As Aman has pointed out, last season’s post season ban is complete and utter bullshit. How can a committee make a rule and then use retroactive data to enforce it? Bad example: It’s as if the government re-instated prohibition and then penalized anybody who drank in the past 2 years (Hey, I said bad example). If the tournament ban has taught me anything, it’s that being honest about poor academics is unacceptable. The better option is to make up fake classes and forge transcripts. Apparently that’s totally fine.
However, unlike conference realignment, I think the tournament ban may not have been all bad. Here are a couple of reasons why the tournament ban may, I repeat may, have actually been a good thing.
1) A year of less pressure for Kevin Ollie
Given he had no contract, Kevin Ollie had plenty of pressure to impress his boss, whose primary concern seemed to be making sure our grades were up to par. He did not however have much pressure to appease the fans and media with wins and losses. This gave him the opportunity to coach how he wanted to and establish his system without worrying about the result, which I think we can all agree it went well. There is no way to know if he would have coached differently with a tournament bid on the line, but it’s not unrealistic to think he would have. Maybe his patience would have been thinner with struggling players that would eventually establish a rhythm, like Deandre Daniels. Speaking of D…
2) More minutes for Deandre Daniels
With no tournament ban, Roscoe Smith would not have transferred (I still can’t believe Roscoe transferred and not Daniels, who saw that coming?). And even though I love Roscoe (who can forget that full court heave with 9 seconds left), the emergence of Daniels was one of the brightest spots of the season. Daniels turned into a legitimate scorer who reminds me of a less athletic poor man’s Rudy Gay. Remember, he was a top 10 recruit (turned down offers from Kansas, Duke) who struggled with confidence and timing his freshman year. With Roscoe out of the picture, Daniels was able to figure out his game and emerge as the top player he was recruited to be. He outplayed Big East player of the year Otto Porter head to head. That would not have been possible if he was only playing the 15-20 minutes a game he would have if Roscoe was still around.
3) Shabazz as an established leader
No Roscoe and Alex Oriakhi opened the door for Shabazz to become the emotional leader of the team, not only for last season, but for the coming season as well. Think about all the past UConn championship teams. They've all rallied behind a single, established leader. Rip in 99, Emeka in 04, and Kemba in 11. Think about all the UConn teams with talented players but no established leader. 05-06, 09-10, and 11-12 come to mind. Teams are more successful when one player takes on the role of the leader. That’s just how sports works, especially basketball. With no Lamb, Roscoe, and Oriakhi, it was clear coming into the season who the leader was. Shabazz accepted the role, and ran with it.
4) A much more enjoyable team
Which team did you enjoy watching more, the 2012-2013 team that played with heart, pride and hustle? Or the 2011-2012 team that featured two lottery picks but just gave up (remember that Providence loss? Ugh.) It’s not unfair to say Oriakhi, and maybe even Lamb (with the NBA in his sights) were clubhouse cancers, and the team was just better off without them. Last year’s team was refreshing and enjoyable to watch. It reminded me why college athletics is so great. I fell in love with the 2012-2013 Huskies, a kind of love only rivaled by my love of Jennifer Lawrence.
I’m not trying to say the tournament ban was a good thing. I’m only saying it was not all bad. Conference affiliation aside, UConn basketball is in great shape. I feel a lot better about the team right now than I did this time last year. I wonder how much of that is because of the tournament ban.