<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Dog House]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/blogs/dog-house http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com en-us Sun, 20 Apr 2014 19:36:04 -0400 Sun, 20 Apr 2014 19:36:04 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Top 2014 HS Player Signs With USC]]> Fri, 18 Apr 2014 12:51:21 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-pat-summitt.jpg

The news is only surprising in that the Huskies didn't land the best player in college basketball. It's become almost a foregone conclusion; Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart made their way to Storrs in back-to-back years and both have flourished in Geno Auriemma's program. But A'ja Wilson, the 6-4 do-everything superstar from Columbia, SC, has decided to stay close to home, announcing Wednesday that she'll play at the University of South Carolina.

It's not so much a setback for UConn as the realization of what seemed inevitable; Wilson, for all her talents, seemed happy to play in her back yard.

“There is really no place like home,” she said after her announcement.

And Storrs is a long way from Columbia.

Not surprisingly, the Huskies will be fine. Yes, they're losing Bria Hartley and Stefanie Dolson to graduation and the WNBA, but the depth on Auriemma's roster is ... well, staggering. And a year after bringing in just one player, Saniya Chong, the 2014 recruiting class is deep.

Four players -- three guards and a wing -- all five-star recruits, according to ESPN.

Gabby Williams (5-11, Nevada), Sadie Edwards (5-9, New Jersey), Courtney Ekmark (6-0, Arizona) and Kia Nurse (5-11, Canada), will all make their way to Storrs this summer. And the rich could get richer for 2015. This weekend, the program will host four of the country's best high school juniors: De’Janae Boykin (6-2, F, No. 8 in espnW's top 60), Napheesa Collier (6-1, W, No. 7), Haley Gorecki, and Katie Lou Samuelson (6-2, W, No. 2).

So, yes, in the world of recruiting, you win some and you lose some. It's just that Auriemma has been on the winning side a lot.

<![CDATA[Omar Calhoun's Future Is With Huskies]]> Fri, 18 Apr 2014 12:48:51 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/omar-calhoun-napier.jpg

While the futures of Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels remain up in the air as they decide whether to return to Storrs for their senior seasons or head for the NBA, Omar Calhoun says he isn't going anywhere.

And unlike his teammates, this has nothing to do with taking his game to the next level. After seeing plenty of playing time as a freshman, Calhoun struggled with injuries last offseason, and to find his shot as a sophomore. In fact, he rarely got off the bench as the Huskies were making their national title run.

In late March, as UConn was getting hot, Calhoun was asked about whether his future remains in Storrs.

“Yeah, yeah, definitely," he said at the time, according to the New Haven Register. Coach (Kevin) Ollie’s a great guy, he definitely knows what kind of player I am. He’s going to keep working with me. Offseason, I’m definitely going to put a lot of work in and build in to be the kind of player I’m supposed to be.”

And Calhoun's father, Omar Sr., confirmed as much to the Register this week.

"My confidence in Coach Ollie never wavered," he said Thursday. "I believe me and Coach Ollie have the same love and passion for the game. I truly believe in the stuff he teaches to his kids.

"He wants you playing to your potential on the floor. He’s got a lot of Coach Calhoun in him, too, and a lot of the great coaches he’s been around, too. He wants you playing to your potential. That’s how he wants you on the floor. Omar understands that, he’s gonna work extremely hard, and he’s healthy now. I think he’s heading back in the right direction. That’s the beautiful thing about basketball, it increases your value and your character if you grow as a human being and a basketball player. Obviously, at times, he wanted to see more minutes, like at the Garden. But I totally understand what Coach Ollie was doing, the situation he was in."

As the Register's David Borges points out, any transfer talk involving Calhoun was conjecture, although Omar Sr. conceded that it's something that crossed his son's mind.

"But the situation he was in, he was always prepared in case his number was called," the father said. "He wished he was out there, these are kids. But when it's all said and done, Kevin Ollie is a tremendous guy to be driving the bus. He accepted the challenge."

And if Boatright and Daniels leave for the NBA -- along with senior Shabazz Napier -- the Huskies could need Calhoun more than ever in 2014 to solidify the backcourt. The team will also welcome transfer Rodney Purvis and incoming freshmen Daniel Hamilton, Sam Cassell Jr. and Rakim Lubin.

<![CDATA[Mohegan Sun Gets AAC Women's Tourney in 2015]]> Fri, 18 Apr 2014 12:44:26 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-first-night.jpg

As expected, Mohegan Sun was awarded the American Athletic Conference 2015 Women's Basketball Championship, commissioner Mike Aresco announced Thursday.

The news comes on the heels of the XL Center in Hartford landing the 2015 AAC men's tournament.

"The American Athletic Conference and its member institutions are excited to return to a venue that demonstrated tremendous support for our women's basketball tournament," Aresco said in a statement. "Attendance was outstanding, the facility is first-rate, and the Mohegan Sun staff provided a great experience for our student-athletes, coaches and fans, who we know will enjoy a return visit next year."

This is the second consecutive year Mohegan Sun will host the conference tourney, which was won by the eventual national champion UConn Huskies this past spring.

"We are thrilled that we will be bringing the American Athletic Conference women's basketball tournament back to Mohegan Sun Arena," said Mitchell Etess, President and CEO of Mohegan Sun. "Our first year was a huge success. We are delighted to continue the relationship, and grow this great event moving forward."

More details via the press release:

All 11 American Athletic Conference schools will participate in the 2015 championship. The format calls for three first-round games on the first day, followed by four quarterfinal games, two semifinals and the championship game. The ESPN Networks will provide television and digital coverage of the tournament.

The 2014-15 season will be the second straight year in which the American Athletic Conference has the defending men's and women's NCAA champions in its ranks. The American was the only conference to place a team in the semifinals of the Men's Final Four, the Women's Final Four, the NIT and the WNIT last season.

In addition to dual national titles this April, the Huskies' men's and women's teams also managed the feat in 2004.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ollie Talks UConn Future With CBS This Morning]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 10:49:30 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-rim.jpg

UConn coach Kevin Ollie sat down with "CBS This Morning"'s Gayle King recently to talk about a number of topics, but perhaps the most interesting was whether the second-year coach would leave college to take a job in the NBA. The transcript is below (via the New Haven Register):

KING: So even coming in here today, somebody sees you, somebody on the street, and says, "Hey, Kevin Ollie, you going to the NBA." Has the NBA called?

OLLIE: No, NBA hasn't called. No.

KING: If the NBA called, would you answer?

OLLIE: No, not now in my life. Like I say, I can't never --say no--

KING: Don't let me pick up the paper next week Kevin and it says, "Guess what? (LAUGH) So and so has called and Kevin has accepted the call." There's no secret meetings?

OLLIE: No. I'm just worried-- worried about my kids here at the University of Connecticut. And I got three guys-- four guys is gonna graduate on time. And I want to be there for the graduation. That's actually, that's gonna be even better than the national championship. I'm never gonna say never, but I'm having so much fun. It's my dream job.

