Providence: The day after

Providence guard Kris Dunn defends Connecticut guard Ryan Boatright, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, in Providence, R.I. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

Providence guard Kris Dunn defends Connecticut guard Ryan Boatright, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, in Providence, R.I. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

John F. Silver

One look at the stat sheet of UConn’s 82-79 win overtime win over Providence makes you shake your head.

How do the Huskies get out-rebounded by 31 — 55-24 — and give up 32 free-throw attempts and win?

That’s the thing about these Huskies.  If there is one thing this team has shown in the 19 games — 14 wins — is that it is resilient.  There is tremendous talent in the backcourt and tremendous holes in the frontcourt. It’s as an uneven and lopsided team as you will ever see. Still, they win and play hard. 

One of the great mysteries of this season was not how Kevin Ollie would coach or weather Shabazz Napier can become a leader, rather, whether this team would play hard, focused and spirited basketball.

So much of college basketball is tied up in the NCAA tournament. It’s either NCAAs or bust and seasons are made in March. It has reduced the regular season to irrelevancy — much to the detriment of the game — and fans watch games not for their joy but to wonder their seeding and where they stand.

Considering UConn was the first team eliminated from the NCAA, had a coach retire and because of the ban a mass exodus of players, the question of this season is would the players play. Would the games be fun?

Most importantly does it all matter?

The games matter to those playing it.

That’s a credit to them and the coaches.

This isn’t about strategy, talent, ultimate seeding or NCAA tournament eligibility. This is about winning basketball games and UConn is 14-5, 4-3 in the Big East and probably could be better than that.

There were a couple of columns off Thursday’s game lamenting the lack of a postseason possibility. Here’s the Hartford Courant’s Jeff Jacobs on what is becoming an easy UConn team to root for (exact opposite of last year’s talent-overloaded bunch):

It starts with the first-year coach, half-gnarled NBA survivor, half preacher man, all Husky. The coach, who on this night looked at a 28-5 deficit on the offensive boards, a conference record-tying deficit of 31 rebounds overall [55-24], and sure enough found another Ollie-ism: “We dug deep and we found something that was in our reserve tank. I always tell the guys to push to the second mile, because there’s not a lot of traffic on the second mile.”

The fuel trickles down through those irresistible guards. This team has many shortcomings, but determination isn’t one of them. In the words of their former coach, they’ve got plenty of tick-tock.

Jacobs makes a great point about the Big East shutting UConn out. There is no sense in it, and considering what’s happened in conference play seems to me to personal with the school. There is reason UConn shouldn’t be in the Big East tournament considering all the facts. Big East commish Mike Aresco said UConn heading to the Big East tournament this year is a done deal. The Huskies’ season will end in March.

That’s too bad. UConn, with its guard play, is exactly the kind of team that can blow open a bracket. I would expect them this season to be anywhere between a 5 and 10 seed depending on how the rest of the season plays out. UConn, with those guards and 3-point shooting ability, could scare a top seed to death in the second round. Isn’t that what March is made for ?

The Huskies have 11 games left, starting with Sunday against South Florida. UConn has problems inside rebounding wise that aren’t going to get fixed. They have nothing to play for except themselves and the school.

And, they continue to over perform.   I have a feeling that this team, despite the postseason ban, is going to be remembered fondly for a very long time.

Friday links

For A Team With Heart, Postseason Ban Weighs Heavy

Calhoun ready when it counted (Hartford Courant)

UConn deserves to be in tourney (CT Post)

Won from the heart (Journal Inquirer)

Huskies beat Providence in overtime (New Haven Register)