The ultimate goal for a college player is to be drafted into the NBA. But before achieving that, another goal that a lot of players have is to win the NCAA championship. One of the most iconic winners of this competition in recent memory are the UConn Huskies.
It started with the Huskies being left out of Sports Illustrated list of top 68 teams in the country. The team had a junior Kemba Walker and 7 freshmen, so the average years of experience of the team was barely 0.9.
Experts counted them out, branding them as an inexperienced team. The players took that as motivation and wanted to prove these critics wrong.
The Huskies started the season brilliantly with a 10-game winning streak. But towards the end of the season, they had a lot of inconsistent performances.
They faltered in the conference game, finishing with a 9-9 record in the Big East. UConn had a heart-breaking loss against Notre Dame in their final game of the season. Walker had 34 points, but it wasn’t enough to get them a win.
They finished 9th and missed out on a first-round bye. This meant that they needed to win the Big East tournament to qualify for the NCAA tournament.
Kemba had established himself as a leader, but in these final games of the season, he became a hero. The Huskies had to win 5 games in 5 days, but they didn’t back down.
They started with a thumping 96-71 win against DePaul, before beating Georgetown 79-62. In their 3rd game, scores were tied at 72-72 and Walker had the ball. He chose to run down the clock before hitting one of the best game-winners in NCAA basketball, which earned the nickname ‘Cardiac’ Kemba.
They had a close game against Syracuse in the semifinal and also the Big East Final against Louisville. But UConn kept their cool and won narrowly in both games to advance to the NCAA tournament. The job was half done, and now there was a new goal.
Arriving into the NCAA tournament on a 5-game winning streak, the Huskies didn’t lose any momentum. They beat Bucknell, Cincinnati, and San Diego to reach the Elite Eight. Walker recorded back to back 30 point games and led from the front.
Facing the Arizona Wildcats, the Huskies escaped twice as they survived 2 potential game-winners. They won by 2 points to advance to Final Four to face the Kentucky Wildcats. They clung onto their lead once again, as they eked out a 66-65 win to set up a championship date against Butler.
After all these exciting games over the course of the season, this Final was a drab offensively as the Huskies shot just 34% from the field while Butler shot an unbelievable 18% from the field. The offense might have been absent, but the Huskies defense was solid and choked the Butler offense completely.
They won 53-41, in a comfortable 12 point win, to clinch the 2011 NCAA title. From being left out of the top 68 to being the best team in the country, the Huskies proved everyone wrong, as they sealed one of the greatest championship runs of all time.