UConn's senior all-everything point guard Shabazz Napier was asked last week if Ollie would leave for the NBA and he was unequivocal in his response: “He’s not going anywhere,” Napier said. “He loves this university. When you love this university with the passion he has, he’s gonna stay here until they tell him he’s got to leave.”

And Ollie reiterated those sentiments: “I love this place. Like anything else, I evaluate it each and every year. I want the conditions right around my student-athletes. You just never know where the NCAA is going in years to come. I want to make sure the university is doing everything possible for our student-athletes to succeed. If I don’t see that, maybe it’s an opportunity for me to leave. But I’m going to evaluate that each and every year, and it’s perfect right now."

<![CDATA[Daniel Hamilton Talks UConn, Kevin Ollie]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 10:47:37 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483300299.jpg

Daniel Hamilton committed to the Huskies well before any of us knew if Kevin Ollie could capably replace Jim Calhoun, never mind lead UConn to a national title in his second season.

Now the 6-7 high school senior and California native, is currently in New York to play in the Jordan Brand national game, spoke about the Huskies, their recent title run, and the coach who led them there.

""I saw something special when he came out to talk to me and sat down for a home visit," Hamilton said, via the Hartford Courant. "He just looked at me, in my eyes, and told me that I would be able to make an impact at UConn next year. … He could relate to a lot of the younger guys, he can talk to us [a way] a lot of coaches can't talk to us. He's a former player, coming from Crenshaw, High, where I went my ninth-grade year, he knows where I'm coming from, moving from the West Coast to the East Coast."

As for the rumor that Ollie might be intrigued by possible NBA offers, Hamilton echoed what Shabazz Napier said last week.

"Coach Ollie, I don't think he's going anywhere anytime soon," he said. "I don't think he's leaving. UConn is permanent, 100 percent. Most definitely, if he's staying, I'm most definitely going -- for sure -- but if he leaves, I don't know. Because that's the reason I'm going there, because of Coach Ollie."

In addition to Hamilton, UConn's 2014 recruiting class includes transfer guard Rodney Purvis, incoming freshman guard Sam Cassell Jr. and forward Rakim Lubin.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Champs to Be Honored at Fenway on April 22]]> Fri, 18 Apr 2014 12:51:37 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Kevin+Ollie+and+Geno+Auriemma.jpg

The 2013-14 Huskies basketball teams, fresh off their national championship wins last week, will be honored together at Fenway Park on April 22 before the Yankees-Red Sox game, according to the Hartford Courant's Dom Amore.

As of now, details are scarce, and there's no word on who will throw out the first pitch. Shabazz Napier, an obvious choice, hails from nearby Roxbury, Mass.

Fenway isn't the only team to extend the Huskies an invite, however. More via the New Haven Register's David Borges.

Invitations have also come from the Yankees and Mets. This makes things even more intriguing. The 2011 team did the honors at Yankee Stadium.  Kemba Walker, the New York native (and non-baseball fan) threw out the pitch, but he was joined by Roscoe Smith, Alex Oriakhi and several other teammates. Not Jim Calhoun, however -- he threw out the first pitch at Fenway Park a few days later. Just as he'd done in 2004, after saying that he had rejected the Yankees' offer (this was later found to be an embellishment, at best).

Now, the question is -- does UConn, which is trying to strengthen its foothold in New York and will be playing a football game next November in the Bronx, go with Yankee Stadium? What about CitiField -- let's not forget, SNY broadcasts both UConn and Mets games.

These are good problems to have.

<![CDATA[XL Center to Host 2015 Men's AAC Tourney]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 13:02:16 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-rim.jpg

The good news continues for UConn and the region: On Monday, seven days after the men's team won their fourth national title and six days after the women won their ninth, the American Athletic Conference announced that the men's championship tournament would be held at the XL Center in March 2015.

According to the Hartford Courant, the event could mean more than $3.5 million for the local economy.

"Our decision is a function of our stated desire to rotation the tournament within our conference footprint," AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco said. "Hartford submitted an outstanding bid, and they have an excellent overall plan. We also recognize there is enormous excitement in Hartford. There will be tremendous interest in our tournament next year."

"We are excited and proud that the American Athletic Conference has chosen the XL Center as the site for next season's men's championship tournament," said UConn coach Kevin Ollie. "It will give more of our great fans in Connecticut a chance to watch the intensity and competitiveness of postseason play. Last year's tournament in Memphis brought together some of the top teams in the country and I know next year in Hartford will do the same. We want to keep Connecticut in the college basketball spotlight."

The women's tournament, meanwhile, is expected to return to Mohegan Sun, where it was held in 2014. An official announcement is expected this week.

"I was never opposed to having both in the same market," Aresco said. "I was opposed to having both in the same venue. We take these bids as they come, evaluate them independently."

<![CDATA[Another Award for Breanna Stewart]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 10:49:49 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/breanna-stewart-mop.jpg

Breanna Stewart's going to need a bigger mantle. A week after helping the Huskies to two national titles in as many seasons, the sophomore standout forward was named the Honda Sports Award winner for Basketball. The honor is presented annually to the top women athlete in 12 NCAA-sanctioned sports, identifying "the best of the best in college athletics."

Stewart certainly qualifies. She has previously been named player of the year by the AP, the USBWA, Naismith as well as the AAC Player of the Year.

It is such an honor to be selected as the winner of the Honda Award for women’s basketball,” Stewart said in a statement. “I would like to thank the administrators for selecting me over a group of outstanding players and my coaches and teammates for helping me get to this point where I can be considered for such prestigious honors.”

Coach Geno Auriemma, who seems to give this speech every other day, added: “I am very happy for Breanna. She worked extremely hard during the offseason, and during the season, to improve on a great freshman year. It is truly rewarding to see hard work pay off for someone and no one is more deserving of this tremendous honor than Breanna Stewart.”

According to SNY.com, UConn field hockey player Marie Elena Bolles also won the award this year.

<![CDATA[UConn Offense Should Improve]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 12:18:50 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/tim-boyle-ucf.jpg

Spring practice is officially in the books, and the UConn football team won't convene again on the field until this summer when training camp begins. It will be Bob Diaco's first season at the helm and his task is a big one: Fashion an offense that can consistently put points on the board.

That was an issue the previous three years under Paul Pasqualoni, but new offensive coordinator Mike Cummings expects things to be different this time around.

“I like our players on offense," he said, via the Hartford Courant. "They work hard. They love football. They care about each other. They want to do well. They want to learn offense. They want to be the best,” Cummings told me during an assistant coaches availability luncheon on campus last week. “What can we do with them? I think exactly what we want to do with them. If we want to run the ball, if we want to throw the ball. System-wise we’re going to do the things Coach Diaco talked about.

“We’ve got the pieces. We’ll have 11 guys on the field. Look, we might not have some experience on paper at some positions but at the end of the day we’re going to have what we need to get the jobs done we need to get done. The development of the players, maturity, that will be a big point, big key for us, to do it as well as we can.”

The conversation starts at quarterback, where Casey Cochran, Chandler Whitmer and Tim Boyle will battle for the job. Following Saturday's Blue-White game, Diaco had this to say about his stable of passers.

