Thursday, April 08, 2004
Storrs, Ct. The Capitol of the College Basketball World
The Huskies battled the weight of expectations and won.
All along, it was a season of personal development. They say your toughest opponent is yourself. That sure is true about these Huskies.
From the beginning of the season, when both the men's and women's teams were ranked preseason no. 1 throughout a tumultuous season until, in this case, two shining moments, the Huskies never encountered a tougher opponent than the one in the mirror.
The men were manhandled at the Preseason NIT by Georgia Tech and the women melting down at home against rival Duke. Men's head coach Jim Calhoun the object of criticism after a profanity-laced tirade following the home loss to Providence, women's head coach Geno Auriemma blatantly displaying disgust after a loss at Notre Dame.
Only two words can sum up the end result, however.
"Immortality" was the word of choice for Ben Gordon in San Antonio just before midnight, central time, on April 5. The word "domination" came to mind for Diana Taurasi the following day in New Orleans.
Both teams reached immortality in the record books and the hearts of Husky Nation. For the Lady Huskies, it is a dominating dynasty led by the one they call "D."
That was the good. Now for the bad.
Everybody knows about the campus riots, the burned couches, and the flipped cars. The university's investigation based on pictures taken on campus. I was even approached by a college radio station in Ohio for an interview about these events.
Even John Stewart took his shot on the Daily Show.
Did the university not see this coming? I wasn't around in 1999 with the historic bonfires but in my four years at UConn I know that the nature of the students here is to be destructive party-animals. Playboy reportedly took UConn of its list of party schools because they didn't want to compare amateurs with professionals.
This is a rowdy school with over 15,000 enrolled students at the main campus in Storrs. In 1999 the University sponsored celebration events and that year the Huskies were underdogs. This time around, with the Huskies expected to win it all from the start, the least the university could do was have something set up at Fairfield way, directly across the street from Gampel, for the immense crowd to satisfy their enormous amount of energy.
Instead, the energy was destructive and fingers are being pointed at UConn students. This could have easily been averted.
I hope the university takes note of this. Instead of continuing the campaign toward a dry campus and pointing fingers at "problem students," the administrators could actually give the students something to do. Build a downtown area. Designate a "Town Square" type of area on campus and use it. Establish it.
Definately hold a safe rally at the center of campus for students to celebrate.
As graduation approaches, Husky Nation says a fond farewell to Diana Taurasi, Emeka Okafor, and Ben Gordon, while looking forward to the next season.
To all the members of Husky Nation, lets just sit back and soak in all the greatness!
Click here for an extensive list of UConn video and audio clips.
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Party Like It's 1999
You're not going to believe what I am about to tell you, so brace yourself.
We are the Duke Blue Devils.
Hear me out, Husky Nation, before you delete this website from existence.
In 1999, the Huskies won the national championship. We all know and revere that. As a matter of fact yesterday was the anniversary of our championship win over the Dukies.
It was so memorable as it wasn't only about Jim Calhoun's long awaited and elusive first national championship. It wasn't only about the timeless picture of Khalid El-Amin ingrained in our memories as he points "number one" into the sky. It wasn't only about Richard Hamilton's rise to superstardom.
It was about dethroning the mighty Goliath. We ended the dynasty. The underdog Huskies "shocked the world" and proved that you can, UConn.
The Huskies defeated the Duke Blue Devils, the last team that has won every game in the NCAA tournament by at least a margin of 15 points per game.
Now, we are Goliath. No longer the lovable underdogs, we have repeated the same feat that Duke last accomplished 5 years ago. We are everybody's favorite, the recipient of all the hype.
While everybody salivates over another UConn/Duke matchup as if it's a Red Sox/Yankee brawl, I will take you to the big picture.
As much as I'd love to provide you with propaganda for my favorite team in the country, as much as I want to shout "Remember the Alamo!" and as much as I want (and expect) to see Calhoun cutting down his second national championship net while simultaneously being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, I'd be letting you down.
Here to play Devil's advocate (I promise, no pun intended), I will make a parallel to 1999. We are the powerhouse that people are sick of seeing on the stage. The lovable underdogs, with a coach approaching a long-awaited championship, is Oklahoma State.
It fits so perfectly. The memories of John Lucas hugging John Lucas after the victory against St. Joes practically in the Hawks' backyard in New Jersey will live on forever if the Cowboys win. Eddie Sutton will take his name off that list that Jim Calhoun, Gary Williams, and Jim Boeheim took themselves off of in the last five years.
Believe me, it sickens me. Okafor and Gordon going onto the NBA, just as Ray Allen and Caron Butler, just short of the ultimate goal in college sports. But it's in the cards and it's almost poetic justice.
For most UConn fan's that's ok, because getting to Oklahoma St. (or Georgia Tech) would be enough because it would mean beating Duke. Also, many fans think the Final Four should be re-seeded, so that UConn can really repeat 1999 by defeating an OSU and then Duke after coming out of the Phoenix regional unscathed by a Cinderella team.
