UConn Wins 2014 Men's Basketball Title: "This Is What Happens When You Ban Us"
When he took over for the retiring Jim Calhoun back in September of 2012, University of Connecticut then-interim head coach Kevin Ollie concluded his introductory press conference with some very prophetic words:
"I want to just say that we're gonna take the stairs and not the escalator because the escalator is for cowards. We're gonna take the stairs and it's going to be one step at a time and we're gonna get there. Your future's not given to you, you gotta take it."
Ollie was taking over a program that was to be banned from the 2013 men's tournament by the NCAA for low APR (Academic Progress Rate) scores from a few years ago. The school was also set adrift by conference realignment turmoil that left them on the outside looking in, a member of a brand new, Big East refugee conference called the AAC. Mega rivalries with Syracuse and Georgetown were replaced with trips to Central Florida and Houston.
UConn would have a handful of players jump ship before the 2012-2013 season.
But a few of them stayed, and on Monday night the loyal ones were rewarded. More to the point, they rewarded themselves, because the Huskies indeed were not given the 2014 NCAA championship.
They took it.
In a 60-54 win over Kentucky in which they never trailed, everything that was great about this version of the UConn Huskies was on full display.
Their two sensational guards, Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, did to Kentucky's talented, but young Harrison twins the same things they did to Keith Appling of Michigan State and Scottie Wilbekin of Florida. The Huskies' backcourt tied them in knots and choked them out.
Combined, the twin Kentucky catalysts shot 6 of 16 from the floor and turned the ball over seven times. Moreover, like every team the Huskies faced before them in this tournament, the Wildcats were just never able to get in synch on the offensive end. If the game were a cross country flight, the Wildcats were airsick for most of the night.
At the other end of the floor, Connecticut just kept running high screen after high screen after high screen until they got a jump shot they liked or until Napier or Boatwright could beat Kentucky with dribble penetration. The Huskies got a C- night from DeAndre Daniels (who was their MVP against Florida Saturday, but only 4-14 from the field on Monday) and got less than nothing inside from their bigs, who set an unofficial record for having their shots blocked.
And still the Huskies did what they did all tournament long. They overcame.