"I would like to see better clock management, collectively, kind of sauntering around, not really cognizant of the play clock as well as it needs to be; some moments of either delivering the ball a little too quick or holding onto it a little too long, so the timing of that needs to improve and it's going to improve, anyway. We haven't had a lot of these opportunities. It's all been kind of canned in a petri dish, how we've been practicing; very isolated intense moments but they were controlled so now to actually play a game where it's not, it was nice to see them operate -- and we've got a long way to go."

But this is a process and both Diaco and Cummings understand that.

“We’re competing,” Cummings said. “That’s what we like to. Look anybody who is involved wants to do well. There are pieces in there where people can do well. I’ve said this a number of times but I don’t think players really want to make mistakes. They don’t do that. People that we work with they don’t want to make mistakes.

“You have to promote positive talk, work towards a goal, forward-thinking and you can get those things done. Your progress may not be instant but you can get that done. The bottom line is we have to get it done."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ollie to Talk to Boatright, Daniels About NBA]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 19:18:03 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483304153.jpg

Shabazz Napier isn't the only Husky thinking about the NBA Draft. He's the only senior, but juniors Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels have looming decisions to make, too. Boatright said recently that he's still not sure what he'll do and the thought of donning a UConn jersey for one more season is enticing. Daniels, meanwhile, looks like an NBA player, but has struggled with consistency throughout his career.

Both players will sit down to discuss their futures with coach Kevin Ollie.

"I’m just going to give them information that I’ve received from general managers, and then they’re going to have to make their own decisions,” Ollie said, via the New Haven Register. “I don’t want to make any decisions for them. I want them to be committed, if they’re gonna come back. They’ve got to have the right attitude. If they decide to go to the pros, they’re gonna have to have the right attitude.

"I’m gonna give them information, and they’re gonna have to make the decision that’s best for their family. Not what’s best for UConn. What’s best for them and their family. And hopefully, they make the right decision and be committed to it. If you decide to go the NBA, you’d better be in the best shape of your life. If you decide to come back to UConn, you’d better be in the best shape of your life. I know they will.”

As it stands, UConn's 2014 recruiting class includes transfer guards Rodney Purvis, Daniel Hamilton and Sam Cassell Jr., and forward Rakim Lubin.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Napier: Ollie's Not Going Anywhere]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 19:18:03 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483304481.jpg

In the days surrounding the Huskies' fourth national title last Monday, rumors swirled that coach Kevin Ollie might be in the running for an NBA job. The Lakers and Knicks are the popular choices but the reality, according to senior point guard Shabazz Napier, is that Ollie's already home.

“He’s not going anywhere,” Napier said, via the New Haven Register. “He loves this university. When you love this university with the passion he has, he’s gonna stay here until they tell him he’s got to leave.”

Ollie's response:

“Nothing will shake me,” he said. “I love this place. Like anything else, I evaluate it each and every year. I want the conditions right around my student-athletes. You just never know where the NCAA is going in years to come. I want to make sure the university is doing everything possible for our student-athletes to succeed. If I don’t see that, maybe it’s an opportunity for me to leave. But I’m going to evaluate that each and every year, and it’s perfect right now. We’re doing everything it takes for our student-athletes to get their grades and do certain things on the road and have a great experience at this university.”

He then added (in response to a question about a possible pay raise): “Whatever it takes, I want to be here at the University of Connecticut. Hopefully, we can come up with a great solution that benefits not only me, but benefits the university going forward.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dolson, Hartley to Play for WNBA's Mystics]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 10:49:50 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/CN-womens-basketball-AP195500482704.jpg

There was plenty of reason to cheer on Monday evening, when UConn seniors Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley, fresh off their second NCAA title in as many years, were taken sixth and seventh, respectively, in the WNBA Draft. It was a record 15th time one of Geno Auriemma's players had been selected in the first round.

But it gets better: Dolson was drafted by the Washington Mystics and Hartley went to the Seattle Storm. The two weren't teammates for the first time in four years ... and that lasted about four minutes: the Mystics traded for Hartley, reuniting the two players once again.

“They’ve kind of been attached at the hip for four years, so I guess it’s poetic justice,” Auriemma said, via SNY.com. “I’ve always said it doesn’t matter what number you get drafted as long as you get drafted by the right team and have the opportunity to play. I’m thrilled for both of them.”

On getting drafted, Hartley said: "This is a dream true. I’m proud of what I accomplished in college and excited about the people around me that motivated me to chase my dream. I worked really hard to get here and not everyone gets this opportunity. I’m going to cherish it.”

And Dolson added: “I was in the hallway and I heard the uproar and I thought, ‘That had to be Bria,’” she said. “The fact that we went right after each other means a lot. We came in together, won two national championships together, and now we’re going to the WNBA together. ...

“So many things have happened in the last week for both Bria and I,” she added. “I’m extremely happy for her, too. We couldn’t have asked for a better end to our college careers.”

Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike, who days ago beat out Breanna Stewart for the Wooden Award, was taken first overall by the Connecticut Sun.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Napier Prepares for NBA Draft]]> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 10:48:32 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483308981.jpg

Shabazz Napier couldn't have scripted a better story. Arrives as a freshman and watches Kemba Walker lead the Huskies to a national title, two years later doesn't watch the NCAA Tournament at all after UConn is banned from it because of academic sanctions, and then returning to the top of college basketball a year later, as a senior, before riding off into the sunset, so to speak.

Next up: Preparing for the NBA Draft and all that comes with it.

“I knew, going into the tournament, before the first game, I’ve got to be prepared for anything, whether we lose or win," Napier said, via the New Haven Register's David Borges. "I’ve been preparing myself since then. I played well in the tournament, so it kind of showed how much I was prepared. But I”ve got a lot more to prepare for, a lot more to work on, because that’s a big jump.”

LeBron (yep, that one) even went so far as to tweet that Napier should be the first point guard taken in the draft.

“I don’t social network," Napier said. "But that is definitely cool. It’s just so surreal to see guys who you look up to shout you out and say stuff like that. I want people to know that, at the end of the day, they’re not picking. I wish they were. But at the end of the day, I’m going to go out there and treat every opportunity I have like an interview, like it is, and hopefully their words can get inside people’s heads. Maybe it’ll work. But I’m gonna work, no matter what.”

Napier's backcourt mate, junior Ryan Boatright, is also considering the NBA but has yet to make a decision.

“You do a little bit (pay attention to what scouts say about your NBA potential)," Boatright said. "You take the good with the bad. Everybody ain’t gonna believe in you or think you’re a pro. So, you’ve just got to take the good with the bad and have firm belief in yourself, firm confidence.”

But Boatright also appreciates what it means to play for the Huskies.

“It ain’t even about being the man," he said. "It’s just getting to put on the UConn uniform again, just having another chance to do this again. These type of experiences drive you to want to do it again. This is something special. It felt good to be a part of this.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dolson, Hartley Likely WNBA 1st-Rounders]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 19:18:04 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/CN-womens-basketball-AP195500482704.jpg

It's become almost a rite of passage, the natural progression of things at Storrs. After a four-year career that includes conference and national honors and a handful of national championships, top players leave Geno Auriemma's program as likely first-round picks in the WNBA Draft.

