It is rare throughout history that anyone in and outside of the sport suggests that they have found salvation in Newark. Not exactly the place that inspired purple mountain majesties.
But on Wednesday evening the UConn Huskies were able to find a frame of reference for the rest of the season at the Prudential Center. As in: Win this and it’s bubble smear. The huskies would be there. Time to talk about NCAA seeding and maybe winning the Big East tournament, not just getting started.
And this was, happily for the State U loyalists, a night when the hype didn’t match the product. Seton Hall, the supposedly more desperate opponent who was next to no show, paved the way for UConn not just to go dancing but maybe consider a rhumba for a couple of weekends in March.
The Huskies left Newark with a 69:58 win, securing third place in the league. In the years to come, the Mylanta fan base will chug if it comes in third. For now, however, they’re toasting Dan Hurley with something stronger.
“I don’t mind the bladder. I don’t mind the bladder,” said Hurley after Wednesday’s game. “I don’t even want to talk about it. Look where we were from March to April when we got in, between 179-180 in KenPom (metric), and look at the various programs we were sandwiched between. Now on the third Year We recruited the right people, developed them, built a culture … it’s program building. What Dave (athletic) director David Benedict) commissioned me to do. “
Wednesday’s result ended some confusing weeks to follow the program. Tournament talks were fascinating, but also a mystery. Are you in? Are you out? Oy. The best we could say was that the answer shared a name with a leading incontinence product: Dependent.
It’s all fiction, of course, unless you endorse the theory that the self-proclaimed bracketologists can read the minds of the selection committee members. But it’s sport. And when other fantasies have turned into billion dollar industries – think fantasy baseball and football – debating bracketologists’ opinions is sure to be better than digging to pass the time.
Joe Lunardi (ESPN) got them out. Mike DeCourcy (Fox) got them in. Jerry Palm (CBS) got them in. But who knows? Committee members need to ponder the uncertainties of the COVID season, not to mention how the tournament selection process resulted in analytical quagmire on a synchronized swan dive with baseball.
Two questions used to separate contenders and candidates: who did you hit and where did you hit them? Ah, but then that would be too easy, especially for the people who are taking over this country: those who want to turn math class into a holy day of commitment.
Now there are NET, SOS, BPI, KPI, KenPom, Sagarin, Quad 1, Quad 2, four calling birds and three French chickens. And we should all make that clear. It turns out that the best route is still the oldest, once uttered quite famously by the late Al Davis: just win, baby.
UConn did that on Wednesday evening.
“We told the guys it was going to be like the Villanova game, a tough test,” said Hurley. “We had to learn our lessons from this game and stay calm through the runs they were going to do.”
It wasn’t “running” as in the plural. It was “carried out” as in the singular. The pirates started off strong and then went into witness protection.
Seton Hall defeated UConn earlier this year with James Bouknight and the Huskies after a COVID hiatus. It turns out that the lessons learned without Bouknight help in ways that perhaps neither of us saw coming.
Hurley called it a “blessing in disguise”.
Now it’s fun. They can play for free and easily knowing that regardless of the outcome in the world’s most famous arena, they will be in the tournament next week. No doubt everyone would really want to see them.
“Aside from hammering home, the point isn’t getting complacent for the next few days,” Hurley said. “Then, obviously, as we get closer to tournament time, the stakes go up. People are literally playing for their lives or their careers for them.” older players. We’re just going to stick to the script. “
This is the opinion of Day Sports columnist Mike DiMauro