UConn men's basketball has always been an important part of my life. Many of you know that. I was known as the UConn kid growing up. I was one of the crazy kids in the front row at games my first three years at UConn. The past two years, you have probably known me as the UConn men's basketball beat writer for The Daily Campus.
This year, I continue on covering the Huskies, but now as the beat writer for The UConn Blog. I am incredibly excited to be able to continue working such a fantastic beat alongside some of my journalistic role models.
I truly believe what I said in July – that this team is good enough to compete for a national championship. That means we are probably in for a few more memorable games this year.
I have been going to UConn basketball games since 1999, so I can't remember the exact total I have seen in person, but it's nearing 100. As the 2015-16 season begins, I want to share some of the most memorable games I have been part of. I'm sure some of you were at each of these games, and who doesn't like to reminisce?
This list was incredibly hard to make. The order was tough enough, but picking the games to include was damn-near impossible. Some great ones got left off, some wins and some losses. Yes, there are some losses on this list, and some are quite high. Am I happy UConn lost? If I was there as a fan, no. If I was there as a reporter, it did not matter to me. I was so close to putting the Texas and Yale losses from 2014 on the list. Win or lose, if it is a great basketball game, I love it.
This list started as a top-10 list, then I made it 20, then 25. I couldn't make some tough choices, so I pulled a CBS and went 25 (and one). I also had to split it into two parts, because it got a little too big.
If you have memories of these games, definitely share them below. Share your own list. Criticize my order. Whatever you want. Have a look. Have your say. It's great to be talking UConn basketball again.
Honorable Mention: No. 2 Duke 66, UConn 56 – IZOD Center, East Rutherford, N.J., Dec. 18, 2014
This was a cool game, if only because I always wanted to see UConn play Duke. It just so happens this game ended up being a game between the 2014 and 2015 national champions. Had the Huskies been able to shoot, they would have won this game by five. It was amazing how many times UConn shot itself in the foot. But Duke's defense was great. Not many of you agreed with me on this back then. (*Embeds tweet, puts on sunglasses*)
Put me down for Duke as the early favorite for the national title. This defense is dominant.— Tim Fontenault (@Tim_Fontenault) December 19, 2014
25) UConn 89, St. Joseph's 81 (OT) – First Niagara Center, Buffalo, March 20, 2014
Amida Brimah stood at the foul line with the weight of the season on his shoulders. Brimah's three-point play with 50 seconds left forced overtime. UConn went on to win the game and the national championship. Ridiculous finish.
Side Note: The trip to Buffalo was my first NCAA Tournament experience. The first game I saw in the tournament was Dayton-Ohio State. How could I have been luckier? Well, I saw Dayton beat Syracuse two days later. That was great.
24) Villanova 78, UConn 74 – Gampel Pavilion, Feb. 28, 2007
The first loss on the list. This one was cool, because Scottie Reynolds put on a show. The freshman put up 40 points, the eighth-most points for a UConn opponent in history. That night was also Senior Night at UConn. The school honored Dale Nosel, also known as the kid who paints his body blue and white for every game. So when you tell yourself, "Dale's been around for like 12 years," he actually has.
23) No. 2 UConn 99, Hartford 56 – XL Center, Nov. 17, 2008
This game was the farthest thing from exciting. It makes this list for one reason: Kemba Walker made his first career UConn start in this game.
22) UConn 89, Vermont 73 – XL Center, Nov. 17, 2010
Speaking of Kemba Walker, he put on a show against the Catamounts in a prequel to his Maui domination. Only seven Huskies have put up more in a single game than Walker's 42 that night against Vermont.
21) No. 14 UConn 79, Harvard 73 – Gampel Pavilion, Dec. 6, 2009
Where were you when "Linsanity" began? I was in Sec. 221 at Gampel Pavilion, watching Jeremy Lin go absolutely crazy on the Huskies, giving Harvard a great chance to pull an incredible upset. This was the game when people started to take notice of Lin. The rest, of course is history.
I also didn't know at the time that when my dad gave me tickets to this game, it was part of a three-game package for the season. The package was highlighted by tickets to the game against Texas.
20) UConn 81, No. 21 SMU 73 – XL Center, March 1, 2015
All the struggles of the last season for the Huskies seemed to disappear with this game. Rodney Purvis, Ryan Boatright and Daniel Hamilton combined for 46 points in the second half, as UConn showed it could hang with the Mustangs entering the American Athletic Conference championship.
19) No. 21 UConn 58, No. 13 Cincinnati 56 – FedExForum, March 14, 2014
Mick Cronin was convinced Sean Kilpatrick should have beaten out Shabazz Napier for the American's inaugural Player of the Year award. When the two went head to head in the conference semifinals, Napier delivered, and Kilpatrick missed a contested layup at the buzzer, sending UConn to the championship game.
This may still be the best moment of the game. Napier's step-back shot was almost completely identical to Walker's against Pittsburgh.
18) UConn 63, Florida 53 – AT&T Stadium, Dallas, April 5, 2014
I should probably have my first ever Final Four game higher than 18th, but that should say something about how memorable some of these other UConn games were. This was still a great game. Florida was my pick to win the national championship in 2014. Don't ever count the Huskies out in March or April.
17) UConn 82, Providence 79 (OT) – Dunkin Donuts Center, Providence, Jan. 31, 2013
In 2012, a group of about 20 or 25 of my friends and I made the trip to Providence to cheer on the Huskies. They lost. We had to hear it all the way back to our cars for the long ride home. One year later, we were back, this time with nearly 50 people in the same section we were in the year before, adjacent to the UConn bench. The Huskies knew we were there, and we urged them to an intense overtime win.
On the way home, I came up to a red light. A car pulled alongside us, and the person in the passenger seat wanted us to roll down the window. I rolled it down, and was surprised to be looking at Shabazz Napier, who was so excited we had gone to the game.
16) No. 20 SMU 62, UConn 53 – XL Center, March 15, 2015
The American championship game last season was phenomenal, and it showed a glimpse of the 2015-16 Huskies. When Ryan Boatright went down, Rodney Purvis and Daniel Hamilton took over, getting the Huskies back into the game. Foul trouble killed UConn in the end, but man, what a fight.
15) No. 21 UConn 79, No. 22 Georgetown 62 – Madison Square Garden, March 9, 2011
UConn obliterated the Hoyas in the second game of the 2011 Big East Tournament. That game gave me a great feeling about the Huskies. If they beat Pittsburgh the next day, they would win the conference title. If they won the conference title, they would win the national championship.
14) UConn 63, Providence 59 (OT) – Gampel Pavilion, March 9, 2013
I can write about the 2012-13 Huskies forever. This was the year of the postseason ban, and I consider one of the greatest—certainly one of the most important—in UConn history. The ban, conference realignment, Jim Calhoun's retirement, it piled up.
This is one of my all-time favorite teams. I don't think people who weren't on campus at the time have been able to fully appreciate it. The team's refusal to fold and its determination to fight for the name on the front of the jersey lifted the campus. We all came together because of Kevin Ollie's first team.
This game was super emotional. The final game of the year was the Huskies' pursuit of a 20th win. Entering the year, I was thinking 17-13 would be a reasonable expectation. Should UConn go 20-10, I would consider it a great season, up with some of the other successful UConn seasons.
It was also my final game in the student section before becoming a men's basketball beat writer. My friends and I gave our all to urge the Huskies on. After they won, when Warde Manuel presented the plaque honoring the team and this video played, there were few—if any—dry eyes in Gampel Pavilion. When we saw the players tear up, my friends and I started tearing up. All the feels.