Bria Hartley and Stefanie Dolson are next in line, and just like Tina Charles, Maya Moore and Kelly Faris in recent years, they could hear their names called early on draft night.

"I'm just excited," Dolson said, via the Hartford Courant. "I think it's been a great four years here at Connecticut. All great things have to come to an end. I'm just excited and really anxious to get the next chapter of my life started. To be able to keep playing basketball is definitely a dream of all of ours. I'm excited to keep going."

Dolson could go as high as No. 3 to San Antonio

Meanwhile, the Courant's John Altavilla thinks Hartley makes a lot of sense with the Indiana Fever at No. 5.

"You asked if I would take Hartley at five?" Fever coach Dunn said. "Of course, we're looking at Hartley at five. I think when we get to the fifth pick there, we've got McBride, Hartley, Howard, Dolson, Thomas. We're looking closely at all five of those players. Would I consider taking Hartley at five? Absolutely we would."

Not surprisingly, Auriemma, when speaking with WNBA teams, has one rule: Speak honestly about his players.

"I tell the truth [about UConn players] and I think that's why our players do well at the next level," the coach said. "I tell [WNBA executives] the truth and I think they appreciate that I do. I don't want anyone coming back to me and saying that I lied to them about a player. ..

"If I don't think one of my players is right for a team, I will say that, too. I don't want anyone to fail. I don't want anyone in a situation that is not in their best interest. I don't need my players to be the first or second pick. I want them to be the right pick for that team, so they can get a fair shot at playing."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Defense Shines in Blue-White Game]]> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 10:41:41 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Casey+Cochran+1200.jpg

For once, the score doesn't really matter. White beat Blue 46-37 in the spring game Saturday, officially concluding spring practices. The bigger takeaway: What it all means as the Huskies, 13-23 over the last three seasons, try to right the ship under new coach Bob Diaco.

In front of some 6,500 at Rentschler Field, the defense was the star of the show, welcome news after allowing big plays, lots of yards and plenty of points became habit-forming in 2013.

"Man, words can't describe how dominant our defensive line is going to be this fall," junior safety Andrew Adams told the Hartford Courant. "We have forces in the middle, B.J., Lo, Julian, all of those guys down there are going to be great players for us."

And safety Byron Jones added: "Those guys are tough guys, and that's where it starts for defense, the defensive line, and those guys have been tough throughout the whole spring and I think they're going to continue that through the summer -- and through the season."

Ultimately, the team's success will be determined on the other side of the ball by the quarterbacks. Diaco's top three choices: Casey Cochran (10 of 19, 91 yards, 1 INT), Chandler Whitmer (19 of 26, 163 yards, 1 TD) and Tim Boyle (7 of 14, 97 yards).

Cochran led the team to its only three wins a season ago while Whitmer and Boyle struggled in starts over the first nine games. But it's a new day and Diaco is only interested in looking ahead.

"At times, spotty … just OK," he said of the quarterbacks' performance Saturday. "I would like to see better clock management, collectively, kind of sauntering around, not really cognizant of the play clock as well as it needs to be; some moments of either delivering the ball a little too quick or holding onto it a little too long, so the timing of that needs to improve and it's going to improve, anyway. We haven't had a lot of these opportunities. It's all been kind of canned in a petri dish, how we've been practicing; very isolated intense moments but they were controlled so now to actually play a game where it's not, it was nice to see them operate -- and we've got a long way to go."

Luckily, the season is more than four months off.

<![CDATA[UConn Victory Parade]]> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 10:48:59 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/160*120/860e3f463e35447e8be10848953aba24.JPG.jpg Images from Sunday's victory parade for the national champion UConn men's and women's basketball teams. ]]> <![CDATA[UConn's Olander is Living a Dream]]> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 10:49:00 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/216*120/OLANDERINSTUDIO.jpg Tyler Olander, a Connecticut hometown hero, has won town national titles with the UConn men's basketball team and said he's living a dream. Maintaining a positive attitude was on of the keys to his very successful season, he said, and he is looking ahead to a career in politics.]]> <![CDATA[UConn Looks to Rebuild Defense]]> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 12:49:57 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/yawin-smallwood-2013.jpg

Ultimately, the results were the same during Paul Pasqualoni's first two years as UConn's coach -- back-to-back 5-7 records -- but the defense was one of the best in the Big East. In fact, defensive lineman Kendall Reyes was as a second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and linebacker Sio Moore, and cornerbacks Dwayne Gratz and Blidi Wreh-Wilson were third-rounders last spring.

But last season in Storrs, the defense fell off a cliff, so much so that all-everything linebacker Yawin Smallwood has gone from can't-miss NFL prospect to likely late-round pick. But with Pasqualoni gone and former Notre Dame assistant Bob Diaco now running the show, the plan is to return the defense to its previous glory. And that task falls to new defensive coordinator Anthony Poindexter.

"I think it's the head coach's vision to be a top-notch defense, being a defensive coordinator for a long time, knowing his mentality to run the ball and play solid defense," Poindexter said, via the Hartford Courant. "It's our goal to play solid defense, keep the points down and let our offense have opportunities to possess the ball."

The Huskies ranked 51st in total defense last year after allowing 385 points. Five defensive starters return from last year's 3-9 squad. Poindexter, meanwhile, knows something about defense. He was the ACC defensive player of the year in 1998 and was considered a hard-hitting safety during his four years at UVA. But he also knows the game has changed in recent years, but the bottom line remains: getting the most out of his players.

"You know my style was totally different and it was a different day and age in football, too," he said. "We played the game different. Most of the kids I'm coaching now have a lot more athletic ability, a lot more speed. If you're talking about physical gifts, they have more physical gifts now, which allow us to do a lot of different things."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis Perseveres]]> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 12:42:32 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP921212359691+%281%29.jpg

She missed 12 games with an elbow injury and later mononucleosis, but junior forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis returned to the lineup for good on March 1 and was instrumental in helping UConn defend its national title, including an 18-point, 7-rebound effort in the championship win over Notre Dame.

When it was over, Mosqueda-Lewis finally had a chance to consider the journey that brought her to that point.

“It was worth it and I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” she said, according to SNY.com's Carl Adamec. “I was happy to come back at the end of the season and play how I can. ...

“I think this is the toughest season I’ve ever had,” she continued. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through and because of that I’m really proud of myself for kind of getting myself out of the hole. I couldn’t thank my teammates and coaches any more for helping me get out of it.”

Coach Geno Auriemma, who now has nine national titles on his resume, applauded Mosqueda-Lewis for her toughness.

“It was just one thing after another in the regular season for her,” he said. “I’m most proud of how she handled that whole adversity. For her to play her best basketball … I said before the NCAA tournament started that if we were fortunate enough to play six games, the six games could wipe out how frustrating the other four months were. That’s exactly what happened.”

