The Talk of Troy

Varela’s Views: Chapter 1 - Blood isn’t blue

I hate this -- My issue with “Blue Bloods.”

On Monday night, the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team won the national championship for the fifth time in program history, handily defeating San Diego State 76-59.. The Huskies dominated the rest of the field with near-unprecedented levels of transcendent team play, the likes of which this tournament may never see again.

The victory puts UConn in a tie for fourth all-time in titles alongside Duke and Indiana while still trailing North Carolina (6), Kentucky (8), and UCLA (11). Those five schools - along with Kansas, which holds four national championships of its own - make up the elite inner circle of Division 1 basketball known as the “Blue Bloods.” I think it’s ludicrous that that moniker exists in the first place, but since it does, I think it’s time for UConn to join the party.

The Huskies run since 1999 is among the best in history. Over that timeframe, they have won five national championships in as many appearances as UCLA and Duke and played in six Final Fours. I don’t know about you, but that screams elite to me.

If we’re going to include the Hoosiers as a blue blood, it’s only fair to say the Huskies are as well. For one thing, Indiana hasn’t been relevant in two decades. To join this exclusive club, a team needs to be consistently well regarded in both the regular season and in the tournament. Indianna has had only one Elite 8 appearance since 2002 and one championship (1987) since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. UConn’s numbers post-expansion absolutely dwarf Indiana’s. It’s not even a contest.

Most importantly, they’re not even blue. That should be the bare minimum.

So either they’re both in, or Indiana’s out, too. If the argument is all-time legacy and total wins, then sure, UConn doesn’t really rival any of those top 5. They’re still 187 wins away from fifth-place UCLA. Furthermore, while UConn has the championship pedigree, their consistency as a top program could be considered questionable. After all, they weren’t regarded as such until they won their first banner in ‘99, and obviously most if not all of their best seasons record-wise have occurred in the 24-year window since.

The Huskies also failed to make the tournament for the majority of the years throughout the 2010s. Considering Kansas hasn’t missed it since George H.W. Bush was in office and the other four programs have made it pretty consistently throughout the turn of the century, UConn definitely falters in that department.

But what does “blue blood” really even mean? I think of three things: titles, consistency, and relevancy…and blue has to be one of your school colors. Five championships? That’s already more than Kansas. Consider the title’s benchmark checked off.

Now for consistency. Like I said before, Kansas has made the tournament every year for 30-plus years, but that’s only resulted in two national championships. Not only has UConn won more than twice that amount, but they’ve managed to do so with three separate head coaches. And they’re also the only program to have won a championship in each of the past four decades. That sounds pretty consistent to me.

But have they been relevant throughout? Well, yeah. A big part of that has to do with the fact that when they do make the tournament, they tend to do rather well. I’d argue that there’s not too much of a point in making the tournament if you don’t win it all anyway. When they do make the tournament, the Huskies seem to have continually taken advantage. I’m willing to bet that even the most casual of college basketball fans remember that Kemba Walker-led run from 2011.

That brings me back to the crux of my argument: winning. Without a lot of winning, you are not not even a good program, let alone an elite program. But UConn wins. They win in the regular season. They win in the Big East. And most importantly, they win when it matters most, in March. And they’ve done a better job at that than these so-called blue bloods over the past quarter century.

Actually, the real point of this is that this kind of thing is stupid and doesn’t matter. Fans and analysts are dumb for giving immortal status to a few teams of the hundred-plus Division 1 men’s college basketball programs across the country just because they’ve won a couple of games over the past century.

Who honestly cares which colleges should be considered blue blood elites and which one’s aren’t? I don’t. That’s why I wrote this.  A men’s team in a Power 5 conference that has been a threat for two and a half decades, produced a solid number of professional stars, and earned a literal handful of rings, deserves that same kind of status.

Oh, and you can’t forget about that beautiful shade of navy blue. That seals the deal right there.

Bark bark