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Cal picks perfect time to return

Coach Cal wouldn't disclose much about the condition that sidelined him for more than three weeks in his first sitdown with the media since returning, saying only that he felt "funny" and what caused his hiatus is "nothing that hasn't happened to a group of other people."

However, Cal did say that he was cleared medically on Monday and could have coached Wednesday in Syracuse. But he was advised not to.

More from The Courant's Mike Anthony:

"Because of the six overtimes, Jim [Boeheim] and I meeting, all the other things, quite frankly even a little bit of the snow, they just thought it would be a great idea if I waited until the team came back," Calhoun said. "But I was cleared Sunday or Monday and I was going to come back in and they advised me to wait."

Although Cal's presence on the bench would have been a welcomed sight at the dome -- and I can't help but wonder if things would have gone differently if he had been on the sidelines, not just because of his superior coaching abilities (sorry, Blane Dog), but for the emotional boost he would have brought -- Saturday's game vs. Cincinnati may present the perfect game in which to return.

Why?

Let us count the ways:

  1. It's at The Morgue, unfortunately, but it's still a home game. And having attended the St. John's game in 2003 when Cal made his return two-plus weeks after surgery, I can tell you that the opening of the game (especially for those in attendance) will be special. If there are tickets left, buy them now.
  2. Despite Jerome Dyson's boneheaded decision(s), John Cahill's attempt to make UConn's season even more intolerable than one could imagine, the amount of profanity used in TheOpenThread from 8:54 p.m. on (mostly by me), and the fact that a loss to a hated rival on Syracuse Hate Day dropped the Huskies to 14-10 and probably off of the bubble's bubble (according to this chart, we're essentially Uranus, or at least Endor) ... I didn't come away Wednesday night feeling as depressed as I thought I would. Which is saying a lot, considering I'd usually be the one lighting the blog on fire at this point. Perhaps it was the thrill of watching both an episode of the ever-riveting Real World: D.C. and the entirety of "Dude, Where's My Car?" immediately after (just to clarify, there's no joke here; this is what I did) or the therapeutic giggles of Porter's booty. Or maybe it's because my standards get lower with every game. But, in retrospect, I can't help but be a bit pleased -- dare I say, upbeat -- about the way they played. Aside from Dyson's insane decision to jack up a 3 from halfcourt (although, really, we should have kind of expected that one) and few other maladies -- ones that happen all the time and ones we might as well get used to at this point because they're not going away with seven games left -- the Huskies still went down to the wire with a top-5 team. That's damn impressive, considering how poorly they've played lately. Although the crazy run they'll need to get to the NCAAs is unlikely -- OK, more like impossible -- I can't help but feel a bit optimistic, as of 1:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, that Wednesday's showing + Cal's return = good things. It will never happen. But bear with me, because these are the only joys I can salvage from this season.
  3. UConn will likely debut the home versions of their new, high-tech sweaty-back unis. And if they know what's good for them, they'll forgo the home whites and go straight to the good luck grays to get the mojo flowing.
  4. I'm pretty sure we've used the term "must-win" to describe about seven games now. But I don't remember ever using the phrase, and I want my turn, damn it. So here goes: Saturday's game is a must-win. If UConn loses, this newfound optimism (*shiver*) will be gone forever. Because there's no way in hell we're coming back from that. But a win?  I'm all sunshine, baby. At least until Monday.
  5. What better way to kick off this mythical quest than against Cincy: a good-but-not-great team that's also fighting for its tourney life. UConn is (somehow) favored to win, so a victory won't add another big win to go along with the ... oneish (Texas, I guess) that's already on its resume. But it could give the team some much-needed momentum and confidence heading to the showdown with (gulp) Nova, a team the Huskies have struggled with since the hex levied by Coldplay-enthusiast Mike Nardi.
  6. The whole streak-starting thing is important. But winning is crucial more so because retribution is needed. Not only for the first horrible call in Cahill's reign of terror, but because Lance Stephenson is still on my shit list after thumping his chest and appearing to talk junk to UConn players on the line for his game-winning free throws. Also, I'm hoping it will make me forget about Dyson's phantom flop on that final Cincy possession. (I know Dyson is our only late-game option, but, man, does he make some of the worst decisions possible. Even on defense.)
  7. The game is a noon start -- the perfect time for us non-college kids who aren't nursing hangovers. That means it will probably over by 3ish, leaving us the rest of the day to revel in Cal's awesomeness and the rest of the night to paint the town red in glee.
  8. In his press conference, Cal mentioned that he called the Big East officiating three times to complain about the refs. So not only won't he be taking it easy on anyone, but he may be more p.o'd than usual. So there's a good chance Stanley gets his head taken off. Or at the very least, a sizable portion of his ear.
  9. The game is just a day before Valentine's, and I'm a one-Hall-of-Fame-coach kind of guy.