(WTNH)–So here we go again.
It’s early March, at the end of a disappointing season, and UConn needs an heroic performance in the conference tournament to make something of a lost year.
More times than not since the Huskies downgraded to the American Athletic Conference, they’ve been in this position. And more times than not, they’ve delivered.
UConn has played in all four of the AAC men’s basketball championship games. The first one was their last loss of the 2014 season, a 71-61 setback to Louisville. Of course, they’d go on to run the table and win the national title that year.
In 2015, UConn entered the league tournament as a six seed, and made a stirring four-day run to the title game, only to lose to top-seeded SMU and finish their season in the NIT. Last year, they were saved by a three-quarters-court shot from Jalen Adams against Cincinnati in the quarterfinals, which they rode to a league title and the Big Dance. If not for that heave, the Huskies might be staring down the barrel of three straight NIT bids.
Their overall record in the AAC tournament is 8-2, and as the Hartford Courant’s Dom Amore points out, that’s a much higher winning percentage than they’ve got in the conference during regular season play.
There’s no doubt that under Kevin Ollie, UConn has been at its best when the pressure is its absolute highest.
Home court and long-distance travel by opponents could help them this time. What won’t help is the fact that they’ll have to win four games in four days, and potentially knock off Cincinnati and SMU, to take the trophy.
Jalen Adams says he’ll be ready to go. So will freshman Vance Jackson, and Christian Vital.
UConn will need all of those guys, and then some.
It starts on Thursday at 8 p.m. against South Florida. It’ll hopefully continue Friday, against 3rd-seeded Houston, which embarassed UConn in Hartford earlier this year.
Saturday would likely be a 5 p.m. meeting with Cincinnati. Sunday’s championship game is at 3:15 p.m.
A long March run has never seemed less likely than it is this year, with this young, broken-down squad.
It’s going to take everything they have, and then some, to scrape their way back to the NCAA Tournament. If these Huskies pull it off, they’ll officially earn the reputation as the Freddy Krueger of college basketball. They just don’t die in March.
As college basketball is the most democratic of all the sports, they’ve still got one more shot.
Let’s hope they make the most of it.