Paramount // 2004 // 168 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Ryan (Retired) // September 1st, 2004
65 teams enter...one team leaves...Welcome...to Alamodome!
ConnQuest is the official 2004 NCAA championship DVD. Any other DVDs that may claim to be the official 2004 NCAA championship DVD are mere pretenders; usurpers of the rightful Official 2004 NCAA Championship DVD throne properly held by ConnQuest. Be warned!
Okay, so I'm being a bit dramatic. In any event, this disc is "official" in the sense that it is the CBS-produced recap of the University of Connecticut's run to the national collegiate men's basketball title. CBS has been doing a bang-up job covering the Tournament since it paid a ridiculous sum of money for its television rights, so fans should rightfully expect a quality DVD package from them.
ConnQuest doesn't disappoint. The main feature, an hour-plus documentary on the tournament and UConn's role therein, is fast-paced and thorough. It doesn't ignore the other teams that played -- really, it's more of a documentary on the tournament in toto than UConn itself. Some of it was clearly cribbed from the CBS pre-game features aired during the Final Four (as was the "Behind the Scenes" extra featurette, showing the team preparing for its first Final Four game). But it does have several interviews with UConn players and their coach, Jim Calhoun, that give a good deal more insight to the on-court events than can be gleaned from watching highlights alone.
From a game perspective, the documentary spends more time focused on the National Semifinal game against Duke -- and rightfully so, since (with all due respect to Georgia Tech and their fans) that game was the real championship game. A foul-strewn classic with more wild shifts in momentum than a Tarantino film, it featured the kind of high drama that only sports (and war) can provide. That's not to say that the final game is ignored -- it isn't. But that game was a blowout, and the Duke game was a nail-biter, so the Duke game gets the better treatment.
Both of the UConn Final Four games -- the Duke semifinal and the final against Georgia Tech -- are included in full on the disc, taken from the original CBS telecast, but with commercials and dead spots edited out. This technique has been used by NFL Films in recent years with some of their Super Bowl-related packages. It's a fantastic benefit for the fan; you can now watch a 40-minute basketball game in 40 minutes, instead of the 2-plus hours it usually takes, without missing a thing.
What this disc lacks is more of the story behind the championship. This UConn team, and their title run, were a bright spot in an otherwise dismally corrupt world of college sports. UConn was led by a first-generation American named Chukwuemeka Noubuisi Okafor (Emeka to his friends), the son of Nigerian immigrants who came to the U.S. to get an education. Okafor is a rarity: a true student-athlete, he carried a 3.8 GPA through his Finance major at UConn and once cried as a boy because he got a "B" on his report card. Soft-spoken and model-handsome, Okafor is the kind of kid you root against only if he's playing against your team. A 6'10" center, he was drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats of the NBA this past June. Calhoun, the coach and a native New Englander, has done more to reestablish New England as a big basketball area (heck, we invented the game!) than any coach in recent history. Not only has he turned UConn into a national power, he also turned the program at Northeastern from a Division II also-ran to a regular Tournament qualifier. The visceral, bitter hatred between Calhoun and former UMass coach Jim Calipari is legend in the region. (Calhoun thought Calipari was a cheater who illegally recruited the best college basketball player ever to come out of New England -- Hartford, CT's Marcus Camby -- out from under him; Calipari thought Calhoun was a hypocritical blowhard. Great, great stuff. Better than Dallas.) The Duke/UConn rivalry goes back years, at least as far as the dramatic Christian Laettner last-second shot in the 1990 East Regional Final that sent UConn home, and encompasses many, many gripping games. Both teams have the same general "old school" philosophy: team play, and team defense, wins basketball games. When they clash, it's like the Greeks and Trojans meeting. The disc also doesn't talk about UConn's regular season -- fans who want the full season picture will need to purchase the Top Dog DVD as well.
Admittedly, very little of all that stuff directly relates to the 2004 Final Four, so I probably can't criticize CBS for omitting it. But it would have been nice to have a bit of history included with the basketball, and it would have made this the complete package for UConn fans and college basketball freaks alike. As is, it's still a must for the Husky crowd.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 168 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Edited Games (UConn v. Duke and UConn v. Georgia Tech)
* Behind the Scenes
* UConn Men's Basketball