March 09, 2010
The smoke is still slowly and quietly emanating off the now-dead pyre that is the 2009-10 Connecticut Huskies men's basketball season.
Anybody got a theory as to what this team was for the past five months?
UConn fell in the first round of the Big East tournament earlier today, 73-51 to St. John's, in the most embarrassing way possible: without a care in the world. The Huskies committed 20 turnovers, though if you watched the game that number felt double the amount. Jim Calhoun's team looked as uninterested with the game of basketball as a bunch of church-going grandmas on a Sunday morning. The Huskies fans who made the trip to the Garden began to file out with more than five minutes remaining.
If do-or-die urgency couldn't get this team's adrenaline going, then it wasn't worth saving. It all changed so quickly for UConn, which is now 17-15 and could very well miss the NIT tournament. Before the Big East tournament began, some wondered if UConn made the tourney final and lost if it would still receive an at-large bid. If it could become the first 15-loss team in modern tournament history to do so.
We'll never know, and it's probably better that we won't.
And yet, less than two weeks ago UConn was coming off a home win against West Virginia and thrown back onto the better side of the bubble by most prognosticators.
Calhoun - who openly said he has every intention to coach next year; just gotta take care of that little thing called a contract - had no problems admitting he didn't know what to do with this team. Jerome Dyson, a senior starting shooting guard who scored just four points for the second straight game, played only 26 minutes and continued to get the cold shoulder from his coach. Dyson and the rest of his friends who will graduate from the University later this spring never found out what it was like to experience winning a Big East tournament game.
UConn's drought is now extended to five years. The last win came in 2005, in the first round, against Georgetown.
On a quiet, mid-March Tuesday afternoon in Manhattan a 2009 Final Four contender's season ended without the prospect of getting a return trip back to college basketball's biggest stage. But I guess it could be worse. They could have had North Carolina's season, which lacked the peaks the Huskies occasionally had.
We'd also be remiss if we didn't point out the irony of it all: how UConn's season came to a crumbling end the day after its women's team set a new record for continued success.