(WTNH)–It’s not pretty, though there’s still time to adjust the picture.
The UConn men are on their way to becoming an NIT team for the second straight year, after the Huskies blew an 11-point lead and fell to Tulsa in Oklahoma on Thursday night.
Tulsa used a 19-4 run over a span of 7:30 to take control of the game, pulling away, 60-51. James Woodard scored 20 points and added nine rebounds to pace the Golden Hurricane.
For a team with so much talent, these kinds of losses are perplexing.
Sure, the Huskies can make excuses. They’re making a 1,500-mile trip in the middle of the week, playing in front of a packed gym and a fan base that desperately wants to beat them. They’re playing a team that feels it was snubbed by the NCAA selection committee last year, and one that needed a statement win.
But they’re also playing a team that lost to Arkansas-Little Rock and Oral Roberts.
UConn basketball is by far the biggest name in the American, and schools like Tulsa and Tulane get hyped to play the four-time national champions. Unfortunately for the Huskies, they’re playing like they belong in the same conference.
Maybe Thursday’s loss to Tulsa wasn’t the worst the Huskies have suffered over the years. But that doesn’t excuse the effort at home against Temple. It doesn’t explain the embarassing performance against Maryland at Madison Square Garden, or the missed opportunities against Syracuse and Gonazaga in the Bahamas.
Right now, UConn (11-5, 2-2/AAC) owns three wins it can be proud of: a 75-55 pasting of Ohio State at home, a 74-60 win over Michigan on the island, and a home win over Memphis (81-78).
The win at Texas is nice, but it may not stand up on the selection sheet. The Longhorns are currently 10-6, and though they do own some quality wins (North Carolina, Iowa State), they also just lost to TCU. The win in Austin may not be as impressive in March as it looks now.
There’s still time for the Huskies, of course, and there are still enough quality opponents on the schedule. UConn plays Georgetown in Hartford on January 23. They still have a series with Cincinnati, a road date with Memphis, and will face currently-unbeaten SMU twice in their final six games.
But after losing Thursday at Tulsa, UConn doesn’t have much margin for error. They can’t afford to lose at Houston, which is 13-3 and playing well under Kelvin Sampson. They can’t afford to lose to Georgetown and Cincinnati, and at Temple and to SMU twice.
You’d think that the Huskies would win some of these games, and they probably will. But you would have thought they’d take care of business on Thursday, especially when they had an 11 point lead in the first half, and especially when Sterling Gibbs gave them 20 and Shonn Miller put up 14 and 8 boards.
There’s still time for this UConn team to get where it wants to go.
But they’re veering off course, the GPS is failing, the phone battery is dying, and they’re barreling towards New York.
And the NIT.