Record: 32-9 (9-9 Big East)
Tournaments: Maui Invitational (Champions), Big East Tournament (Champions), NCAA Tournament (Champions)
Notable Players: Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb, Alex Oriakhi
Unbelievable. That is the only word that can describe the 2010-11 edition of the University of Connecticut men's basketball team. Unbelievable.
Looking at the Connecticut roster for this year, you see some striking imbalances. There are seven freshmen (one red-shirted) and two sophomores while there are only two juniors (one walk-on) and three seniors (one walk-on).
Playing in an elite conference like the Big East and playing the schedule UConn had, that should be a problem right? Think again.
UConn began the season on an incredible note, winning three games in three days against Wichita State, #2 Michigan State, and #9 Kentucky to win the EA Sports Maui Invitational. At that point, the unranked Huskies climbed all the way to 7th in the polls.
They would falter at times, but for the most part, Calhoun was able to keep the ship afloat. The legendary coach stated on many occasions that this group of kids, with all their characters and personalities was one of, if not his favorite teams to coach.
As he told Andy Katz after becoming only the fifth coach to win three national championships, "every coach deserves to have a group of kids like this at least once."
With so many young kids, he gets them again, and again.
At first, things really seemed to be the Kemba Walker Show. He put this team on his shoulders, as was the case all year, but the difference at the start was that there was no supporting cast, no player who could regularly step up and be of assistance.
That changed during the Big East season, as freshman Jeremy Lamb and sophomore Alex Oriakhi were able to take some weight off Kemba's shoulders.
UConn did more than anyone could have expected. They won Maui of course. After that, Big East play started. It was a tough first three games, as it would be for any young team who has to play at Pittsburgh and at Notre Dame in the span of a few days. Between them, South Florida was able to force overtime.
The Huskies stayed calm. After Notre Dame, they went down to Austin and picked up what is considered the best non-conference road win for a power six school this season, beating Texas in overtime. The Huskies started to believe.
There was rough patches along the way. Slip ups against Marquette and West Virginia and gut-wrenching losses to Louisville, Notre Dame, and St. John's did not help the Huskies morale at all.
After losing by three to Notre Dame on March 5th, everything changed. Why? That ended up being the last time the Huskies would lose a game in the 2010-11 season.
What followed has been referred to as Maui in Manhattan, the Miracle in Manhattan, and several other creative names.
What it was was history.
The Huskies, the nine seed in the Big East Tournament won FIVE GAMES IN FIVE DAYS against DePaul, #22 Georgetown, #3 Pittsburgh, #11 Syracuse, and #14 Louisville to win the conference tournament, considered by many to be as hard to win as the National Championship itself.
It was around the time of the Pittsburgh game, when the highlight of the season, Kemba Walker's ankle breaking, step-back jumper at the buzzer lifted the Huskies over the top seed, that things began to change. There was a vibe of "maybe, just maybe" and whispers that this team could do something magical.
The Huskies had hooked Husky Nation into taking this ride with them. I had the privilege of being at the Championship Game against Louisville. When the buzzer sounded and after it had sunk in and the tears of joy had disappeared, I said "this team is going to win the National Championship."
Lo and behold.
UConn took the West by storm, defeating Bucknell, Cincinnati, San Diego State, and Arizona to reach the Final Four, where they beat Kentucky before knocking off Butler to win the 2011 National Championship.
No one expected this even a month and a half ago. The idea of UConn being National Champions did not emerge until March 12th. Again, it goes to show you that anything is possible and that things are not always what they seem or what you expect.
There is no doubt that without the play of the youngsters, the Huskies are not National Champions right now, but no one is more important, or more well loved, on the team than Kemba Walker.
The junior, who graduates in May, earned a spot on the First Team All-American team and in all reality was the best player in the country. While Jimmer Fredette got the Naismith Award, Kemba actually led his team to a National Championship while being the best all-around player in the land.
As Jeff Hathaway, the Huskies Director of Athletics, stated today at the rally at Gampel, Kemba Walker had the greatest season in the 111 years of men's basketball at UConn. Jim Calhoun also stated his agreement.
“He has had an incredible season, that no one before has ever had at UConn,” Calhoun said. “When you get in that category of being called by one name ... that’s pretty special," (New Britain Herald).
These words were prelude to an unexpected and emotional surprise at UConn's championship rally, when Kemba Walker was inducted into an elite fraternity, becoming only the 14th member of the Huskies of Honor for the men's basketball team.
It was a special case for a special player as normally there is a five year minimum wait to be enshrined.
The enshrinement was known about by three people, including Calhoun and Hathaway, but not Walker, who burst into tears as the chant of "One More Year" erupted throughout Gampel Pavilion.
It was a special ending to a special season. The 2010-11 Huskies defied all odds, were told they couldn't, they wouldn't, and it was impossible.
There is no such thing as impossible. The 2010-11 Huskies proved that. They are the National Champions. They are the greatest team in Connecticut men's basketball history.