For Oklahoma St, in addition to the Sutton and Lucas stories (included in the Lucas stories are both the family ties and the Baylor incident) we also have the fact that since their last final four in 1995 (see Big Country Reeves) the Cowboys suffered a terrible loss when some members of the basketball program were killed in a plane crash.
I can see it now. UConn and Oklahoma St. advance, the state of Connecticut becomes entrenched in euphoria over beating Duke and riots occur on the UConn Storrs campus while the rest of the world catches onto the feel good story of the Cowboys. Imagine the features that could be written. Any paid columnist would be salivating.
Just wait and see.
Sorry, I'm not trying to win a popularity contest here, just saying it as it is.
Besides, I can't brown-nose my team too much, and I have to save my glorification and exaltation of the Huskies for this time next week ;-)
San Antonio 2004!
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Buffalo Bound Banter
Just some ramblings going into tournament time...
UConn faces Vermont in the first round. Taylor Coppenwhatever scored 43 points in the America East Championship game after missing about three weeks with a broken wrist. He also dropped 38 in the season opener at UCLA. Yes, I know UCLA stinks this season, and lost to the pitiful St. Johns, but remember it's one of those "hard-nosed, defensive teams" coached by Ben Howland.
Not to look ahead, but I don't think Dave Leitao and Depaul are going to make it to a potential matchup vs. his former mentor Calhoun. LeVar Seals is suspended for the game against Dayton because of a sucker punch in the Conference USA championship. I'm sure you saw it replayed on ESPN. Meanwhile Dayton has one of the better big men in the country not named Emeka Okafor in Keith Waleskowski. They also have a higher RPI than Depaul (39-41).
Looking even farther ahead (I know it's a sin) but my biggest worry in the Phoenix region will be our potential sweet-16 matchup with North Carolina State. NC State leads the country in free-throw percentage. Enough said. Also Julius Hodge knows he should have beaten us in the second round two seasons ago, and a much more mature Hodge, a senior, will be back and driven for revenge.
I don't worry about the revenge factor with Stanford. Just plain overrated, with a plainly terrible schedule and some plainly lucky wins in the Pac-10.
No more looking ahead...
To show how important guard play is in the Tournament, ESPN has a stat in each team's description for three-pointers made per game. Gives hope to teams like St. Josephs with the best backcourt duo in the country, and maybe it'll even help Florida A&M, the winner of the play-in game, 15-16 on the season, to become the first evern 16-seed to defeat a top-seeded team in the opening round.
Expect nothing out of Providence with an out of shape Ryan Gomes who seemed to lose his agility at the Big East Tournament...Expect nothing out of Kansas, because I say so and that's usually a safe bet.
Your classic 12-5 upset this year: Manhattan over Florida (Luis Flores dominates a lack of that guy who left Florida to play in Spain...what was his name again? Oh yea him). Classic 10-7 upset Nevada over Michigan State (Kirk Snyder's coming out party vs. a sleeping dragon that just won't wake up). I chose that because the Louisville/Xavier game is just way too obvious to call.
Charlotte is my dark horse for the elite 8 before they bow down to Pittsburgh. And finally Duke gets the raw deal, drawing a potential matchup with Arizona in the second round. Peace out, Dukies!!
I don't see more than one 7-seed surviving and my "big" upset special is 13-seed Pacific over 4-seed Providence. Thats about it. A pair of 8 hour bus rides to Buffalo ahead of me along with some exciting first and second round action and I will be back to update this for the regionals next week.
In the meantime, when CBS isnt airing the UConn game, listen here or 91.7 FM in Storrs for live play by play. Enjoy, and GO FLORIDA A&M.....I MEAN
Monday, March 15, 2004
Welcome to Madison Square Gordon
Start spreading the news... Ben Gordon and the Huskies have gone down in Big East Championship history.
Gordon woke up in a city that doesn't sleep and found he's king of the hill. With scoring bursts of 29, 29, and 23, Gordon and the Huskies tied Georgetown for the most tournament championships in Big East history with six.
Gordon broke former Hoya Allen Iverson's scoring record of 79 with 81 total points in this year's conference championships. His timing is impeccable.
For most of the season, the baller formerly known as Gentle Ben found himself lost in Emeka Okafor's staggeringly immense shadow. A nagging back injury had taken its toll on Okafor during the Syracuse game a week ago, and 'Mek' sat out the first two games of the postseason tournament.
In a not-even-remotely Willis Reed fashion, Okafor started the championship game for the Huskies in the Madison Square Garden. In 32 minutes, he scored 11 points, ripped down a game-high 13 rebounds to go along with three blocks.
With 2:19 remaining in the game, Okafor left the game with his fifth personal foul and the eclipse was officially over. Gordon stepped up with a Ray Allen-esque runner in the lane to put Pittsburgh away on his way to the record breaking finish.
