Stanley Robinson was all smiles Sunday, after learning UConn had been given a No. 1 seed. To advance deep into the NCAA Tournament, the Huskies need Robinson to play like he did against Syracuse in the Big East. Tournament (28 points, 14 rebounds). Photo © Vito J. Leo
“Go West, young men, go West,” the NCAA Tournament selection committee told UConn today, giving them a Number 1 seed in the West Regional, the very regional that spawned both of Coach Jim Calhoun’s national championships.
If the committee’s seedings hold up, then on March 26, Calhoun’s team will once and for all show they deserve their No. 1 seed over highly-touted Memphis and then on April 4, the Huskies will take on overall No. 1 seed Louisville in the Final Four opener in Detroit.
“If we’re fortunate enough to get to the Final Four, we’ll probably do some good things there,” Calhoun said Sunday shortly after the pairing were announced.
UConn faces Chattanooga Thursday in Philadelphia. The next opponent would be the winner of Purdue vs. Texas A&M.
If, as they should, the Huskies get out of Phillie, they would travel to Glendale, Arizona the next weekend and in what could prove to be a real dogfight,and take on the 4th-seeded Washington Huskies for the right to play the winner of the bottom bracket, most likely No. 2 Memphis.
UConn center Hasheem Thabeet chats with USA Today feature writer Kelly Whiteside, who was in Storrs Sunday, preparing a story on the Huskies. Photo © by Vito J. Leo
CBS Sports’ lead college basketball analyst Clark Kellogg was among the many national pundits who this past week were promoting Memphis over UConn for the fourth No. 1 seed.
“I thought there were five teams that were worthy of strong consideration for number one. Not a big difference between number one and number two in my mind,” Clark said after Sunday’s announcement.
Calhoun said he thought “you could tell by the way it was done [the selection committee wants] to see who comes out of our bracket. But our body of work was just too strong,” he said.
And the team’s record on the road, with only that loss at Pitt, was so good the selection committee had to choose UConn over Memphis, he said.
Calhoun said Thursday’s loss against Syracuse may have nudged any wavering committee member.
“Maybe the six-overtime game helped us in some way,” he said. “It showed the selection committee this team not only has a good record [27-4] but they’ve got some grit to them as well.”
The team is scheduled to leave for Philadelphia on Tuesday and play 16th-seed Chattanooga Thursday with the game expected to be televised on CBS, which broadcasts most of the tournament games. The game is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.
Of course, when you have that many games, there’s bound to be a lot of empty airtime to fill, and filling those voids is as much a part of March Madness as filling arena seats and filling out the office-pool brackets.
Calhoun said he looks forward to watching those human interest stories the networks use to bridge the gaps between games.
“The tournament really brings out stories about people [beyond] jump shots and pressing defenses,” he said. “To me, that’s a real special part of the tournament, where you get 65 wonderful stories about kids and their families, how sometimes they’ve overcome obstacles to get to the tournament.”
UConn has overcome some hurdles of its own the past few weeks to capture a No. 1 seed – even if it is in the West – and Calhoun wants his players to realize they have the opportunity to write their own special story between now and April 6 at Ford Field.
“We got a number-one seed and that’s great, and this team has won 52 games in two years and that’s great,” Calhoun said. “But I want this group to leave its legacy from the post-season.”
Posted March 15, 2009