A day after losing to Louisville in the finals of the American Athletic Conference, the Huskies found out their NCAA Tournament fate. On Thursday, No. 7 seed UConn (26-8) will face No. 10 seed St. Joseph's (24-9) in the East Region in Buffalo, New York. The winner of that game will face the winner of the matchup between No. Villanova (28-4) and No. 15 Milwaukee (21-13).
A year ago, UConn were 20-game winners but couldn't play in either the conference or national tournaments because of NCAA sanctions. Now that they've returned to the Big Dance, the goal is simple: Win.
"I'm planning to come back here in April and raise a banner," coach Kevin Ollie told the Gampel Pavilion crowd last week after the Huskies beat Rutgers.
"The only way you're going to have a blessing is if you believe and have faith," Ollie continued. "I believe we're going to be back here. I'm going to say it. I'm not going to say 'we're going to lose.' I believe we are going to win the national championship, and that's the only way I believe. I believe we're going to win the next game at Louisville. I just got faith in my team."
"It's something we think we can do," senior center Tyler Olander, who was a freshman when the Huskies last won a national title, said last week. "We have the pieces of the puzzle, the experience. We can make a run like that and that's our goal. It's just taking a page from Coach Blaney's book, he'd always say, 'you don't play in tournaments to lose, you don't play for second place, you play to win.' We've got some guys who know what it takes, and we've got some guys who know what it feels like to get bumped out first round (which happened in 2012, a year after winning the national title). You definitely don't want to feel like that."
Ollie added: "I have confidence in my guys. I have confidence we're going to win every game. If you don't believe it, you're never going to have anything. I came here as a coach, I believed in myself, I believed in my coaching staff. No matter what the situation was. We've got a chance, like every other team. Like 68 other teams, we've got a chance, so why not think it?"