During the postseason -- both in the AAC and NCAA Tournaments -- Mosqueda Lewis averaged 16.2 points and 6.7 rebounds, important numbers that often gets lost in the "Opponents have to figure out a way to stop Breanna Stewart" storylines.

And with title No. 9 now in the books, the goal is to get No. 10 -- and three in a row -- and the preparation starts ... now.

“The freshmen we have coming in are talented, and with the people we have coming back they will be able to learn from us,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “I definitely can see great possibilities for us. It’s said to see Stef and Bria go, but it’s going to be a new exciting chapter for the rest of us.”

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[FiveThirtyEight.com: UConn Programs Best Ever]]> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 10:49:00 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/UConn+Champions+sign.jpg

Want more reason to celebrate the two national titles the men's and women's teams added to the collection this week? Thanks to fivethirtyeight.com, here ya go: UConn is now, without question, the best college basketball program of all time.

According to author Carl Bialik, "The championships moved UConn into an indisputable lead as the most successful overall Division I college basketball program, when accounting for men’s and women’s achievements."

Previously, Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma first won simultaneous titles in 2004, and now, a decade later, it's happened again.

More via Bialik:

UConn’s men’s and women’s teams, combined, have the most titles, the most tournament wins, the highest winning percentage and the highest average margin of victory in the NCAA tournament in Division I since 1951. The race was a close one until a few weeks ago, but UConn’s success this year coincided with stumbles by its two closest rivals in the category: Duke and Tennessee. It’s a remarkable achievement for UConn, which two decades ago hadn’t won any Division I basketball titles, men’s or women’s.Heading into the Big Dance, UConn, Duke and Tennessee were all in the running for most successful programs, but Duke managed just one win between them, while the Vols accounted for four. The Huskies had 12.

In fact, according to Bialik, UConn's only real competition comes from UCLA, which won 10 national titles during the John Wooden era.

But the Bruins’ success has hardly been balanced: UCLA has won as many titles in the men’s tournament as it has won games in the women’s tournament. In fact, outside of Storrs, Conn., and a trio of Atlantic Coast Conference schools — Duke, North Carolina and Maryland — few of the leaders in combined basketball success have been truly successful in men’s and women’s hoops. Tennessee has a losing record in the men’s tournament even after this year’s run, and Stanford gets most of its wins from the women’s side.

If anything, it's a testament to the programs Calhoun and Auriemma built, and Kevin Ollie has sustained.


<![CDATA[Jimmy Fallon Challenges Stefanie Dolson]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 16:51:23 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/jimmyfallon_1200.jpg Jimmy Fallon gives a shout out to the UConn women's basketball team in his opening monologue Wednesday night and had a special message for senior Stefanie Dolson.]]> <![CDATA[UConn-Notre Dame Draws Huge Ratings]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 11:38:58 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+women+huskies+trophy.jpg

When Geno Auriemma isn't winning championships he's usually talking about how to make women's basketball more accessible and popular to a sports-loving nation. Well, he certainly did his part (and then some) Tuesday night when the undefeated Huskies took down the previously undefeated Fighting Irish for their ninth national title under the Hall of Fame coach.

The game, which aired on ESPN, earned a 2.8 rating, a 40 percent increase from a year ago and the highest for any women's college basketball game in a decade, dating back to UConn's NCAA championship victory over Tennessee in 2004.

Details via an ESPN press release:

The highly anticipated matchup averaged 3.21 million households and 4.27 viewers (P2+) – fourth and sixth best, respectively, since ESPN began televising the women’s championship in 1996.  In addition, the 2.8 rating represents an increase of 40 percent over a 2.0 a year ago for UConn over Louisville.

In addition, nearly 100,000 fans turned to WatchESPN for the traditional telecast and the special ESPN3 Surround production of the matchup.  Those 100,000 thousand fans generated 3,800,000 minutes on the game, both all-time highs for a women’s college basketball game.  Additionally, the game generated the most minutes viewed for an ESPN3 Surround production to date.

Among the metered markets, Hartford/New Haven led the way with a 29.3 rating, making it the market’s highest overnight for a program on cable in 2014. Nashville was the second highest-rated market with a 6.8 followed by Knoxville (6.0), Louisville (5.5), Indianapolis (4.8), Raleigh-Durham (4.7), Providence (4.6), New York (4.6), Memphis (4.5) and Greenville (4.5).

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ollie Finishing What Calhoun Started]]> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 12:50:45 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483304481.jpg

Jim Calhoun built the program at UConn. Over a quarter-century he took the Huskies out of the basketball backwaters and brought them into the national conversation. And from 1999-2011, that meant three NCAA titles. Then, before the 2012-2013 season, Calhoun retired, replaced by his protege and former Huskies point guard Kevin Ollie, and three days ago, he won an NCAA title, UConn's fourth.

In the moments after Monday's 60-54 victory over Kentucky, Calhoun was sitting quietly in the locker room, taking it all in and reflecting on what it took to get there.

“No matter who you are and what you are, you always want an affirmation of things,” Calhoun, 71, said via ESPN.com. “We have had a great last 25 years. We’re probably one of the top five winningest programs, and that’s important. But teams like North Carolina, Indiana and Kentucky have been incredible for 50 years. We want to keep that thing going. I never wanted our program to be about one player, one team or one coach.

“That’s what Dean Smith taught me when I was young coach at Northeastern.”

Names like Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon and Kemba Walker (and now Shabazz Napier) all helped set the program on its path to prominence and Ollie plans to sustain what Calhoun and his players built.

“Somebody told me we were Cinderellas, and I was like, 'No, we're UConn,'" Ollie said. “I mean this is what we do. We are born for this. We’re bred to cut down nets. We’re not chasing championships, championships are chasing us.

“We’ve got four now and Coach Calhoun started a tradition and my whole coaching staff is from UConn. We’ve all been through the same things. We love this university. It’s always family first with us and they kept believing.”

Some young coaches might bristle at having a Hall of Famer like Calhoun always around. Not Ollie.

“He’s right there beside me,” the coach said. “I told you, I’m not filling his shoes. I can’t fill his shoes. He just a great resource for me -- to have a person that loves me and believed in me when a lot of people didn’t. A lot of people questioned me about getting this job; he never did.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cochran to Start Blue-White Game]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 11:10:09 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/casey-cochran-starter-smu.jpg

Now that basketball is officially over (and UConn has added two more NCAA National titles to the trophy case) we can fully turn our attention to football. New coach Bob Diaco took over in December, and now he's about to wrap up his first spring practice in Storrs.

As has been the case since Zach Frazer left following the Fiesta Bowl in Jan. 2011, the Huskies' quarterback situation remains a question. Johnny McEntee won the job in Paul Pasqualoni's first year, but inconsistency and lack of a supporting class saw Chandler Whitmer take over in 2012. Last season, Whitmer, freshman Tim Boyle and sophomore Casey Cochran split the duties with Cochran clearly outplaying the other two.

At Saturday's Blue-White game, Cochran will be the first QB to take first-team snaps.

"When the next unit goes on the field, Chandler will be with them," Don Patterson, the Huskies' associate head coach and quarterbacks coach, said Wednesday, according to the Hartford Courant.

