Today: Feb 24, 2024

Sports Commentary: UConn defies odds in magical season

Pat Longobardi, Sports Writer:
When the season began, the University of Connecticut was considered
an average team, and picked to finish 10th in the deep Big East Conference.
UConn got off to a surprising start, winning the Maui Invitational, behind junior point guard, Kemba Walker, which pushed UConn into the top 10 of the rankings.
UConn proved that they could play with the elite consistently throughout the season. The Big East Tournament
was the turning point that made UConn not only a conference
winner, but a real contender in the NCAA Tournament. The keys were showcasing different players late in the season.
Freshmen Roscoe Smith and Jeremy Lamb really stepped up their game to making big time plays and big time shots. Lamb has definitely set a postseason reputation for himself as a first year player, scoring jumper after jumper. Lamb showed poise after going scoreless
at halftime in the NCAA Championship game against Butler. Lamb scored 12 points in the second half as a huge part of UConn’s 22-3 run on their way to their 53-41 win. Alex Oriakhi proved to also be solid on the boards down the stretch, and could do great things within his next two years.
In a tournament year where a lot of storybook seasons were written for the ages, UConn became at the top of that list, led by their story, Walker.
In the beginning, Walker was just having a storybook season, and leading this team into battle each game. In the end, it is not just a story anymore; it is an undisputed fairy tale.
Walker has now signified his legacy among UConn greats. Walker is now on the list with Ray Allen, Donyell Marshall, Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon, and Emeka Okafor, who all turned out to be good NBA players. Walker has earned every bit of that UConn Wall of Honor banner hanging in Gampel Pavilion. Walker acted like a warrior all season, and can now sit back and let his emotions get to him as much as he wants. Walker finished what he started and has helped developed good, solid players around him into champions.
He had game winning shots including at Texas, at home against Villanova, and most notably, the jumper against Pittsburgh and the pass to Lamb for the layup to defeat Louisville in the conference tournament.
Whether Walker goes to the NBA next year is still to be determined, but Walker is surely going into next year on a high note, helping his potential draft stock with a championship.
I think this season has showed that UConn will also be a force next season. Although Walker could be a big loss, UConn showed that they do have big time players to work around going forward, along with new recruits. That was just the beginning. From Maui to Manhattan and now to Houston, UConn won their third national championship, and has defied the odds to prove why anything is possible if you believe.

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