UConn is national champions again - but this time is different than all the others
Over the last few weeks, there's been a dumb, basically impossible-to-answer argument about UConn basketball going on on social media.
Should UConn finish the deal in Houston, and win a fifth national championship in school history, should they be considered a "blue blood."
Again, it's a dumb, exhausting argument, if only because no one really knows what a blue blood is. Can you "become" a blue blood, or was that distinction handed out decades ago with no new entries allowed? If you've been bad forever (cough, Indiana) can you lose the status?
But while the "Is UConn a blue blood" is an argument that can be debated over the spring and summer, what can't be debated is this:
After winning the school's fifth national title in the last 24 years, UConn has established itself as one of the elite programs in college basketball, period.
One that can't be defined by one coach, one magic run, or one short stretch.
Put simply with five national titles since 1999, under three different coaches, there isn't a program that wouldn't trade place with their last quarter century.
And they won this one with the flair and swagger of some of the school's old-school, all-time great teams.
Now admittedly, while Monday night ended like UConn's other five NCAA Tournament games - with a double-digit victory - it didn't come easy.
San Diego State started out making four of its first five shots, to jump to a 10-6 lead. UConn settled in from there, and started to seize control.
It included a near 10-minute scoreless streak that could be attributed to both elite UConn defense and a struggling Aztec offense.
The Huskies led by 12 at the break, but even Dan Hurley knew: It should've been more.
And out of intermission, San Diego State didn't let up. Much like the Florida Atlantic game Saturday, the Aztecs scratched and clawed their way back. A lead which briefly ballooned to 15 in the second half was eventually cut to six at around the five-minute mark, and was a manageable eight at the under four-minute timeout.
Again, don't let the final score fool you. UConn didn't have this one sealed until the final minutes or so, but as the clock wound down, this one ended like all the others did: With a double-digit UConn win.
Final score: 76-59.
In the big-picture, this was one of the most dominant NCAA Tournament runs we've ever seen.
The Huskies won all six games by double-figures, you know that. What you probably don't know is that they trailed for a grand total of 31 minutes the entire tournament (less than five minutes per game), and trailed a grand total of 31 seconds in the second half all tournament.
Yet for UConn fans this win is about more than just results on a stat sheet.
It means again, that UConn's place as an indisputable college basketball power cannot argued.
It shouldn't have been before, yet ask most UConn fans, and it seemed like every time the "best programs" in the sport got brought up, UConn's name was conspicuously absent. It was always North Carolina and Kansas, UCLA and Duke, Kentucky.
Well with the win on Monday, they are are now tied with Duke and Indiana at five titles apiece, trailing only UCLA, Kentucky and North Carolina.
More importantly, they're tied with Duke, as the only school's to win five titles since the current tournament expanded to 64(+) teams.
Any conversation that is had about the best programs in modern college basketball has to include the Huskies. If they're not No. 1, they're close.
Beyond that, while the history is great, the moment is what's even more special.
Understand, this one was extra special because of what UConn has gone through.
It's easy to sit there and say "It's UConn, they win national championships, stop making it a big deal."
Except here's the thing: It is a big deal. And no one knew this day would come.
That's because while everyone remembers the glory days of Ray Allen and Rip, Emeka and Kemba, this program fell on dark times since the 2014 title game.
There were back-to-back losing seasons to end the Kevin Ollie era, a mess that extended into a losing season in Year 1 for Dan Hurley. There was no Big East affiliation, but instead, UConn being stuck in the college basketball outpost of the AAC, playing the likes of Tulsa and Tulane rather than Villanova, Providence and St. John's.
It's easy to forget it all now, but there was no promise that UConn would be back here, and you could feel it in the city all week.
When UConn fans did arrive this week - in droves mind you - it felt different than maybe any Final Four since the first in 1999. UConn, like any great program had maybe gotten a little spoiled with the winning, and this week there was a sense of "Man, it's so good to be back." In 2017, 2018 and 2019, it was impossible to know if this day would ever come.
Well UConn fans, there's no need to worry anymore.
UConn is back.
UConn is national champion.
And they're not going anywhere.
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