K
9 thoughts on “UConn Huskies Mush to Title over Kentucky”
Blame the AAU for free throw-nemia. As best I know, in the AAU tourney system, each team keeps playing whether they win or lose games each extended weekend in the summer or over spring breaks, and have a chance to display their wares, be they dunks, fancy passing rebounds, 3-pt shots or nifty dribble-drives. Whether F-T’s are made or not or who wins a game is of little import, so not much attention is paid to the lowly shot with no defender. On the other hand players do concentrate on launching the 3 ball, a much different technique and we see great players who have higher % made from long range than from the charity stripe.
The mid range jumper is also on it’s death bed. Dunks and long three’s get the highlight reel. The mid range only gets SportsCenter if it’s a game winner. So no one practices it.
1. Succeed and Proceed = Suc and Pro = Suc(k) at winning the NC and go Pro instead.
2. Didn’t watch the game but I did see the KO halftime interview which was awesome and I only wish he had started that statement with, “Bitch, please…” ‘Cause I hate halftime interviews. Also liked his whole, we got to keep them out of our yard, philosophy. They actually outrebounded UK. Dag.
3. UConn not a good team? That’s a homer comment if I ever heard one. They beat the overall # 1, and the media consensus favorite (MSU) to get to the championship game where they defeated 7 McDonald’s AAs on a hell of a roll. I’m gonna say they’re damn good.
4. As a UL fan I’m happy that our conference knocked out UK again, just like when they lost to Marquette, UAB, and I guess UConn the last time, because I used to work with UK fans who were forever running down the “weak conference” of the Cards only to lose to it. Karma is a bitch.
Sorry for all the swear words.
Compare the quality of last night’s game to the 2013 finale? And last year was supposed to be a “down” year per the Blew faithful??????
If we had Gorg’s we would be B2B? More probable than not….??????????
After the 5th seeded team in the AmCon wins the Natti “ship over a 10 loss team from a conf with only 3 bids, I will go on record and predict that Mr. B’s billion dollar challenge will not be obtainable in my lifetime absent clairvoyance, Devine Intervention or out and out fraud….
LA deserves Cal and Cal deserves LA….Can WWW get LeBron to bring his talents to the West Coast? Only time will tell…
Does Cal take a “1 year” medical leave for his hip surgery and to work on the LALakers roster, with John Robick (?) as care taker coach while Barney attempts to pry Coach Miller from the clutches of the UAWildcats for the 2015-16 season? Inquiring minds want to know………
Does Kenny Payne replace KKeats as the Rick’s main recruiter and if he does, does he bring the WWW stench back to the Ville where he got his start with the Camden connection?
Would L1C4 fans praise or loathe such a shift in emphasis? Remember, CRP is not getting any younger and would love 1 or 2 more titles before he has Jr. take his place….
Are the 2011 and 2014 UConn Huskies the 2 worst teams to win the title since Loyola in 1963? Or was the DManning Kansas team worse?
The script writers for this years tournament (eg, the refs) had the same story line brewing last night. UConn up by 15 and then bingo….all of UConn’s bigs and the little Boat that could get 2 fouls and “Yahtzee” the Cats are back in the game, round 5. Hard to believe that a team with such a lack of quickness, foot speed and experience could avoid fouls so consistently…….?????? This time though, the rim got small and even the striped shirts couldn’t bail them out……
As much as I hate the NE cheaters, the misdemeanors beat the felons last night…..
Don’t be dissing the Loyola Ramblers. You may be right about the Kansas Mannings.
Yeh, Jerry Harkess lives in the hearts and minds of all mid 20th century basketball fans.
Ah yes, sports irony at its best. Louisville loses to Kentucky cuz they go 13 for 23 at the line; and Kayats lose to U Conn cuz they go 13 for 24. But the Kayats did beat the real national champs twice cuz the Cards beat the Huskies trice. Me thinks that Boatwright’s pull up 15′ jumper late in second half was a mortal would to those wild Kayats.
To show you how right I am about UConn being the worst final four team to win the championship ever, today a Vegas oddsmaker said that if the UConn men played the UConn women for the championship his opening line would be the women minus 1 1/2. AS THE GREAT BARKLEY WOULD SAY, THE MEN ARE JUST TURRIBLE!
UConn was 66-1 to win it all before the tournament. Anybody take that bet? That’s more interesting to me than some redneck’s tattoo.
KenPom’s blog actually says that this year was the BEST on record for free throw shooting. You just couldn’t prove it in the Bluegrass.
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