Originally posted on College Spun  |  Last updated 3/12/13
Who is UConn Country's all-time favorite player? When the NCAA Tournament field is announced next week, you won’t hear UConn’s name called. Despite a 20-10 season that featured wins over Michigan State, Notre Dame and Syracuse, the Huskies are banned from the tournament due to new APR regulations. With that in mind, the fine folks that operate A Dime Back, in my opinion one of the two most entertaining and insightful of UConn sports blog, decided to give UConn fans something to keep them entertained and to keep their minds off the bitterness and disgust that UConn will not be involved in the big dance. They looked back on the great UConn basketball players and plugged the 64 best into a bracket, exactly like in the NCAA Tournament, and they divided them into brackets named after the names of venues UConn has played in. Fans will be able to look at each matchup and vote for which of the two players is their favorite, until there is one champion – the most beloved Husky of all time. The voting begins on Tuesday morning, with one matchup being opened at a time. As the competition begins, I wanted to take a swing at picking the winner. Let’s go matchup by matchup to determine the most beloved UConn player ever. XL Center Region FIRST ROUND No. 1 Ray Allen vs. No. 16 Cal Chapman: A No. 1 seed has never lost in the first round, and I’m not expecting it to happen here. Chapman was a great player back in the early 70s, but Ray Allen led the Huskies to the 1996 Big East title and played his way into the Huskies of Honor. WINNER: Ray Allen No. 8 Vin Yokabaskas vs. No. 9 Phil Gamble: Be weary of the 8-9 matchup! Yokabaskas was the first player to ever reach the 1,000 point mark for the Huskies all the way back in the early 50s, but Gamble was the MVP on the team that won UConn’s first major tournament title when it took home the NIT in 1988. That was a pretty momentous victory for UConn, and within two seasons, the Huskies were back in the Elite Eight for the first time in 26 years. WINNER: Phil Gamble No. 5 Shabazz Napier vs. No. 12 Brian Fair: Especially after this season, this one is no contest. A national champion as a freshman and the heart and soul of a team that went 20-10 when it had nothing to play for. I wonder who the fans will go for in this one… WINNER: Shabazz Napier No. 4 Rudy Gay vs. No. 13 Jake Voskhul: Personally, when the voting opens I’m voting for Voskhul. He was one of my favorite players on the first championship team, and my mother would probably shun me if I didn’t. I love Rudy Gay too so it’s a close one, but I’m not the only one voting. WINNER: Rudy Gay No. 6 Marcus Williams vs. No. 11 Ricky Moore: See, these are the matchups I dread. Williams was always good for a big shot when you needed it, but Ricky Moore, he was such a workhorse on that first championship team. I hope some of the older voters remember that. WINNER: Ricky Moore No. 3 Wes Bialosukina vs. No. 14 Karl Hobbs: Love Karl Hobbs, and I’m glad he came back from George Washington for a second stint as an assistant, but Wes is one of the all-time great Huskies. Before Calhoun took over and started bringing in the stars, he was arguably the best of all-time at UConn. WINNER: Wes Bialosukina No. 7 Jeff Adrien vs. No. 10 Donny Marshall: Two popular, talented players in this matchup. Marshall helped guide UConn to the 1995 Elite Eight. Adrien should have been a two-time national champion. His freshman year, UConn lost in the Elite Eight (all I’m going to say). In 2009, UConn wins the title if Jerome Dyson doesn’t go down against Syracuse. I always loved the way Adrien played, and I know I’m not alone. WINNER: Jeff Adrien No. 2 Caron Butler vs. No. 15 Andre Drummond: Combined, they only spent three years at UConn. But considering that Butler was a stud during his two years, which concluded with a Big East title, and that Drummond was a traffic cone that was rented out for one year, I’m assuming that the right decision will be made here. WINNER: Caron Butler SECOND ROUND No. 1 Ray Allen vs. No. 9 Phil Gamble: Ray Allen should feel pretty good about his chances of reaching the Sweet Sixteen. WINNER: Ray Allen