On December 21, the University of Connecticut basketball team will compete against the College of Charleston at 7pm at the TD Arena.  UCONN arrives in Charleston coming off the Baylor game on Sunday night, December 18.  The #2 ranked UCONN Huskies carries a gaudy pedigree and impressive numbers:  participants in the last 4 Final Fours, 12 overall with 7 national championships.  This basketball program creates a buzz and the Cougars will have to “pick their poison” in trying to stop a team that prides itself on discipline, sharing and winning.     

Call to action Charleston!  In the spirit of the holiday season of giving and sharing, let me share some friendly advice with you.  Experience basketball at the highest level in our city played by women who are highly skilled, competitive and fun to watch.  The UCONN basketball experience is similar to the Boston Pops or the Rockettes coming to town.  We’d be scouring for tickets to see one of those traditional holiday experiences and should feel the same vibe about a chance to witness the UCONN women play hoops. 

As a basketball analyst who’s covered the college basketball landscape over two decades, I rarely encounter guarantees in sports and certainly not many worth wagering your mortgage.  But I can say with unwavering certainty if you bring your son or daughter to witness the UCONN women play, you will be entertained.  These women play with discipline, share the basketball and ooze passion about respecting the game by playing the right way as a team.  Head Coach Geno Auriemma’s players love to showcase their skills at the highest level, knowing they are ambassadors with proving-power they can and will allow you to join in the fun.

“Tim Tebow Like”

The UCONN Women share a “Tebowism”.  They believe when they put on the uniform, they will win.   Tim Tebow is the quarterback of the Denver Broncos who has become polarized and scrutinized by experts and fans.  What makes UCONN “Tebow-like?”  They only accept winning.  The Huskies have a culture of competitive greatness.   They are inherently confident with a high self esteem about their identity as players and a program. 

When you watch UCONN play, you see attention to detail, the extra pass and a forty minute focus.  This is not a high flying circus act above the rim, but they control the ground better than most.  Geno has more High School All Americans than starting positions.  The last 5 years, he has signed the number one recruit in the nation so skill level and ability to make plays is instinctive.  UCONN will play hard.  It’s the only way they know, like Tebow. 

Geno Like

Iconic Geno Auriemma, the Naismith Hall of Fame Coach is relentless in his pursuit of excellence.  Geno is more teacher than drill sergeant; more philanthropic than tyrant to those who know him or have played for him.  I’ve witnessed Geno in teaching moments that required patience to break down the game to its simplest form.  At times the game is a science, at times it is an art and Coach Auriemma has created a style of play that exudes both.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some people out there that wouldn’t mind seeing Geno “take 2 shots to get out of the bunker” because they are smitten with his level of success and bravado.  The 27 year head coach of the Huskies and 2012 Olympic Coach breeds confidence, consistency and an evolving knowledge of the game.    

Secret formula uncovered

One of my favorite scenes from the movie “Space Jam” involves Bugs Bunny offering his Looney Tune teammates a swig from his bottle of “secret stuff” before the game against the Monstars.  Ironically, the secret is there is no secret.  If there was a secret formula, what coach would say no to what Geno bottled?  Yes, his sideline demeanor is demanding but I don’t know many coaches that wear a forty minute smile on their face and have his hall of fame resume.  The secret is more rudimentary in our society than people admit. Hard work, discipline, choices and building self confidence and a belief in your teammates is no secret to success.   Demand discipline from those that have a competitive heart and work ethic and you will see results.   I contend teams that play for a higher purpose than individual agenda, see results.  The UCONN women play for many reasons but all share the same appetite to win. 

The Boston Pops don’t just show up and toot and strum, nor do the Rockettes show up and dance and kick.  The UCONN women have refined their skill and will showcase countless hours of work with an entertaining style of play on the floor.  Your reward will be to show up.  The secret is there is no secret formula for hard work and commitment to a goal.  Come out and support women’s basketball!  If TD Arena can be as energizing as it was for the Tennessee win last week, this could be a fitting retirement present for Cougar Head Coach Nancy Wilson. 

Debbie Antonelli

ESPN, CBS, Fox Basketball Analyst

Web site: www.debbieantonelli.com

twitter: @debbieantonelli