"If you want to think of it terms of two offensive units, that's how they'll operate in the early stages of the game. At some point Chandler will switch over to the starting unit and Tim [Boyle] will work with the second unit and [sophomore] Mike Ecke will work with the second unit, too.

"If we had a game to play tomorrow, obviously, based on what I just said, that would indicate that Casey would take that snap."

Based on the last three games of last season, Cochran earned that right. He led the Huskies to three wins -- their only three wins on the year following an 0-9 start. A lot can change between now and late August, when UConn kicks off the season against BYU, but so far, Cochran has looked good in spring practice.

"I think he's got a really, really high football IQ," Patterson said. "He's very motivated to learn whatever the plan might be. He can learn it. He's a coach's son and understands the game really well, but beyond that I like the fact he has really good intangibles and by that I mean he's got outstanding leadership ability. The players respect him for his toughness and they appreciate that he's got the right kind of mentality as it relates to teammates. He's a good teammate. We all know the quarterback gets too much blame when you lose and too much credit when you win so Casey is smart enough to know if I had a good day there are 10 other guys that had a lot to do with it. He's very selfless."

<![CDATA[Dolson, Hartley Get Emotional at Rally]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 18:09:55 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/dolson_hartley_rally_040914.jpg UConn seniors Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley both showed how much they love their teammates, their university and their fans during speeches at a rally for the national champion UConn women’s basketball team in Storrs on Wednesday.]]> <![CDATA[Stewart Only Going to Get Better]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 13:36:09 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/breanna-stewart-mop.jpg

If this were the men's game, Breanna Stewart would likely be headed for the NBA. In two seasons, she's accomplished just about everything. She's been named the Associated Press National Player of the Year, the United States Basketball Writers National Player of the year, and the the Naismith Award. She remains a finalist for the Wooden Award, and, oh yeah, she's a two-time national champion who has twice earned Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

But even before she stepped foot on UConn's campus, Stewart said she was coming to Storrs to win four national titles. She's halfway there and the thought of her only getting better must keep opposing coaches up at night. And she will get better.

“Stewie is talented and she works really hard,” said senior Bria Hartley, via SNY.com. “It’s just so hard for people to defend her because she can score in so many ways. She’s 6-4 and she’s able to hit the three, she can drive by you, she will post you up inside. How can you stop someone who can literally do everything on the court? The crazy thing is that she is good now, but just imagine how much better she is going to be the next two years.”

And coach Geno Auriemma, who was emotional following the Huskies' championship win Monday night, offered this about the best player in the country.

“I think if Stewie really works at it, and I think she will, if she becomes a much better ballhandler, like she can catch the ball and really go anywhere with it that she wants, I think there will be no guarding her ever, on any level,” Auriemma said. “Right now she is kind of a catch-and-shoot player either in the post or on the perimeter. But once she gets to where she just gets the ball and she just goes wherever she wants … If Stewie adds that to her game, then it’s over. Then there is no guarding her no matter what.”

There are plenty of coaches who might say Stewart is already at that point.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Summitt Congratulates Huskies, Auriemma]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 12:51:56 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-pat-summitt.jpg

On Monday night, minutes before UConn was officially crowned 2014 NCAA Champions, ESPN's Doris Burke said that Geno Auriemma's ninth national title should put him in the same conversation will legendary coaches John Wooden and Phil Jackson. Of course, any such conversation starts with women's basketball coaching legend Pat Summitt, who won eight championships during her tenure with Tennessee.

Not surprisingly, Auriemma and Summitt had their battles -- both on the court and elsewhere -- but there had always been (albeit sometimes grudging) respect there, too. And Following the Huskies win Tuesday, Summitt released a statement acknowledging the program's accomplishments.

"Congratulations to the UConn Huskies for winning the 2014 NCAA national championship," Summitt said, via BND.com. "My compliments also to coach Geno Auriemma for winning his ninth national title. He has accomplished this feat in record time with the help of some incredibly talented student-athletes and staff members. My best to each and every one of them. Enjoy the moment and cherish the memories."

<![CDATA[Stewart Named Most Outstanding Player of Final Four]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 12:47:02 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/breanna-stewart-nd-finals.png

In a season full of awards, honors and, ultimately, championships, it's only fitting that sophomore forward Breanna Stewart was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. It came on the heels of UConn's convincing national title defense, this time over arch rival Notre Dame. And it's the second time in as many seasons that Stewart has earned MOP honors. The only other person to ever accomplish the feat: Cheryl Miller.

“Coming to Connecticut, I’m here to reach my full potential and become as good of a player as I can be and win national championships,” Stewart said, via SNY.com. “Next year, I want to win a win another one. But we’ll enjoy this one. I win two, I want to win three. We win three, then we’ll see about winning four.

“Right now I’m in the right mindset. I know what it takes to win national championships. Going forward, I’m excited for what’s to come. But I’m going to enjoy this a little bit.”

Early during her freshman season, Stewart struggled to find her niche before coming into her own as 2012 gave way to 2013. She entered her sophomore year as one of the country's best players and when the dust settled, she'll likely end up as one of the most dynamic names to ever come through Storrs. She finished 2013-14 averaging 19.4 points per game to go along with 8.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.8 blocked shots.

Now that the Huskies' season is over, Stewart will focus on making the U.S. national team that will compete in the FIBA world championships from Sept. 27-Oct. 5 in Turkey.

“I’m going there to try and be a part of that team,” said Stewart, who has five gold medals from previous stints with USA Basketball. “That’s one of my goals. I’m working hard. I’ll be working hard this summer for it. When it gets time for the training camp I’m going to go out and play basketball and if it happens it happens.”

<![CDATA[Celebrate UConn Wins With Free or Cheap Food]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 11:49:52 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/moes+southwest+grill.JPG

As if the double UConn NCAA wins were not enough, that means free or cheap food today for fans.

Dunkin Donuts has been giving away free medium hot and iced coffees all day to fans who download the chain's mobile app. More information about the special offer is available online.

Special UConn-themed doughnuts are also available today.

FroyoWorld, which was founded by UConn alumni and basketball fans, is giving away free eight-ounce Froyo to the first 100 customers at participating stores from noon to 5 p.m.

Moes’s Southwest Grill locations in Connecticut are celebrating the UConn men and women winning the national NCAA titles with $1 burritos.

Moe’s will be selling burritos for $1 all day long at participating stores, except at the Milford Travel Plaza. That’s one per person. Any additional burritos will be full price, according to Tweets from Moe’s Connecticut Twitter account. 

There are 17 Moe's locations in Connecticut and one will be opening soon on the Berlin Turnpike in Newington.

Check Moe's Web site to find the closest location to you.

Brothers, William and Dennis Bok, founded Froyo World.

“We want to send our congratulations to the Huskies and UCONN,” they wrote in a news release. “We’re sure our Connecticut customers will enjoy celebrating the Husky win with us at our stores.”