No. 5 Shabazz Napier vs. No. 4 Rudy Gay: Shabazz’s season is still stuck in the minds of many, and it will probably stay that way for a while. This may be one of the closest matchups, but I think he sneaks it out. WINNER: Shabazz Napier No. 11 Ricky Moore vs. No. 3 Wes Bialosuknia: Wes is one of the greatest, but more people remember Ricky Moore. It’s a competition about who the fan favorite is, not who the best of all time is. WINNER: Ricky Moore No. 7 Jeff Adrien vs. No. 2 Caron Butler: Toss up here. Caron was great. Jeff was great. In the end, I think Caron may sneak this out. WINNER: Caron Butler SWEET SIXTEEN No. 1 Ray Allen vs. No. 5 Shabazz Napier: This is a tough one considering the year Shabazz just had. Ray is a legend, though, and unless Celtics fans are still really, really bitter and are able to sway the vote, I think he pulls it off. WINNER: Ray Allen No. 11 Ricky Moore vs. No. 2 Caron Butler: Kind of makes sense to see an 11 seed reach the Final Four in a UConn-related bracket due to a past event that I do not care to speak of. He was a national champion. Caron was big against Pittsburgh in 2002 though. Wow, this is getting tough, but in an upset, I have to put Cinderella through. WINNER: Ricky Moore ELITE EIGHT No. 1 Ray Allen vs. No. 11 Ricky Moore: I’m not going to let this get out of hand. Jesus Shuttlesworth will be dancing when the Final Four begins. XL CENTER REGIONAL CHAMPION: Ray Allen Civic Center Regional FIRST ROUND No. 1 Emeka Okafor vs. No. 16 Edmund Saunders: “EJ Hairston to Edmund Saunders,” is still one of my favorite calls from Joe D’Ambrosio, but putting Saunders up against Emeka doesn’t bode well for the 1999 national champion. WINNER: Emeka Okafor No. 8 Walt Dropo vs. No. 9 Billy Corley: Dropo played for the Red Sox. I’m biased. WINNER: Walt Dropo No. 5 Corny Thompson vs. No. 12 Tony Robertson: I don’t think many people will know much about either, so I think this one comes down to a name game. Good choice too, seeing as the clear winner in that department is in the Huskies of Honor. WINNER: Corny Thompson No. 4 Doron Sheffer vs. No. 13 Josh Boone: Sheffer was great. Three years at UConn and the Israeli dropped over 1,000 points and dished out over 500 assists. Josh Boone though. 2004 national champion. Nearly a two-time champ. And who can forget, “BOOOOOOOOOOOONE!” WINNER: Josh Boone No. 6 Earl Kelley vs. No. 11 Albert Mourning: Earl Kelley was one of the last great players of the pre-Calhoun era. Albert Mourning was on the first national championship team. Toss up. I picked an 11 in the XL region, so let’s not do so twice on the same side of the bracket. WINNER: Earl Kelley No. 3 Cliff Robinson vs. No. 14 Ryan Boatright: Robinson was unbelievable at UConn, and while he’s got my vote, I think a lot of people will look to Boatright and the past two seasons and give him the click. WINNER: Ryan Boatright No. 7 Kevin Freeman vs. No. 10 Stanley Robinson: Freeman was one of the hardest working players I’ve ever seen at UConn. His leadership was critical in UConn’s run to the 1999 national championship. I always liked Stix, or as I called him, “The Human Highlight Reel,” but I always found him to be a bit of a bum. Freeman’s a class act and I’m glad he’s back as a member of the coaching staff. WINNER: Kevin Freeman No. 2 Ben Gordon vs. No. 15 Alex Oriakhi: I don’t even need to remind anyone how great Gordon was. A legend against a guy who has become despised by a lot of UConn fans over the past year. Hmmmm… WINNER: Ben Gordon SECOND ROUND No. 1 Emeka Okafor vs. No. 8 Walt Dropo: I feel like all the No.1 seeds will breeze through the early rounds. After all, none of them played at Syracuse. WINNER: Emeka Okafor No. 5 Corny Thompson vs. No. 13 Josh Boone: The Husky of Honor in this matchup should get through, despite Boone being relevant far more recently. WINNER: Corny Thompson No. 6 Earl Kelley vs. No. 14 Ryan Boatright: The Boat Show is way too popular at UConn to not win this. WINNER: Ryan Boatright No. 7 Kevin Freeman vs. No. 2 Ben Gordon Two national champions here. The 2004 team was dominant, which makes me think that Gordon will get the edge here. WINNER: Ben Gordon SWEET SIXTEEN No. 1 Emeka Okafor