There is a key word in discussing Jim Calhoun's Connecticut basketball team -- PATIENCE.
Think about it. How many programs could play at such a high level after losing its top six players? The Huskies lost Rudy Gay, Hilton Armstrong, Josh Boone, Marcus Williams, Denham Brown and Rashad Anderson from a squad that made the elite eight.
Now Calhoun is working with eight diaper dandies and five sophomores, the youngest team I can remember in all of my years calling games for ESPN/ABC. You get inconsistent play when you have such a young team.
Connecticut is like a thoroughbred who hasn't learned how to break from the gate. The Huskies hung tough at Pittsburgh Tuesday night and for a while it looked like they could steal a big upset. In the end it was too much Aaron Gray inside as he finished with 22 points and 19 rebounds in a 63-54 Panther win.
Calhoun's team did a good job playing aggressive defense, especially in the first half. Once again, turnovers were an issue as the Huskies had 12 turnovers and just seven assists. Shot selection was also a factor as Connecticut shot under percent for the game.
This team has potential, potential, potential, but it will take time to reach it. That's why patience is so important because the Huskies have such passionate fans. In Connecticut, the expectation level has grown so much because of past success. In fact, those expectations run wild.
Calhoun has been such a fierce competitor, and that has made UConn. basketball what it is today. The Hall of Famer has been a true Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect and builder of one of the nation's finest programs. Year in and year out, the Huskies are highly thought of.
Patience, patience, patience.
AJ Price has been going through growing pains after not playing for two seasons. Jerome Dyson has terrific ability to get the ball to the rack, but he still makes mistakes. Stanley Robinson is so athletic, though he struggled vs. Pittsburgh, hitting just one of eight shots. Hasheem Thabeet, who was injured after taking an accidental elbow from Mike Cook, is a dominant shot blocker who also changes opponents' shots with his presence. However he is limited offensively and must get much stronger physically or he will continued to get knocked around in the paint.
There is a lot of good, young talent that needs to mature. They will hurt a team they are supposed to lose to. Right now they are looking for that special win that will boost their confidence and put them in the hunt for an NCAA bid. This team is not an automatic to make the big dance at this point.
A look at the schedule shows the Huskies don't have that marquee W to impress the selection committee. Calhoun had a lot of cupcakes on the early schedule to build confidence and I understand why he did it.
There is still time to build the resume. Connecticut fans should remember that key word -- PATIENCE.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.