The participating locations are in Cheshire, East Haven, Glastonbury, Hamden, Middletown, Mystic, New Britain, New Haven, New London, North Haven, Southbury, Storrs, Waterbury, Waterford and Westport.

<![CDATA[UConn Victory Parade Sunday at 4 p.m.]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 16:17:33 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+parade+team+bus_722_406.jpg

The victory parade for the national championship UConn men and women’s team will be on Sunday at 4 p.m. in  Hartford.

More information on the parade will be posted online here

The parade will begin and end at the State Capitol. It steps off at 4 p.m. and will be immediately followed by a victory rally on the north steps of the State Capitol building.

The parade will begin at the State Capitol, travel north on Trinity Street, take a right on Jewell Street, bear right at Gold Street, right on Main Street, then make a right onto Capitol Avenue before returning to the State Capitol, where the rally will be held.

<![CDATA[Stefanie Dolson Challenges President to a Dance Off]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 13:36:43 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/edt-uconn-ladies-obama-basketball-bunny-ears.jpg

Stefanie Dolson said she would challenge the president to a dance off if and when she made another trip to the White House.

Last night, the UConn basketball star did just that.

With microphone in hand after the UConn women defeated Notre Dame last night, the senior center said, “President Obama, we’re back. Secondly, he’d better get his dance moves on point,” according to video aired on ESPN. 

When the team went to the White House last July to celebrate their 2013 national title win, Dolson said she challenged the president to a dance-off.

She also gave him bunny ears

She is the comedian of the team and Head coach Geno Auriemma has said she brings joy to the team.
"There's been very, very few people that I've encountered in my life that have enjoyed the experience more than she has, and brought that kind of joy to the court and to everything else that we do," Auriemma told the Associated Press in February.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Huskies Thank Fans ]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 07:00:13 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/160*120/uconn+victory+lap+11.JPG

Storrs, Connecticut has become title town and you can welcome the UConn women’s championship team home today.

UConn defeated Notre Dame, 79 to 58, last night and the 2014 NCAA national champs returned from Nashville this afternoon and landed at Bradley International Airport around 3 p.m.

The women arrived back in Storrs to take a victory loop through campus on an open-air double decker bus, accompanied by the UConn pep band and cheerleaders.

Coach Geno Auriemma and senior players Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley took the podium to share their excitement express gratitude to the fans.

"Winning is great, but if you win by yourself, it's not as meaningful," Auriemma said. "What makes it even bigger is that we're able to share it with the men's team, and we're able to share it with every student athlete on this campus, because whenever we do something like this, we don't just do it for ourselves. We do it for all of you. ... We do it in a way that is really impressive and we do it in a way that represents who we are."

Dolson took the mic next and broke down during her heartfelt thank-you.

"Four years ago, when I came here, I wasn't sure," she explained. "You know, Storrs, Connecticut isn't the most exciting place... but it wasn't the activities we could do that made me come here. It was the people; it was the feeling that I got when I walked on this campus. And being able to play in front of you guys for four years has been an honor and I'm going to miss it a lot."

Hartley echoed Dolson's feelings and also got emotional at the podium.

"That moment yesterday when I was coming off the court was the most special moment in my career," she said. "To end that season perfect, going 40-0 with my teammates, going through all the years with this coaching staff. ... I think I'm just so proud of this school and being ale to come here and play for this university. Because everything we do, we do it with such class and we make people earn our respect every day."

Hartley also turned to Auriemma and said, "Coach, you mean so much to me through all the years here, and I love you so much." She said she wouldn't be the person she is today without his guidance and support

<![CDATA[Happy Homecoming to the Huskies]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 17:00:07 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/160*120/uconn+victory+lap+11.JPG The men's and women's national champions were greeted with celebrations upon their return to Connecticut.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Bracket Blunder Costs Meriden Man $100,000]]> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 18:10:58 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/corey+johnson+2.jpg

A 28-year-old Meriden man could have been $100,000 richer after UConn took the title Monday night, but he says an Internet error dashed his hopes of a winning bracket.

Corey Johnson was one of about 7 million to build a bracket with the Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge hosted by Yahoo Sports, he says. He was tied for fourth place going into the NCAA national championship game Monday afternoon and was banking on a UConn win.

But as he was checking his bracket Sunday before the game, he noticed something was wrong.

“As I’m going through the leader boards and everything, I’m noticing that everybody else has a championship winner except for me,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Johnson’s final selection hadn’t saved properly. The field where the winner should have been listed was blank.

“Since there was no winner, you know, I’m pretty much out of luck there,” he explained.

The top 20 bracket entrants were slated to win $100,000 each.

A UConn fan, Johnson had the Huskies winning it all. As for Kentucky, he said he was hoping for a “Cinderella-type story” pitting two lower seeds against one another in the championship game.

“I knew Kentucky had a solid little basketball team and was just thinking to myself, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if Kentucky and UConn met up in the championship?’” he said.

But as he watched the title game Monday night, he thought back to that empty spot on his bracket and knew he was in trouble either way.

“It was not a win-win for me at all,” Johnson said.

Johnson also correctly picked three of the Final Four teams, seven of the Elite Eight teams and 11 of the Sweet 16 teams.

After noticing the error, Johnson searched the bracket challenge website for a way to get in touch with the organizers, but said he couldn’t locate a contact number and eventually gave up.

“This is kind of like finding a needle in a haystack,” he explained, adding that it seemed impossible to get ahold of anyone.

Johnson said he would have used his winnings to pay off tuition at Porter and Chester Institute, where he studies heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and to buy a new car.

“It’s unfortunate that it happened to me,” he said. “I definitely could have used the money for lots of things.”

He’s a good sport, though. Johnson has been reminding himself that at least he didn’t lose money and added that the national media attention has been “kind of cool.”

Friends have started a Change.org petition asking Quicken Loans and Yahoo Sports to honor Johnson’s bracket and pay up.

It’s been shared on social media with the hashtag #PayCoreyJohnson and had received nearly 300 signatures at the time this story was published.

Local news sources including the Meriden Record-Journal reached out to Yahoo and Quicken Loans for comment and did not hear back.

Photo Credit: Corey Johnson]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Hosting Women’s Basketball Finals Watch Party]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 13:36:45 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn-women1.jpg

The party continues at UConn.

With excitement still rampant from the men’s basketball team winning the national championship last night, fans will be watching the women’s team play go for the national title tonight.

The UConn women are taking on arch rivals Notre Dame and this is the first time ever that two undefeated teams will meet in the finals.

Gampel Pavilion will be open for a student viewing of the game, which starts at 8:30 p.m.

Prior to the game, Gampel will be home for a victory pep rally for the men.

The doors to Gampel Pavilion will open to the public at 4:30 p.m. for the rally.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Shabazz Napier Gets Cover of Sports Illustrated]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 13:36:45 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Sports+Illustrated+cover+Shabazz+1200.jpg

It’s been an amazing journey for the UConn Huskies and the excitement continues.

The team is on its way home for a victory rally today and Shabazz Napier will be on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week, according to Tweets from Sports Illustrated and SI College Hoops.

