FOR EVERYTHING ELSE THERE’S…..
Some wins you can’t put a price on. It’s hard to overstate the importance of any post season win because margins alone at this time of year aren’t the where all and end all of how important a win may be. Last night’s UCONN win over Atlantic-10 champion St. Joseph’s in the round of 64 of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament is one of those wins that comes with a price tag that reads “priceless”.
The importance of it begins with being UCONN’s first tournament win since the Huskies claimed the national championship in 2011. After a one and done visit to the tournament a year later, before sitting out last season on academic probation, the Huskies had only three players who had ever been party to an NCAA tournament win, seniors Shabazz Napier, Niels Giffey and Tyler Olander, who’s leadership role with the team went beyond their experience. To the younger players on the team these were three players who opted to stay at UCONN, knowing it would cost them a valuable season of tournament eligibility. Their leadership roles came at a cost and that wasn’t lost on the players they led into this year’s tournament. Much of their leadership impact could have been lost if the Huskies didn’t return to the tournament with a win.
They would have squandered the opportunity to pass the mantle to the players who will assume the role next season. Junior Ryan Boatright, along with Napier, the other half of one of the top backcourt tandems in the nation, poured in 17 points last night while junior forward Deandre Daniels continued his late season development with 18. Without a win over St. Joe’s the Huskies would have faced next season with no players who had ever taken part in a tournament win, no players to pass on to the younger players what it’s like. The first part of the mission of 2014 was accomplished. Daniels and Boatright now know what Napier, Giffey and Olander knew.
Beyond developing next year’s leadership, the overtime, in particular, was a coming of age party for freshman center Amidah Brimah, a project with massive potential all season. He stayed with his move to the hoop to the finish for an old fashioned three point play that gave UCONN the first lead of the overtime. The Huskies never trailed again. It was Brimah, a 57% free throw shooter during the regular season, who put them up for good, with two from the line. He finished with nine points and six rebounds. Amidah Brimah moves on to the round of 32 with his freshman season already behind him.
As important as anything the Huskies take from this win is confidence, at a time when it will serve them well. Next up is the second seed from the East, Villanova, overrated and the worst of the second seeds, prime for the taking, and now the Huskies know they can take them. A win tomorrow night would vault UCONN into the glamour rounds, the Sweet 16, with a wide open stage and the whole college basketball world watching. Anything after that would be added maturity for a team that has already created it’s own playing field for next season.
Some wins you just can’t put a price tag on. For the UCONN Huskies this win, 89-81 over St. Joseph’s in overtime, was priceless. Just as priceless as the dividends it will produce in the future.
With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.