If you were not already convinced of this, you should consider changing your mind; the University of Connecticut is the latest basketball dynasty.
On the women’s side, this comes as no surprise. They have utterly dominated women’s college basketball for over a decade under Geno Auriemma. The real surprise comes on the men’s side, where the Huskies have quietly overachieved in recent years. Jim Calhoun was as good a coach as any in his tenure and was succeeded by a man who has equal or even greater potential in Kevin Ollie.
This season cemented UConn’s place in basketball lore. Here are the numbers that you need to know that justify UConn’s improbable (or probable) dominance:
The Lady Huskies went an astounding 40-0 over the course of the season this year, en-route to their ninth national championship in school history. They became just the second college basketball team to ever crack the 40-win barrier. Brittney Griner and Baylor became the first team to do it in 2012, and now the Huskies can join that elite group.
The last time that UConn swept both the men’s and women’s basketball championships was exactly 10 years ago, when they became the first team to ever accomplish the feat. Connecticut is still the only school to ever pull off the sweep. 2004 was just the second time that the men’s team had ever won a national championship after the men beat Georgia Tech and the women beat Tennessee to capture their fifth title.
A) With their win over Kentucky, the UConn men became the first ever 7-seed to win a national championship. They did so by beating a 10-seed, 2-seed,-3-seed, 4-seed and a 1-seed before beating 8-seed Kentucky in the championship, one of the most difficult Final Four paths ever trekked in college basketball history. They are also the first 7-seed to make it past the Elite Eight and the lowest seed to win the national championship since the 8-seed Villanova Wildcats won it all in 1985.
B) Seven also happens to be the number of times that the UConn women have made the Final Four in the last seven years, including 14 times out of the last 20 years. A model of consistency for sure.
2013-14 was just Kevin Ollie’s second year at the helm of the program and his first while the team was post-season eligible. Ollie has done a masterful job with the program and lit a fire under the “Hungry Huskies,” as Shabazz Napier now refers to them as.
Ollie has been known to be a leader no matter where he is. NBA stars such as Kevin Durant and LeBron James rave about Ollie’s presence on and off of the court and continually root for his success. When a team has a coach that the players will rally around, success is bound to follow, and that is why Ollie is going to have a long and successful coaching career.
The UConn women’s team has five undefeated seasons in program history, easily the most in the NCAA. Even more incredible is the fact that these undefeated season have all come since 1995. To put that in perspective, UConn had never gone undefeated in a season before I (a college freshman) was born and have managed to accomplish that feat five times since then. That, my dear readers, is dominance.
The men’s and women’s basketball teams at UConn are a combined 13-0 in national championships, and much like the last statistic, all of these championships have come since the 1995 season. That means that nearly 30 percent of the national championships won in collegiate basketball, both men’s and women’s, in the past 19 years have been won by UConn.
There are only a total of six seniors of the men’s and women’s rosters at UConn. The scarier part is that only two of them are on the women’s team, making it possible for the Lady Huskies to bring back nearly all of their key players and make a push for another undefeated season. The men will be sure to lose four players to graduation, including the Final Four Most Outstanding Player Shabazz Napier. However, with the amount of top recruits that are sure to come through their doors because of the player-friendly coach of Ollie and the tradition of success, I am pretty sure that the Huskies will fare just fine in 2015 and should be on a lot of teams’ radars come next March.
When people think of men’s college basketball today, they still have a tendency to think of Duke, Kansas, North Carolina and even Michigan State before UConn even crosses their mind. But the fact of the matter is that UConn has won four national championships in the past 15 years, two more than any other team in that time frame. Auriemma and the women have been able to convince the country that they are a dynasty fairly easily and Jim Calhoun built the men’s team into a team that competes year in and year out, and Ollie is the perfect man to carry on that tradition. It has already been said for the women, but the college basketball world needs to realize that the UConn men have also built themselves into a dynasty, and they are not going away any time soon.