College basketball has this group of programs that are labeled the Blue Bloods. With no essential order attached to them, they are North Carolina, Duke, UCLA, Indiana, Kentucky and Kansas. With 32 national championships between them they are what every program strives to be. They are the measuring stick for a successful college basketball program.
These are the programs that have paved the way for programs of the future and so far not many have come close to touching what these teams have accomplished. The certainly can’t match what they’ve done for the sport in general. Not many, but one team is really trying to be the next one to be labeled a Blue Blood.
The UConn Huskies have once again climbed to the top of the college basketball mountain when nobody expected them to, winning the national championship last week against the Kentucky Wildcats, a Blue Blood in their own right. A lot of things have changed in college basketball since the days of UCLA and John Wooden’s dominance over the sport, but one constant is that winning is most important.
Four national titles since 1999, Connecticut has inserted themselves into the conversation for Blue Blood admittance. To put UConn’s dominance in the last 15 years into perspective, their four national titles are the most by any program in that span. North Carolina and Duke (two apiece) combined have four titles since 2001 with Kansas and Kentucky both winning one themselves. Indiana hasn’t won a title since 1987 (before all of their current players were even born) and UCLA hasn’t won since 1995. Six combined titles for all Blue Bloods since 1999 and Connecticut has four on its own.
The Blue Bloods are mostly defined for what they’ve done for the sports history. Their history is what has mostly defined them, but with college sports in general taking massive changes head-on (one-and-done era, more freshman coming and going so frequently and top programs searching for new coaches every year) it’s hard to argue against the Connecticut Huskies being included into this group.
While the original blue bloods are facing ups and downs because of the one-and-done era (headlined every year by Kentucky) UConn has been a consistent winner, all while managing to keep its best players in college for two, three, even four years at a time. They don’t always have the most prolific recruiting classes or the most star studded teams, but the Huskies are consistent winners. They won three championships under Jim Calhoun and gained their fourth title under Kevin Ollie this year in just his second year. Even a sanction leaving them out of postseason play last season couldn’t keep them down. There’s something in the water in Storrs and it breeds winning teams.
Were Shabazz Napier and Kemba Walkers stars going into college? Hardly, but the system, the coaching and the success they helped gain UConn over the last few years has put them right into the thick of the “elite programs” conversation. They’re the team everybody strives to be in this new era of college basketball. The original Blue Bloods have overall history on their side and, for the most part, all will continue to succeed, but nobody can touch what Connecticut has done over the last 15 years.
Maybe adding UConn to the Blue Bloods conversation is wrong. Those schools were placed into that grouping based on their overall history in the sport while the Huskies are just now catching up. Maybe it’s better if we leave them out of the Blue Blood conversation, because really UConn is leading its own generation. Those six teams can have their Blue Bloods label, UConn, as well as Florida, Louisville and maybe even add in Wisconsin, all of these teams have been successful in a new generation of the sport. They are the ones rewriting history every year with their own success in this, the new college basketball landscape.
So, no, UConn shouldn’t be considered a Blue Blood, because they are in a league of their own right now. It won’t be long until a new group is established to resemble this new generation of college basketball and the Huskies will just be the headliner.