vs. No. 5 Corny Thompson: Okafor is arguably the best Husky ever (he’s No. 1 in my book). The leader of the dominant 04 team while completing a business degree in three years should tell you just how good this guy was. WINNER: Emeka Okafor No. 14 Ryan Boatright vs. No. 2 Ben Gordon: I want to see the ’04 matchup in Elite Eight. It’s deserved after everything both players did. WINNER: Ben Gordon ELITE EIGHT No. 1 Emeka Okafor vs. No. 2 Ben Gordon: The 1-2 punch on the most talented of the three national championship teams, this is a tough one. But winning the Player of the Year award and graduating in three years made Okafor the face of the team. He probably gets through here. CIVIC CENTER REGIONAL CHAMPION: Emeka Okafor Fieldhouse Regional No. 1 Donyell Marshall vs. No. 16 Tim Coles: I think Marshall is slightly overrated in this bracket, but I also think he easily beats Coles. Not many good basketball players are named Tim. I know from experience. WINNER: Donyell Marshall No. 8 Denham Brown vs. No. 9 Rashad Anderson: This is mean. This is just brutal and awful to do to fans so early in the tournament. Both of these guys were great. I have them in my top 10-15 favorites ever. Neither was afraid to take the big shot, and both made a couple big ones during the 2006 tournament. I’m voting for Denham because one of my favorite shots ever was the buzzer beater in Maui to beat Adam Morrison and Gonzaga. WINNER: Denham Brown No. 5 Scott Burrell vs. No. 12 Nadav Hennefeld: First player in NCAA history to reach 1,500 points, 750 rebounds, 275 assists and 300 steals. Thank Kemba that Howie Dickenman was able to convince Burrell to play basketball at UConn rather than baseball and football at Miami. WINNER: Scott Burrell No. 4 Tony Hanson vs. No. 13 Al Weston: Cromwell High School was one of our big rivals in high school, so I’m not picking Weston. Besides, Hanson is one of the greatest scorers to ever play for UConn. WINNER: Tony Hanson No. 6 AJ Price vs. No. 11 Bobby Boyd: I like to forget the laptop situation and remember that my cousin and I watched Price drain threes from the leg of the “R” on the floor at the RAC only a couple months after having brain surgery. Respect. WINNER: AJ Price No. 3 Art Quimby vs. No. 14 Travis Knight: I always forget that Travis Knight played for UConn. He was successful in Storrs, and part of some of the great teams of the mid-90s, but Quimby is one of the greats. His name was one of the first to be placed among the Huskies of Honor. WINNER: Art Quimby No. 7 Mike McKay vs. No. 10 Jeremy Lamb: I try to forget that Lamb’s last play at UConn was missing a meaningless dunk at the buzzer against Iowa State. I like to remember how he grew up all of a sudden come tournament time and we won a lot of games in a row en route to two championships. WINNER: Jeremy Lamb No. 2 Richard Hamilton vs. No. 15 Kirk King: Rip should have been the No. 1 seed over Marshall. The star of the first championship team, you can’t pick against Rip. WINNER: Richard Hamilton SECOND ROUND No. 1 Donyell Marshall vs. No. 8 Denham Brown: Marshall is still pretty active with UConn fans via Twitter and he was one of the top players of the 90s for the program. He has an edge here. WINNER: Donyell Marshall No. 5 Scott Burrell vs. No. 4 Tony Hanson: Burrell was part of the early-90s teams and got to the Elite Eight in 1990. He was part of a momentous part of UConn’s history. WINNER: Scott Burrell No. 6 AJ Price vs. No. 3 Art Quimby: For me personally, this is a tough one. But I think for the masses, AJ will probably pull it out. WINNER: AJ Price No. 10 Jeremy Lamb vs. No. 2 Richard Hamilton: “Hamilton! HAMILTON!” WINNER: Richard Hamilton SWEET SIXTEEN No. 1 Donyell Marshall vs. No. 5 Scott Burrell: This could be the closest of the matchups involving one seeds in the Sweet Sixteen. Burrell has a case, but again Marshall’s popularity is very high with UConn fans. WINNER: Donyell Marshall No. 6 AJ Price vs. No. 2 Richard Hamilton: Can’t pick against Hamilton. I think his role in the first championship can get him far. WINNER: Richard Hamilton ELITE EIGHT No. 1 Donyell Marshall vs. No. 2 Richard Hamilton: Like I said earlier, I thought Marshall was slightly