The Huskies made their pilgrimage to the Mecca of basketball, and their prayers were answered. As a fan, I am now a believer.
Ben Gordon is now a legitimate immediate NBA prospect, however.
Calhoun mentioned in Saturday's press conference that the Huskies should play all their games at MSG since Ben playes so well there (you can't forget the key three-pointer his freshman year against Villanova in the quarterfinals).
"That's a Freudian slip, like I'll have him here a long time," Calhoun said.
Notes: Josh Boone set a freshman record with for rebounds in a tournament game with 16 against Notre Dame in the quarterfinal...Taliek Brown became UConn's single season and career assist leader after the win against Villanova, and counting...Villanueva's x-rays were negative Friday night but was still held out of the championship game, keep an eye on his status...Okafor will continue to receive shots in his back to ease the pain throughout the NCAA tournament run...With seven steals, Jaron Brown now holds the tournament record for thieves.
2004 BIG EAST ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Taliek Brown, Connecticut, Sr.
Jaron Brown, Pittsburgh, Sr.
Carl Krauser, Pittsburgh, So.
Chris Taft, Pittsburgh, Fr.
Craig Smith, Boston College, So.
Dave Gavitt Trophy (Most Outstanding Player)
Ben Gordon, Connecticut, Jr.
Saturday, March 06, 2004
It's Mojo time for the Huskies at Syracuse...Check back Monday for full analysis of the Cuse game plus previewing the Big East Tourney.
Listen here, Sunday at 2pm!
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
Fan Is Short For Fanatic
I just got finished watching the movie “Celtic Pride.”
The movie made a parody of some crazy fans that would do whatever it takes to help their team win. They kidnap an opponent’s star player before the championships because they felt they were contributing to the team’s success.
The movie, a comedy, is a big joke. The subject is serious.
Not to promote fanaticism, but what ever happened to the notion of contributing to your team’s success? In an age in which fans refer to their teams as “we,” they speak as if they are a part of the team. Don’t mention that to UConn fans though.
In college basketball the crowd is considered the sixth man. At UConn, specifically at the Hartford Civic Center, the Huskies are very lucky to have Charlie Villanueva or else they would have no “sixth man” whatsoever.
Whatever happened to the people that wore their heart on their sleeve, and bled from their heart for their team? It seems that the UConn fans and players have a lot in common: they expect to win, so there is much less enthusiasm, passion, and fire.
A UConn student came up to me and told me he was “embarrassed” to be a fan at these games. The students are under the impression that they are the only ones that care about their Huskies.
Another fan from The Boneyard sent me this comment via email:
I sat in a different section than I normally do & it was pathetic. It was almost like there was an echo. I couldn't believe how many people were just standing at the start of each half & not clapping. That was everyone, not just my section. The most telling stat I can think of was that there was only one Big Red cheer. He got up at least 3 times but there was no one calling for him.
Now don’t get me wrong. I know how much this state cares about its Huskies. I even criticized them for caring too much when the women lost to Duke.
But the message is clear. The students want it to be shown. At every game I have been to, whether it is in Gampel Pavilion or the Civic Center, I see signs that say “stand up Gampel” or “stand up Hartford” and the students and fans waving their arms for the rest of the fans to get up and into the game.
Calhoun even said after a game earlier this season that the fans don’t realize how important they are.
Although I like to write critical pieces on occasion, that is not what this is. This is a call to action.
Husky fans – I know you aren’t timid. I know the Huskies have been part of your life, and your family’s life for many years. I know you come from all corners of Connecticut (and even New England) to come see your Huskies play. After coming all this way, you owe it to yourselves.
You owe it to your Huskies.
If Duke can have the “Cameron Crazies” why can’t we have something like that here at UConn? After four years as a student at UConn, I’ve vaguely heard references to what is considered “Calhoun’s Corner” but what good is a corner when you play in a four-side arena?
If that isn’t enough, then check out this link.
If that doesn’t add enough fuel to your fire, I don’t know what will. Let’s take it upon ourselves to make Storrs and Hartford two of the toughest places to play for any opposing college hoops team.
Monday is Senior Night, the last home game of the season. The last time Emeka Okafor will lace it up for his hometown fans. The last time we will ever see Taliek Brown or Shamon Tooles play ball in the state of Connecticut.
I promise you, if you aren’t a Taliek Brown fan, you will appreciate him much more next season when he is gone.
So I hope we go out on Monday and support this team as is appropriate for a team potentially heading to the final four. Let’s smother Seton Hall and make this team feel appreciated.
I want to feel the electricity that there was in Gampel for the same game two years ago, when Caron Butler went into the student section.
I want all our opponents to be afraid to play at Connecticut.
And I want to never let Providence happen again!
Sunday, February 22, 2004
Huskies still need improvement, but finally taking steps in the right direction.
Leave any comments on the game below. Site will be updated soon.