Column: Twice as nice for UConn basketball
NASHVILLE - How many times have we all said the words?
"I've never been more proud to be a Husky."
That familiar refrain will never ring more true than it does right now. Though, with the way UConn does things, you can never say for sure.
The proof is in what its already done. Just think about the mystifying numbers, the ridiculous records.
For the men: Four national titles, ahead of vaunted programs like Kansas and behind just four others. The first 7-seed to ever win an NCAA tournament, the second-lowest seed to even win it behind No. 8 Villanova in 1985. Undefeated in the championship game, a perfect 4-0.
For the women: Nine national titles, and NCAA record. 40-0, just the second time it's ever been done. Undefeated for the fifth time, only eight teams have done it total. Undefeated in the championship game, a perfect 9-0.
Together: Dual national champions for only the second time in NCAA history. The other? UConn in 2004.
"We see how hard they work," Bria Hartley said. "They see how hard we work and I think it's just really exciting to see how much pride there is at UConn and how much belief we have in one another."
The walls of Gampel Pavilion are getting mighty crowded. The company that makes UConn's championship signage may be running out of raw materials. (Though I bet they've been loving business this week.)
And that's all happened within the last 20 years.
While other schools have been diligently chipping away, picking up titles here and there for decades on end, UConn showed up late to the athletics party-but as it's been shown the last few weeks, UConn knows how to party. The school was transformed by legends, Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma, and turned into a powerhouse.
The common refrain around the country is one of admiration but not-so-subtle shock that an athletic benchmark could be set in the cow fields of Storrs. Maybe that's true. At one time, this all must have seemed impossible.
But really, nothing seems impossible for these two programs. Not anymore.
Not when perfection is spelled U-C-O-N-N on one side and possibly the two most unlikely runs in NCAA tournament history have come from the other.
"It was definitely different, the two sides of it, the men and ours," Stefanie Dolson said. "For them, no one expected for them to go as far as they did. For them to break those expectations and prove to everyone how hard they worked those two years, since they couldn't be in the tournament last year, was awesome."
"For us, we had a lot of expectations and some teams can kind of fold when things like that happened. But here at Connecticut, once there's pressure and expectations, you exceed them."
The school that shocked the world has run out of surprises. They may be Huskies, but they can never be underdogs again.
If this is what the first 20 years of success has brought, it's almost unthinkable to imagine what could happen over the next 20. The seeds have been planted for (more) greatness.
At First Night in October, Geno said that UConn was in a league of its own. The last two nights, those words have been validated. Just before that, a graphic that read, "College Basketball Capital of the World" adorned the Gampel video boards. Well, that has been proven true-again- too.
Because at UConn, as Kevin Ollie said, "We don't chase championships. Championships chase us."
And boy do they seem to be chasing fast.
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