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Column: How about now?

By Mike Peng
On April 10, 2014

I have often wondered how many Grammy awards Coldplay had to win before folks took them seriously. In the same way, it's how I feel about the UConn men's basketball program.
If there is any program in college basketball that is as often disregarded and overlooked as the Huskies were before Monday night, I haven't heard of it.
Despite having three national titles already under its belt, UConn was rarely ever mentioned in the same regard as schools like Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky until Tuesday morning.
Perhaps it's the histories of those storied programs. After all, the legacies of those schools are unrivaled by most in the country. But UConn, a perennial title contender since Jim Calhoun's arrival in 1986, was never considered as one of the "blue bloods."
In the past 15 years, no school has won more national championships than UConn, but somehow it took an astonishing fourth title before the nation perked up its ears.
To be fair, no one really expected the Huskies to win this championship; their odds of winning the title stood at 100 to 1 on Selection Sunday. But despite advancing round after round and defeating tournament favorites such as Michigan State and Florida, UConn was still a three-point underdog heading into the championship game against the talented freshmen of Kentucky.
Sure, a recruiting class like that would make anyone in college basketball envious, but having seven McDonald's All-Americans still wasn't enough to top a team that had none of them.
That's because the Huskies always found ways to work with what they have.
Located in the middle of farmlands with winters that seem so long it can make the House of Stark cringe, Storrs is not where many McDonald's All-Americans would want to take their skills. However, that has never stopped UConn from producing a steady stream of NBA talent with the players it does recruit.
It's almost comical to think about how much people panicked about UConn's future two years ago when it was abandoned by the Big East and passed up by conferences like the ACC and the Big Ten.
I wonder how much John Swofford and Jim Delany, commissioners for those respective conferences, now rue their decisions to take schools like Syracuse and Rutgers instead.
This year's title is more than a redemption for UConn. It's a metaphorical finger the Huskies are pointing to the rest of the NCAA.
UConn is not a "Cinderella" and never will be. Kevin Ollie would tell you the same.
"We are bred to cut down nets. We are not chasing championships. Championships are chasing us," he said after the title-win.
As for how long it'll take for UConn to catch up with Kentucky and North Carolina in number of titles, that is anyone's guess. But in the meantime, people should take a look at Shabazz Napier's advice Monday night and start paying some attention to the Huskies.
Follow Mike Peng on Twitter at @MikeXPeng
 


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