When it comes to the NCAA tournament, you can usually get by on talent alone through the first two rounds. When you reach the Sweet 16, however, it becomes more about execution and making the right decisions. That gets magnified even more when a trip to the Final Four is on the line.
Luckily for the University of Connecticut, they have Jim Calhoun calling the shots.
Because of that, UConn is heading to its fourth Final Four in school history.
Everyone talks about the play of Kemba Walker when they talk about the Huskies, but the real root of the UConn success may be Calhoun. The Huskies entered the season with low expectations. Early on, Calhoun got them to play great basketball, which in turn led to a rocket up the rankings, which, of course, led to a ton of confidence for the young team.
Then, after a mediocre regular season, Calhoun was able to get his team playing its best basketball when it mattered most. Five wins in five nights seems tough to do — almost impossible in the Big East tournament — but Calhoun brought it out. Walker played out of his mind, but even Calhoun had his hand in Walker's most memorable play of the run. After all, it was the coach and his staff that called the play that left Pittsburgh's center Gary McGhee to cover Walker by himself before Walker drained a buzzer-beater to knock off No. 1 Pitt in the conference tourney.
On Saturday night, facing a red-hot Arizona team with one of the best players in the country, Derrick Williams, UConn struggled some. The Huskies led at the half, but quickly saw that lead evaporate in the second half, falling victim to a 13-5 run. Calhoun, sensing things slip away, called a timeout.
UConn won the last seven minutes of the game and in the end, it was Calhoun and the Huskies cutting down the nets on their way to Houston.
Calhoun's future is a little bit uncertain. In fact, at 68, there's nothing to say that he'll be back next year, and a third national title may go a long way in making that decision — a three-game Big East suspension may as well. If the Huskies can sense the end of Calhoun's road nearing, they're certainly playing like it right now.
The long-term future may be a little uncertain for Calhoun and the Huskies, but the short-term future looks brighter on Saturday night than it did on Saturday morning. You can thank Jim Calhoun for that.
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