Point/Counterpoint: Which UConn championship team was more impressive?
Published: Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 23:02
Dalton: Chris Smith. Scottie Burrell. Tate George. Nadav Henefeld. The Dream Season. Few seasons in the history of UConn basketball have been as exciting as ‘89-90. And it could be argued that none have been more important. The ‘90 Huskies brought a rising program to the national stage. Entering the season unranked, in the fourth year of the Jim Calhoun era, UConn took the collegiate hoops world by storm, establishing a remote agricultural, business school as a soon-to-be national power. Winning the program’s first ever Big East Regular Season and Tournament championships the ‘90 edition of the Huskies garnered the attention of a nation en route to earning the school’s first ever No. 1 seed.
Spencer: The 1990 team without a doubt made a national statement that UConn was on the rise. But I wouldn’t go as far as saying that they were the most important team. The 1999 team, led by Khalid El-Amin, Richard Hamilton, Kevin Freeman and Jake Voskuhl, was the team who officially placed its stamp on the national stage. This was the first championship team and set a standard for UConn teams to try and live up to. Without this team who knows if UConn would have three trophies in the case.
Dalton: Without the 1989-1990 Huskies no trophies would be in the case. The “Dream Season” was everything this school needed. From the opening of Gampel Pavilion to marquee home wins over Syracuse and an Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo led Georgetown squad, all the way to Tate George’s buzzer beater in the Sweet 16 off of Scott Burrell’s full court pass, the 1990 season was special. Inarguably the 1999 season was as well but Richard Hamilton’s Huskies needed its predecessor. Before 1990 “UConn” was a term only known from Tolland to Fairfield County. It’s fair to say the “Dream Season” changed everything. UConn was thrust into the spotlight and the program’s fame would last much longer than 15 minutes.
Spencer: It is hard to argue that UConn was simply just a Connecticut term before the 1990 team, but it was the 1999 team that made sure that UConn was a household name across America. A great season is remembered for the few years following, but a National Championship is something that is never forgotten. When UConn brings potential recruits into Gampel Pavilion on their visits, it is the banner and the Huskies of Honor that they see. There isn’t a banner anywhere that showcases the 1990 team, but it’s the 1999 team that has its place in Gampel for every kid to see. It’s that banner that inspires these kids to come to UConn and add their mark on the program.
Dalton: Yes, the 1999 team indubitably made sure UConn wouldn’t ever be forgotten. But if the 1999 national championship was heaven, 1990 was the stairway that placed Connecticut on the doorsteps of the pearly gates. Though the 1990 season ended in heartbreak – on a Christian Laettner, Duke buzzer beater in the Elite 8 leaving UConn two points and one second shy of its first Final Four – 1990 enshrined this school’s basketball program into the hearts of nutmegers forever. There’s a reason the campaign is now known as the “Dream Season,” such a run was unprecedented. Donyell Marshall, Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, Caron Butler, Emeka Oakafor, Kemba Walker – who knows if any of those Husky legends would have donned blue and white if it were not for the 1990 squad’s groundbreaking run. 1990 positioned Connecticut into a new stratosphere and “Husky Mania” ensued. The rest is history.
Spencer: There's no denying that the 1990 season was huge for the program, but it was simply just the beginning. It's the 1999 season that made UConn who it is today. It set the standard that this is a team who goes into every season expecting to win a National title. Sure the 1990 team made making the NCAA tournament a regular expectation. But no team simply wants to make the NCAA tournament; they want to win it. Another important thing from this team was the success that Richard Hamilton had after this season. It looked incredible from a recruit standpoint to see "Rip" not only win a national title, but get drafted seventh overall and have an amazing NBA career that includes a NBA championship. This team was incredibly influential to the future of the program, and why I believe the most important team in UConn history.