Winning ... Every Way Possible

Ronald Martinez

UConn Hasn't Just Won ... They've Provided Memories To Last A Lifetime

Welcome to the Capital of College Basketball - Storrs, CT.

That's honestly what it should be called from this point forward cause, well, it is.

By now we all know the stats: Four championships for the men, nine for the women, undefeated in title games for both. The only mens' and womens' basketball teams to win championships in the same year ... we did it TWICE now.

Yeah, i'd say, if you were putting a CBB Nation together, Storrs would be the Capital. Hard to argue against that, isn't it?

For the last few weeks, we as a fan base have had a chance to enjoy this run like maybe no other. As the mens' team won improbable game after improbable game, and the women kept, well, doing what they do, we had the chance to bask in a return to national dominance.

With every win, we reminded the nation of what we are. Whenever one of the so-called experts picked against UConn, we laughed a little inside. When the dust cleared and the CBB world began talking about the Husky legacy and its place in the pantheon of CBB program giants, we simply nodded our head, happy that so many others had finally woken up to what we've known for years.

This is the Capital of College Basketball.

And now that the trophies have been secured behind glass and the teams have returned to their homes, we can stop worrying about what everyone else thinks and start marveling at what we, as UConn fans, have witnessed.

A few hours after the men defeated Kentucky on Monday night, a friend of mine, Husky alumn, and perhaps the only man I know more obsessed with UConn athletics than myself, posted on his Facebook page a very simple statement. "If you went to or are a fan of UConn basketball, you're very lucky." No truer words have ever been written.

Husky Nation hasn't just been privy to winning, it's been a witness to history.

Think of what Geno Auriemma has built at UConn. Whether you follow the womens' team as ravenously each year as the men (I'll admit, I don't), you can't help but marvel at Geno's accomplishments.

Where's it written that Geno was destined to build a national power in womens' basketball ... at UConn? Seriously, think of how hard it is to make the womens' game credible and viable at a school, period. Now think of the likelihood of Auriemma not only doing that, but doing it in such a way where, in about a decade, it was a program on the level of what had been the gold standard in womens' basketball-Tennessee.

Auriemma built nothing into a contender, then a contender into a winner, then a winner into a dynasty. And with all due respect to Tennessee and Pat Summit (honestly mean that), it was UConn's rise that suddenly put womens' basketball on the map. Their rivalry with the Lady Vols, the personality of their coach, the interest it generated at the school and in the state suddenly got people's attention. I'll submit that, without Geno and UConn's womens' program, there's no Notre Dame, Stanford, or Baylor programs to talk about. Sorry, that's the truth.

And that's what is so impressive about Geno. Not only did he build something, not only did he then dominate the sport, but now that some other programs NOT named Tennessee have stepped up to challenge UConn's spot on top of the mountain, he's still winning like it's just written in stone.

Incredible.

But, alas, nothing is more incredible than the mens' program. I won't bore anyone running through Jim Calhoun's history, but I will say that everyone who claims that this recent championship somehow diminishes the old ball coach's importance to the program is either lost or so wrapped up in hate for Calhoun they can't see straight.

Engineers build coliseums, not Brookstone kiosks at the local mall for the holiday season. Calhoun had always said he wanted to build something made to last. He wanted UConn to survive him.

That's what has happened. This is a PROGRAM, not a Jim Calhoun team. It's something that's made to be successful with Kevin Ollie and past. That's what the truly great coaches do. That's what Jim Calhoun did.

Yet it goes beyond just program building. It goes beyond r how successful UConn has been, and how many so-called "blue bloods" wish they had even the modicum of success over the last two decades as the Huskies. It's also about the way they've won.

Some fan bases never get to see their school win anything. Those that are fortunate may get to experience only one kind of success. Even those who win multiple times, they all might seem similar when it's complete. But UConn has won its championships in almost every possible way imaginable.

Think about it ... in 1999 they were a great team, one of the best in the nation, but they were matched up in the title game against a juggernaut. Duke that year was viewed as a sure thing. Perhaps not since the 1990 UNLV Runnin' Rebels had a team looked so untouchable. They weren't just winning, they were blowing people out. If someone kept a game from expanding to double digits, it was all but viewed as a victory.

So that's what UConn faced ... the immovable object. They went up against what was viewed as a team for the ages, one that would live in history.

And they shocked the world ... just like Khalid El Amin predicted.

Fast-forward to 2004. It was a different sort of run in that UConn was suddenly viewed as the favorite. While not nearly as dominant as that 1999 Duke squad, most believed the Huskies were the best team in the country throughout much of the year.

Yet there were pitfalls. There was a loss to UNC in the middle of the year, to Syracuse at the end of the season, and an injury to all-world big man Emeka Okafor. Ben Gordon was playing sporadic and it seemed for a while that the Huskies would fail to live up to their status as the favorites.

Then came the Big East Tournament. Gordon hit another switch, the Huskies went to another level, and by the time it was all over, and after another classic Final Four game against Duke, UConn was blowing out Georgia tech to win its second.

That brought on 2011. UConn hadn't made the Tournament the year before, was young, and had a special player in Kemba Walker, but few believed them championship-worthy. The year started great with big wins over talented competition, but as the season progressed and UConn's one-man show in Walker couldn't carry the load by himself, it looked like the Huskies would stumble into March ... maybe so badly they would put their March dreams in jeopardy again.

And that's when we got "Five in Five," a miraculous Big East title, and another six-game winning streak to take the NCAA Tournament title.

That brings us to this year. The underdog. The seven seed. The team everyone picked to lose every game. They weren't supposed to beat St. Joe's. They were supposed to come up just short against Villanova. Iowa State and Michigan State were supposed to just have too many weapons and, of course, Florida was simply better.

When they made it to the final game, the media had turned Kentucky into this machine oozing NBA talent. The Huskies would finally do what they were supposed to have done all along ... lose.

Except it didn't happen. They won. They won them all. And they have four

So, if you're counting at home ... that's a championship over a supposedly unbeatable opponent, a championship as the prohibitive favorite, a championship as the "hot as hell" team entering the Tourney, and then a championship that no one, NO ONE saw coming.

Is there another way to win? Is there any other way to provide excitement for your fanbase?

I can't think of one.

So the Capital of College Basketball hasn't just been about winning. It's been about drama. It's been about taking fans on rides no one will ever forget. It's magical moments and memories for friends and families.

That's what happens here at the Capital. It's a pretty damn cool place to live.

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