Michael Rosenberg wrote the cover story, following UConn “from the brink of the abyss to a fourth national title,” according to an article Sports Illustrated posted online about the issue.

“With his trademark pizzazz Shabazz Napier lit up Kentucky for 22 points and walked off with the Most Outstanding Player award,” the cover says.

Congratulations to the entire UConn Huskies team! 


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[UConn-Notre Dame Rivalry Intensifies]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 13:36:45 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+stanford+lead+image.jpg

Down goes the gauntlet. For the first time ever, two undefeated teams will meet in the finals and it only seems right that it's UConn and Notre Dame. Arch rivals during their time together in the Big East, the bad blood remains, which, frankly, only enhances the experience for fans and media.

On Monday, Notre Dame coach Muffy McGraw was asked if some sense of civility might return to one of college basketball's best matchups.

“I think we’re past that point,” she said, via the Hartford Courant, apparently referring to subtle back-and-forths through the media in recent years, when the Fighting Irish pretty much dominated the series, though they never won a national championship during that time.

In March, McGraw said that the Huskies were the reason the two teams, now in different conferences, didn't meet in the regular season. Auriemma's response: “It’s not nice for Muffet to fib during Lent."

Not surprisingly, Muffet didn't appreciated the accusation. And things only got more awkward over the weekend when both teams were on hand to honor the AP Player of the Year ... UConn's Breanna Stewart.

“Yeah, I think there was definitely tension in the room," McGraw admitted. " I think for us, we wanted Kayla McBride to win the Player of the Year award. So I think it was a little bit of that. And certainly the rivalry has gone a little away from the civility it was when we were in the league together.”

Because we live in a world where Auriemma always gets the last word, it's no surprise that -- you guessed it -- he had some final thoughts on this too.

“When you play as often as we have in such a short period of time, I think a lot of things happen that wouldn’t happen if you didn’t," he said.

“Look, no one knows what it's like being us, what we go through every day, what our players go through, how every time they win an award how every(one) else is pissed off? And the worst part is they act pissed off because [they believe] it's all Connecticut all the time. Yes, people are sick of it. So this [the hostility] is just natural, but we live with it every day, 365 days a year.

“Why is she angry? I don’t know. You have to ask her. I haven’t changed in 25 years. People that know me understand I haven’t changed. How I run my program hasn’t changed, the respect we have for everyone else hasn’t changed.

“We think we are the best basketball team in the country, but we don’t flaunt it. I haven’t changed. But a funny thing happens to people once they start beating us.”

<![CDATA[Ollie's Plan Worked Like a Charm]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 13:36:46 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-rim.jpg

Kevin Ollie called it his two-year plan. After taking over for Jim Calhoun nearly 18 months ago, the Huskies were facing NCAA sanctions for low APR scores, and that meant no postseason play in 2012-13. But the coach -- and through him, his team -- persevered, winning 20 games when little was expected of them.

There were plenty of questions heading into 2013-14, too. But as the season progressed, the team improved, but at no point would an onlooker think that this was an NCAA championship team. That's not a slight against the Huskies, but a realization that there are some high-powered programs out there and Ollie's group hadn't found their way into that conversation. Except, as the 41-year-old coach pointed out minutes after leading UConn to its fourth national title, "I said it in the beginning, 18 months ago when we started this process: The last is going to be the first. We were last. Now we're first. But we always did it together."

And doubters are now believers, although there isn't a soul connected to the program that ever fell into the former category.

"You can't let anything hold you down,'' senior point guard Shabazz Napier said after winning his second title in three years. "You have to find the positive and push through. No matter if you're from a good neighborhood or a bad one, you're going to have obstacles. It's about how you handle them.''

And that includes toughing it out when the program was at its lowest, when other players were bolting for the NBA or transferring. Instead, Napier stayed put, stuck by Ollie, and Monday night, both were rewarded.

"There was no need to leave,'' his mother, Carmen Velasquez, said, via ESPN. "He came to UConn, why would he leave? He loves basketball too much. This is a kid who slept with a basketball since he was 5. He was never leaving.''

And now Napier leaves UConn with an armful of individual honors -- AAC Player of the Year, various first-team All-American awards -- and another NCAA title.

"[These players] believed in a vision before anybody could see it,'' Ollie said. "They stuck with it through down times, when we were losing. When we were winning, they stayed together and they believed it was possible.''

<![CDATA[UConn Fans Celebrated at Sliders in Wallingford]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 13:36:47 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/SlidersinWallingford.jpg UConn was not the only place where fans were celebrating. There was also a crowd at Sliders in Wallingford.]]> <![CDATA[UConn Police Make Dozens of Arrests After UConn Win]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 13:36:46 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/UConnwindowdamagejpg.jpg UConn police made 35 arrests on campus after the UConn men won the national championship.]]> <![CDATA[Boatright: "We Came Back This Year and We Made Them Pay"]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 13:36:47 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/UCONN_Web_Pkg_Championship_Meaning.jpg UConn head basketball coach Kevin Ollie, former coach Jim Calhoun, and players Shabazz Napier, Ryan Bopatright, DeAndre Daniels, Niels Giffey talk about what this win means for them, especially a year after they could not play in the post-season. ]]> <![CDATA[Coach Ollie" "These Guys Believed"]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 13:36:48 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/UCONN_Web_Pkg_What_Drives_Them.jpg Today, the UConn men are proud to have shocked the world with a national title win. If you ask them, they never doubted themselves.]]> <![CDATA[How to Get UConn National Championship Gear]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 13:36:48 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/ZUSETshirts.JPG

UConn national championship shirts are in high demand today and that means big business in Connecticut.

Zuse, an apparel company in Guilford, is printing UConn shirts.

Employees started working on them right after Huskies won and expect to make around 8,000 in total.

Jesse Mahon, of Zuse, said it’s a great opportunity to work with a company like Nike. 

“Whenever you kind of get lucky like this and have two UConn teams competing for national championships, it’s almost like newfound business. We don’t go in there every year expecting the Huskies to win every year, so when it happens, you’re excited,” Mahon said.

Zuse employees will be churning the shirts out through the day and hope to do the same thing after the UConn women’s game.
“And now we’re just pulling for the women, so we can do it all again,” Mahon said.

Dick’s Sporting Goods stores across the state opened early today to sell championship merchandise to fans.

The following stores have the merchandise.

  • Waterford Commons, at 915 Hartford Turnpike, #A1 in Waterford
  • Lisbon Landing, at 170 River Road, Suite 2 in Lisbon
  • Shoppes at Farmington Valley, at 110 Albany Turnpike in Canton
  • The Pavilions at Buckland Hills, at 179 Pavilion Drive in Manchester
  • State Line Plaza, at 130 Elm Street in Enfield
  • Connecticut Commons, at 280 New Britain Avenue in Plainville
  • Westfield Shoppingtown, at 470 Lewis Avenue in Meriden
  • Turnpike Plaza, at 2985 Berlin Turnpike in Newington
  • Danbury Fair Mall, at 7 Backus Avenue in Danbury

You can also order merchandise through the UConn Huskies Fan shop online.


Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>