Aside from UConn, only one other high-major program has recently endured a postseason ban: Southern Cal’s self-imposed sanctions in the middle of the 2010 season forbid it from competition in the conference and national tournaments.
It was Kevin O’Neill’s first year on the job. The violations that elicited the sanctions occurred under Tim Floyd’s watch, not O’Neill’s. Nonetheless, O’Neill had to inform his players on Jan. 8 — smack-dab in the middle of the season — that there would be no championship run.
I recently spoke with O’Neill about the effects of the postseason ban and his thoughts on UConn’s situation. You can read more about UConn’s approach to next season in Sunday’s Hearst Newspapers (Connecticut Post, Stamford Advocate, Danbury News-Times and Greenwich Time).
For now, here are some highlights from the interview with O’Neill:
* “It’s unfortunate. I think Connecticut’s situation where they know now is much harder than our guys finding out on Jan. 8 after we’d already gone through all the preseason and all this and all that. Jimmy (Calhoun) is facing a much tougher situation. I went through all the practice, offseason conditioning, all the weights, all that stuff. The only thing I had to deal with was 14 league games left.”
* “If anybody can get great effort out of their team under those circumstances, it would be Jim (Calhoun), to be honest with you. Our guys practiced like men every day, they acted like men every day and they fought as hard as they could. But there’s still a difference: If somebody tells me, hey, you’re going to buy these two lottery tickets, and you’re going to buy these every day but you can’t win the lottery, it’s a little bit different than having a chance to win it.”
* “We played very well until there was two weeks left in the season. We really lost some close games down the stretch that eliminated us from a (regular season) title run. I think we ended up finishing in fourth or fifth place. I’m convinced that if would have had a chance to play in the NCAA tournament, that might not have happened that way. We gave good effort, but there’s a difference between giving good effort and putting your heart and soul into it, like we did the second year when we were able to play in the tournament.”
* “Look at Connecticut’s team…it’s been decimated by transfers, guys going pro, defections. That’s not even taking into account how it’s going to affect recruiting. The bottom line is: Any situation like this decimates your basketball team.”