Connecticut looks to make history vs. Kentucky with 4th championship in 15 years

Tom Pennington

The Huskies will attempt to do something that hasn't been done in 40 years.

SB Nation 2014 NCAA March Madness Coverage

When the Connecticut Huskies take the floor on Monday night, they will have a chance to do something that has not been done since John Wooden's days at UCLA: win four national championships in 15 years.

UConn's first championship came in 1999, when the Huskies knocked off Duke. Five years later, Jim Calhoun won his second national title in 2004 with a win over Georgia Tech. Then came the magical run in 2011 as Kemba Walker become a college hoops legend, knocking off Butler to win it all.

Now, what may just be the grittiest and scrappiest Connecticut team of the bunch is just 40 minutes away from winning the program's fourth ring. Let's take a look back at the last three title winners.

1999

Connecticut 77, Duke 74

Record: 34-2
Tournament seed: 1
Leading Scorer: Richard Hamilton, 27 points
Most Outstanding Player: Hamilton

Jim Calhoun's first championship came in a year many thought the Huskies would cut down the nets. The lone No. 1-seeded team at UConn to win the national title, Richard Hamilton and co. breezed through their first four games of the big dance with an average margin of victory of 15.5 points.

Then came the Final Four, where a six-point win over Ohio State set up an instant classic with Duke in the finals. Hamilton hit a couple of big shots down the stretch and the Huskies held off the Blue Devils to win the title.

This run to the championship would spark a trend of tremendous guard play leading the Huskies in March. Hamilton's huge showing in March resulted in a lottery selection a couple of months later. He would be just the first of numerous NBA-bound guards set to make history at Connecticut.

2004

Connecticut 82, Georgia Tech 73

Record: 33-6
Tournament seed: 2
Leading Scorer: Emeka Okafor, 24
Most Outstanding Player: Okafor

In 2004, UConn's men's and women's teams won the NCAA Tournament. Both teams are playing for the championship this year, as well. Will history repeat itself a decade later?

Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon formed arguably the best one-two punch in the country, and it was more than enough to carry the Huskies. Connecticut lucked into a dream draw out west, winning all four of their regional games by 16-plus points. The highest seed team they faced? The No. 6 Vanderbilt Commodores, who they beat by 20 points in the Sweet 16.

Then came a rematch in the Final Four with Duke. Rashad Anderson was the hero, hitting a huge three-pointer in the final moments and sinking a couple of free throws in the closing seconds to put the nail in the Blue Devils' coffin.

The championship game was not nearly as exciting. UConn stormed out to a big lead early on and led by 15 heading into halftime. Okafor, Gordon and Anderson put it into cruise control midway through the second half before the confetti fell.

NCAA Championship Game

2011

Connecticut 53, Butler 41

Record: 32-9
Tournament Seed: 3
Leading Scorer: Kemba Walker, 16
Most Outstanding Player: Walker

With good reason, this year's Connecticut team has drawn regular comparisons to the 2011 bunch.

A tremendous point guard with a knack for hitting the big shot and keeping cool down the stretch? Even Kemba Walker thinks the comparisons to Shabazz Napier are legit.

A couple of emerging scoring options on the wings? Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels are playing at the levels of Jeremy Lamb and Alex Oriakhi in 2011. They may not be identical players, but when Shabazz Napier isn't forced to be a one-man offensive attack, the team is so much better off.

A defense that seemingly improves as the stage gets bigger and bigger in the big dance? Kevin Ollie has the Huskies playing their best defense at the right time.

And for a team no one thought much of coming into March -- if it wasn't for a run to the Big East Tournament championship, the Huskies would have been seeded much lower in 2011 -- UConn has the look of a team of destiny once again. The 2011 team beat Kentucky in the national semifinals, and the Huskies will need to top the Wildcats again on Monday night to make it title No. 4 in 15 years.

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