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Calhoun can join special group with third title

by | CBS Sports

He walked off the floor with a feeling of accomplishment, celebrating the fact that his young team had now come within 40 minutes of reaching the pinnacle of college basketball.

Jim Calhoun treated Saturday night's victory over Kentucky like just another stop on the Long Island Expressway -- a brief period of focus before turning attention to what arises next. The win, for many reasons, has much more significance than any of the other four victories Connecticut has had thus far in the NCAA Tournament.

And it's not only because it came against John Calipari.

And it's not only because Calhoun has somehow led the Huskies to a remarkable 10 consecutive postseason victories.

It's all related to what happens to Calhoun's legacy if UConn can find a way to beat Butler on Monday.

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With a win, the 68-year old Calhoun will join Bob Knight, John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski and Adolph Rupp as the only coaches in the history of men's college basketball to win three or more national championships.

Not bad company to keep?

That's just the way Calhoun sees it.

"My father always said that's the way you're judged, by the company you keep," Calhoun said after Saturday night's win. "To me, that's pretty special company."

Remarkable company, indeed. Remarkable also, that this UConn team is even here.

In each of the three previous times he has reached the Final Four in his Hall of Fame career, Calhoun had a unit that seemed primed for a run at the sport's biggest stage before they actually made it there.

In 1999, Richard Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin helped Calhoun win his first title but benefited from playing in a regional final the season before.

Then in 2004, Taliek Brown, Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor gave the Huskies a veteran core that seemed destined for a chance at glory as soon as they all got on campus together in Storrs.

And in 2009, UConn dominated mightily for the majority of the regular season before losing starting shooting guard Jerome Dyson just before the postseason, where the Huskies bowed out to Michigan State in the semifinals.

This group of Huskies doesn't have the reputation those groups did. They didn't even have major expectations heading into the season.

All they had was a talented player in Kemba Walker and an assortment of young pieces that gave their coach hope and most of all, optimism.

"I thought we had a chance to get to this point when we had a six-game winning streak in the Big East," Calhoun said. "But I really started to believe we could do special things when we beat Pitt in the Big East tournament."

Since then, it has been a magic carpet ride for Calhoun and the Huskies, giving them both the type of unexpected run that would make a title more joy than relief.

For the players, it would be pure jubilation.

For Calhoun, it would be another milestone to mark his legendary career.

The company we keep?

Calhoun certainly hopes he can join.


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