Husky fever sweeps across Storrs campus

A UConn students shows his Husky Pride as he walks between classes Friday, April 4, 2014, as both the men's and women's basketball teams head into the Final Four this weekend.
A UConn students shows his Husky Pride as he walks between classes Friday, April 4, 2014, as both the men's and women's basketball teams head into the Final Four this weekend. Tim Cook/The Day

Storrs — Mike Estes left his home in Richmond, Vt., early Friday morning and made the four-hour drive to the University of Connecticut campus with his little brother. Estes, a 2013 UConn graduate, wanted to be on campus to get a taste of the excitement building for the school’s two NCAA basketball tournament semi-final games this weekend.

“We bleed blue, so we came down for the day: to enjoy the atmosphere and to get him decked out in Huskies gear from the co-op,” Estes said, referring to his 13-year-old brother, Matt Burnett, who was dressed head-to-toe in UConn apparel.

Estes described UConn’s run to the Final Four as “crazy,” “unreal” and “magical.”

“I definitely take pride in it, big time,” he said. “It’s a point of pride for the school and really for all of Connecticut in general.”

Indeed, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Wednesday declared this weekend “Husky Weekend” in honor of the men’s and women’s basketball teams’ appearances in the Final Four.

“UConn again is the only school in the nation to have both our men’s and women’s basketball teams reach the NCAA Final Four, and for that we are incredibly proud,” Malloy said in a statement. “This weekend, I urge Connecticut residents to put on your blue and white and show the nation how excited we are for our hometown teams.”

The men’s team will square off against the University of Florida Gators in Dallas this evening, and the women’s team will face the Stanford University Cardinal on Sunday in Nashville, Tenn.

On campus Friday, exclamations of “Go Huskies” came from all directions as students clothed in blue and white made their way through the final classes of the week.

“Everybody is super pumped up for Saturday,” said Marissa Harris, a UConn senior from Ansonia. “Once it gets closer to the game this place is going to be crazy.”

Harris said she and her friends are planning on watching Saturday’s game with hundreds of other students in Gampel Pavilion. The university announced earlier this week that it would show the game on large screens in the regular season home of the Huskies.

Since the UConn men’s team defeated Michigan State University last Sunday to secure its first Final Four appearance since 2011, anticipation has been growing, students said.

“It’s been an absolutely great atmosphere around campus this week,” Anthony Manni, a UConn senior from Burlington, Mass., said. “All week everyone has been really fired up for the Final Four.”

And though he has pre-arranged plans for tonight, Manni said he will still be able to watch the game, which he said the Huskies will surely win.

“I’m going to be at a sorority formal,” he said. “But they’ve already assured everyone that they will project the game up onto some big screens so we won’t miss it.”

While university officials are hoping that both games will end in celebrations this weekend, they also reminded students to show pride in their school when they celebrate.

“This weekend, the eyes of the nation will again be on UConn – not only in Dallas and Nashville, but back home in Connecticut as well,” UConn President Susan Herbst and head coaches Kevin Ollie and Geno Auriemma wrote in an email to all students. “Knowing that, we also write to ask that you conduct yourselves with the same sense of class, respect and winning spirit that our players have shown – and which UConn students as a whole show each day.”

Estes, who will be watching tonight’s game from his home in Vermont, said he is optimistic the Huskies will give Connecticut something to celebrate.

“We’re going to win ... knock on wood,” he said as he rapped his knuckles three times on a nearby wooden post so as to not jinx his alma mater.

c.young@theday.com

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