overrated. I think Hamilton should have been the top seed, and I think he gets to the Final Four regardless. FIELDHOUSE REGIONAL CHAMPION: Richard Hamilton GAMPEL PAVILION REGIONAL No. 1 Kemba Walker vs. No. 16 Johnnie Selvie: Big Johnnie fan, but let’s be real. WINNER: Kemba Walker No. 8 Kevin Ollie vs. No. 9 Bob Staak: Yea, because the entirety of UConn Country hates the guy who got his team to take the stairs. WINNER: Kevin Ollie No. 5 Hasheem Thabeet vs. No. 12 Rod Sellers: Despite Dyson going down with a torn ACL late in the year, UConn still made the 2009 Final Four, and it helped to have a giant standing in the middle of the paint blocking anything that came near him. WINNER: Hasheem Thabeet No. 4 Toby Kimball vs. No. 13 Charlie Villanueva: Kimball is the better player historically, but Charlie was a beast during his two years, which included a championship. WINNER: Charlie Villanueva No. 6 Tate George vs. No. 11 Taliek Brown: If it wasn’t for that whole Ponzi Scheme thing, Tate George is an obvious pick. I also think that Taliek is unbelievably under-seeded here. WINNER: Taliek Brown No. 3 Khalid El-Amin vs. No. 14 Jim Abromaitis: Khalid El-Amin is my all-time favorite UConn men’s basketball player, and I also really hate Tim Abromaitis, so his dad never stood a chance in this vote. WINNER: Khalid El-Amin No. 7 Jerome Dyson vs. No. 10 Joey Whelton: The way I see it, UConn is a four-time national champion if Dyson doesn’t tear his ACL in 2009. I also think the six overtime game would have never happened. Sorry everyone, but I would not have minded that. WINNER: Jerome Dyson No. 2 Chris Smith vs. No. 15 Jake Rose: Simply put: Chris Smith was one of the first great Calhoun players, and he still holds the school’s scoring record. WINNER: Chris Smith SECOND ROUND No. 1 Kemba Walker vs. No. 8 Kevin Ollie: Talk about a brutal matchup. On one hand, Kemba almost singlehandedly won a national title. On the other hand, look at how Kevin Ollie has captured the hearts of UConn Country. Brutal matchup, but try to keep this to just the playing days. WINNER: Kemba Walker No. 5 Hasheem Thabeet vs. No. 13 Charlie Villanueva: In a battle of two great big men, Hasheem should pull it out. Just think he’s the more popular of the two choices. WINNER: Hasheem Thabeet No. 11 Taliek Brown vs. No. 3 Khalid El-Amin: Two of my top five favorites going at it. No. 1 on that list has to take the win here. WINNER: Khalid El-Amin No. 7 Jerome Dyson vs. No. 2 Chris Smith: Another close call, but I’m going with the leading scorer. WINNER: Chris Smith SWEET SIXTEEN No. 1 Kemba Walker vs. No. 5 Hasheem Thabeet: Two former teammates battling it out here. Kemba is a big-time tournament player, so despite Hasheem having a major height advantage, I’d expect Kemba to run all over him in this matchup. WINNER: Kemba Walker No. 3 Khalid El-Amin vs. No. 2 Chris Smith: The point guard for the national champions – a short and stocky and always energized player. Khalid knocks off the school’s leading scorer here. WINNER: Khalid El-Amin ELITE EIGHT No. 1 Kemba Walker vs. No. 3 Khalid El-Amin: This is a great matchup, but obviously Kemba’s popularity stock is still quite high around UConn fans. GAMPEL PAVILION REGIONAL CHAMPION: Kemba Walker FINAL FOUR Ray Allen vs. Emeka Okafor: Emeka Okafor was better from a historical standpoint, but Allen’s success in the NBA has kept him at the forefront for UConn fans. This will be a tight vote, but I think Ray reaches the championship. WINNER: Ray Allen Richard Hamilton vs. Kemba Walker: Kemba has a tough road to the title, doesn’t he? Oh well, nothing he hasn’t proven he can’t handle. WINNER: Kemba Walker THE ULTIMATE UCONN CHALLENGE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME Ray Allen vs. Kemba Walker: This will be a heck of a championship, but I think a few simple words will sway the vote…”Step-back. Walker…CARDIAC KEMBA!” THE ULTIMATE UCONN CHALLENGE CHAMPION: Kemba Walker So, there it is. We have my projected winners, all the way to the champion. It should be a lot of fun to see how this unfurls. And remember UConn fans: it is important to exercise your right to vote!
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