Busting Brackets
Fansided

Delightful Stetson Hatters a cog in UConn's machine instead of a thorn in their side

Every No. 16 seed deserves recognition, but not every No. 16 seed is created equally.

Stetson v Connecticut
Stetson v Connecticut / Sarah Stier/GettyImages
facebooktwitterreddit

Every No. 16 seed deserves recognition, but not every No. 16 seed is created equally. Some are there to display top-tier tenacity; the Wagner Seahawks, down to seven men, embodied the grit necessary to make it from the bottom to March.

Some, like the Stetson Hatters, make the long trip from Central Florida to Brooklyn to wear bright green hats and get absolutely stomped by a UConn team looking not just to repeat, but to make it look rather effortless.

Stuck downstairs in a media scrum for the first four-plus minutes of Connecticut's showdown with the Big Mean Green Hat, this reporter didn't miss a single point scored by the underdog; a resounding roar arose from Stetson's green laser-toting cheering section when they sank their first bucket down 8-0.

It did not get much better, but it was also fantastic the entire time. These people knew exactly what they were in for. From a crazed Huskie perspective, it was a ritual slaughter. From the other side? "Plucky" and "happy to be there" don't have to carry negative undertones. It's more than fine to be happy to be somewhere.

NCAA Tournament: UConn makes March Madness statement against Stetson Hatters

At multiple instances during the first half, the scoreboard operator plugged in the HDMI cord and broadcast chunks of Marquette's showdown with Western Kentucky instead. This is what it looks like when you end up attending seemingly the only game of the entire tournament thus far where no one, not even for a second, was on Upset Alert.

Have you ever seen a score of 30-8? On purpose?

Not an iota of an ounce of sweat ever flecked the Stetson supporters section's collective brow, though, as a fervent "Let's Go Hatters!" chant broke out at the conclusion of the under-8.00 timeout, with the scoreboard communicating an entire encyclopedia by flashing that lopsided total. Connecticut's Cam Spencer responded to that chant by draining a trey. Three minutes later, when a Hatters guard attempted to scale Mount Clingan and got a floater to rim out (with a foul called), I almost broke the cardinal press box rule and squealed. That was, probably, the best he could've hoped for ("that" meaning me getting kicked out for squealing).

UConn't glean all that much about a team's tournament chances exclusively from a 16 vs. 1 beatdown, but at the very least, a keen observer hopes to pick up on an imperfection in the would-be champion's armor or a wrinkle that could someday be exploited. Instead, Connecticut unleashed such a thorough evisceration of Friday's bringers of mirth that it was difficult to tell whether they'd have trouble adequately preparing themselves for a tougher bunch in Northwestern on Sunday, or whether they were completely impenetrable.

While the first-half score looked like a razor going through a soul patch, Stetson's second-half scruff at least provided some resistance; 52-19 became 65-37 midway through the half, in what could nearly be considered a victory. All that was left as this contest dredged towards its extinguishing point was waiting to see if the Hat Scrappers would earn the rites afforded to the tournament's favorites: a hard-luck losing interview on the podium. They did not.

"It's exactly how you want to start a game like this. They took away all hope," coach Dan Hurley began his postgame wrap-up, acknowledging the elephant-sized hat in the room. Typically, as Hurley noted, these David vs. Goliath matchups begin with hope, which can fester if the favored team declines to be ruthless. UConn did not take that opportunity to squash somebody for granted. Donovan Clingan, while extolling the virtues of freshman guard Stephon Castle, noted that he intended to hold the player he guarded "to zero". That was, after witnessing the duration of the game, a reasonable stretch goal -- though Hurley made it clear to say he believed Stetson was "the best 16 seed" in the tournament, and deserved to be a 15.

Stetson? Without the postgame bells and/or whistles, their time in the spotlight lasted only the 40 minutes of gametime (arguably less, if you watched). Now, all that remains is learning whether or not they'll become a proud footnote in UConn's developing mythology.