Anyone still doubting UConn now?


ARLINGTON, Texas --  Saint Joseph's essentially ran out of players in overtime.

Villanova was done in by another lousy shooting night.

Iowa State didn't have its offensive lynchpin, Georges Niang.

Michigan State was just off, maybe tired from a slugfest win against  Virginia two nights before.

And  Florida didn't really play as well as it normally does.

That is one way to view  Connecticut's steps toward its improbable appearance in the national championship game.

Here's another way, a more accurate way: The Huskies are really good.

It is more than time to stop saying that Connecticut has won its past five games for reasons other than Connecticut.

UConn isn't in the national championship game accidentally.

The Huskies got there on merit.

They did not hit a wild buzzer-beater to upset Florida, the NCAA tournament's overall No. 1 seed. They all but demoralized the Gators in their 63-53 win, beating one of the best defensive teams in the country with even better defense.

And really, that's what they've done the entire way, mixing up the perfect tournament cocktail: talent combined with brimming confidence and sprinkled with the nastiest on-ball defense March has witnessed.

"We were supposed to lose every game in the postseason," Ryan Boatright said. "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."

That was the theme that carried the team as it walked, sprinted and even piggybacked its way from the court to the locker room. Boatright ran by, singing, "just one more, that's all," and behind him, assistant coach Glenn Miller laughed, "No one gave us a chance. No one. How about now?"

We were supposed to lose every game in the postseason. 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.

--Ryan Boatright

Usually, that sounds like a phony rallying cry concocted in a locker room to huddle up the troops.

This time, Connecticut is right.

No one did give the Huskies a chance. Five of us at were asked to pick national semifinalist winners. We were 0-for-5 in the first game.

No one picked the Huskies, continuing a theme that started in Buffalo, N.Y.

Saint Joe's, remember, had been steamrolling at the end of the regular season. Villanova, despite an early bounce from the Big East tournament, was a 2-seed, and Michigan State? Michigan State was supposed to win the whole thing.

Then, there came Florida -- the big, tough and rough Gators, a matchup nightmare for an undersized UConn team. That the Huskies had beaten the Gators earlier in the season was more of an aberration than a sign, a win after all that came with the addendum:

*Florida didn't have its entire roster available. Kasey Hill and Chris Walker did not play.

Yeah, so much for that.

The entirety of the Florida Gators, all 30 wins in a row of them, were available in this game and yet ...

Yet, the Huskies won the rebounding war (28 to 27); the Huskies scored more points in the paint (36 to 24) and, most telling of all, the Huskies -- not the Gators -- threw out the blanket on defense.

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