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Nation missing chance to see UConn play

By Carmine Colangelo
On February 25, 2013

The UConn men's basketball program has made us some of the most spoiled fans in all of college basketball.
In the last 15 years, UConn has won three national championships, been to four Final Fours, seven Elite Eights, won five Big East Championships and six regular season conference championships as well. Not to mention we have been witnesses to some of the greatest college basketball players to ever grace the courts of Gampel Pavilion and the XL Center respectively.
For most of us still attending UConn, we were fortunate enough to witness a National Championship victory in 2011. It is a sports fan's fantasy that many talk about, but few get to experience.
I still remember that night like it was yesterday. As Jeremy Lamb grabbed that final rebound and brought the ball past mid-court as time expired, it was over, UConn had become National Champions for the third time in my lifetime.
As I ran out of my Carriage House apartment into the street, the smell of burning couches filled the air and the deafeningly beautiful simplicity of the call and response from the "UCONN - HUSKIES" from hundreds of students and fans could be heard in the neighboring towns. The simple joy of high-fiving and celebrating with familiar faces and strangers alike is a beautiful moment for sports fans.
Not to mention it was the first time I saw someone get hit with a stun gun. It was mostly awesome because I was not the one being shocked by 200 kilovolts, but I digress.
Unfortunately, I will not get to relive this experience this year.
Curse you, APR ban.
Despite the fact that UConn (19-7, 9-5 Big East) could end the season with more than 20 wins or finish the regular season among the top five in the Big East, there will be no postseason. No chance for a tournament run or a bevy of upsets, just an abrupt ending to the season on March 9 after the Huskies play Providence at Gampel Pavilion.
It is like having your speech cut off by the Jaws theme song at the Oscars.
It is not only a shame for us as UConn students, but also for the nation as well, denying the Huskies an opportunity for a potentially great tournament run.
The stage has been set for it too. An underdog team with a first year coach that has overcome nearly every obstacle possible to get this far, you could not ask for a better storyline.
Not to mention the nation is denied the chance to see Shabazz Napier, who is having a season with late game performances that mirror the legendary Kemba Walker.
UConn has had five games go into overtime this season, winning four of them. In those five games, Napier has scored 46 points in overtime alone. Napier has shot 9-for-14 from the floor in that extra time, including 8-of-12 from 3-point and 20-for-22 at the free throw line.
If that is not the recipe for late game heroics and potential tournament classic moments, then I do not know what is. Napier could have done some incredible things in the postseason this year, nothing short of legendary.
Anyone who said they thought the Huskies would have a year like this at the beginning of the season would be a complete liar. I like many others, was worried from the start. Losing Lamb and Andre Drummond to the NBA Draft as well as Alex Oriahki and Roscoe Smith to transfers was only compounded by the retirement of Hall-of-Fame coach Jim Calhoun.
However, Kevin Ollie and this team made us believers with a win over Michigan State. Follow that with wins over Syracuse and Notre Dame and this Huskies team was one to be reckoned with. Despite the lack of depth in the front court and the rebounding woes that can ruin a team in the Big East, the Huskies were nothing short of resilient this season.
That is why it is so vitally important for every student on this campus to support this team for the remainder of the season. With only four games remaining on the schedule, the Huskies will have two more home games. Two final chances to watch the 2012-13 Huskies in action.
Both games, Georgetown on Feb. 27 and Providence on March 9, will be played at Gampel Pavilion, leaving no excuse why the 23-year-old arena should not be filled to the brim in the student section.
I expect both of these games to sound and feel like a playoff game because we, as UConn students, owe it to this team. They did not quit when times were tough and neither should we as fans.
These final games could be an incredible ending to a season that never was. The Huskies might be banned from the postseason, but should not change a thing. If anything, that should make the fans want to come out and support this squad even more. A nice spiteful slap in the face to the NCAA.
What began as a forgettable season ended up being one that we should never forget.

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