Connecticut top basketball school in country


By Peter Bailey-Wells

There are several universities across the United States that can be identified as basketball-crazy.

A couple of those are in North Carolina, one sits in Kansas, a few more exist in the state of Kentucky, and there is even one right here in Champaign-Urbana, Ill.

Basketball schools litter the country from the Big Ten to the ACC and beyond. Choosing the best among them is difficult except for the fact that there is one school that exists above all of them. It isn’t one of college basketball’s traditional blue bloods, but in terms of recent success, this school is second to none.

Connecticut is the best basketball school in the country.

Really? Not Kentucky? Not Duke or Kansas or Indiana or John Wooden’s beloved UCLA?

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    Nope. Because UConn has something that none of those schools have: the best women’s program in the history of college basketball. This season marks the second time that the Huskies have made an appearance in both the men’s and women’s championship games in the same season. Only Louisville and Duke have sent both teams to the championship game in the same year and neither school won both. In 2004, UConn’s men’s and women’s teams knocked off Georgia Tech and Tennessee to capture both the men’s and the women’s titles.

    Many March Madness fans don’t put a lot of stock in women’s basketball. Unfortunately for them, the UConn women’s team is too good to ignore. 2014 marks the ninth championship game appearance for Geno Auriemma and the UConn women’s squad. With the exception of Pat Summitt’s Tennessee Lady Volunteers, no other women’s program even enters the conversation with UConn for greatest women’s basketball program.

    Obviously the women’s team isn’t the only part of UConn’s basketball landscape that stands out. The men’s team has brought some of the most exciting players the NCAA tournament has seen in the last 10 years. Kemba Walker, Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, Hasheem Thabeet and Shabazz Napier have put up some of the most notable tournament performances of the last few years.

    Forget that the men’s team hadn’t made a Final Four before they won it all in 1999. I’m talking about right now. Go to Storrs, Conn., and see how passionate fans are about their Huskies. No, they don’t have a Cameron Indoor Stadium, or an Allen Fieldhouse or an Assembly Hall. But those fans care, and their squads have rewarded them with lots of winning.

    Going into 2014, the Huskies had collected eleven NCAA championships between the men’s and the women’s teams. This may not seem like a huge number over the course of all of college basketball’s history, but all of UConn’s championships, men’s or women’s, have come in the last 20 years. That’s more than John Wooden won in 20 years at UCLA. Kevin Ollie, the successor to the legendary UConn men’s coach Jim Calhoun brought his team to the championship in just his second season, which is a testament to the top-to-bottom strength of the program.

    No other fanbase is quite like the Cameron Crazies, no other chant is quite like “Rock Chalk Jayhawk” and no other program wins quite like UConn.

    Peter is a freshman in Media. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @pbaileywells22.