4 Crazy Facts About the NCAA Champion UConn Huskies
The Connecticut Huskies beat the University of Kentucky Wildcats on Monday night in a 54-60 bout that started off badly for the Wildcats, got better, and then got worse again. The Wildcats famously started off the season as the best ranked program in the country, then underachieved their way into an 8th seed, then rode Aaron Harrison’s hot hand into the NCAA Title Game.
Then, they lost to a Huskies squad in a matchup that only .0016 percent of March Madness brackeeters had predicted — that’s 1,780 out of 11 million. Suffice it to say, no one saw it coming. UConn was supposed to lose to Florida. They were supposed to lose to Michigan State. “We were supposed to lose every game in the postseason,” forward Ryan Boatright told ESPN. “We were supposed to lose every single one. We took that to heart. Every time we step on the court, we know it’s us against the world.”
They did. But the special weirdness for the 2014 UConn Huskies goes further than just being underdogs. They are, possibly, the strangest team to win it all in quite some time. At the very least, they’re pretty good for a couple of fun trivia questions.
1. Kevin Ollie set the tone for the Oklahoma City Thunder
Not only has Kevin Ollie become one of the rare coaches to take a team all the way the first time he coached in March Madness, but he also provided the groundwork for the locker room ethic that powers one of the elite teams in the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Ollie, who played in the NBA from 1998-2010, was a professional journeyman — he played for 11 different teams in 18 seasons, never longer than 2 seasons after he left Philadelphia, where he spent 6.
His last stop? Oklahoma City in the ’09-’10 season. Ollie, who played backup point guard to Russell Westbrook and logged 25 games with the team, left a mark on the squad that echoes to this day. When Kevin Durant sat down with ESPN’s Bill Simmons, he revealed that Ollie had been responsible for the shift in culture — a shift than manifested itself most visibly as the team went from 23 wins the year before to 50.
“Kevin Ollie — he was a game-changer for us. He changed the whole culture, I think. He might not say it, but he changed the whole culture in Oklahoma City,” Durant said. “Just his mind-set, his professionalism, every single day. And we all watched that and we wanted to be like that. It rubbed off on Russell, myself, Jeff Green, James Harden — and everyone that comes through now, that’s the standard you got to live up to, as a Thunder player, and it all started with Kevin Ollie.”