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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

UConn stays the lads’s school basketball powerhouse that doesn’t make any sense

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With a 76-59 win over San Diego State that by no means actually felt unsure, the 2022-23 Connecticut Huskies accomplished one of the dominant nationwide championship runs within the historical past of the NCAA males’s basketball event.

The numbers, and I’m guessing you’ve seen a few of them by now, are staggering.

The primary stat is the only: UConn is the primary workforce within the historical past of the event to win six video games by 13 factors or extra. A 72-59 Closing 4 win over Miami, which additionally by no means actually gave the impression to be in jeopardy, was technically the hardest take a look at the Huskies confronted throughout March Insanity.

If that weren’t sufficient, UConn additionally grew to become the primary nationwide champion in historical past to win all six of its video games by double figures whereas additionally holding all six of its opponents to 65 factors or fewer.

We may go on right here, however the gist is all you want. Connecticut was Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Capote: Positive, there have been another different individuals performing some good and funky issues at instances, however … come on.

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Every part about UConn’s run to this system’s fifth nationwide championship screams “dominant No. 1 seed that seemed like a nationwide champion all season lengthy.” And but, that isn’t remotely the case right here.

Photograph by Gregory Shamus/Getty Photographs

Along with being the primary workforce in 12 years to start out a season unranked and finish it on prime, Connecticut’s commanding three-week steamroll by means of the NCAA event truly snapped a streak of 4 consecutive No. 1 seed nationwide champions. The Huskies, in the meantime, grew to become simply the second No. 4 seed to ever lower down the nets, becoming a member of the 1996-97 Arizona Wildcats.

No school basketball workforce owned its non-conference opponents extra, as UConn received all 17 video games it performed in opposition to non-Big East foes, and received all 17 of these video games by double digits. In convention play, nevertheless, the Huskies went 13-7, tied for fourth place, and acquired bounced by Marquette within the Big East tournament semifinals. These two information make them simply the fifth nationwide champion ever that didn’t win both an everyday season or postseason league championship.

These eight losses that UConn finishes the season with? Essentially the most by a nationwide champion since … UConn misplaced eight in 2014, which was probably the most since … UConn misplaced 9 9 2011. After that, it’s a must to go all the best way again to Kansas’ “Danny and the Miracles,” which misplaced 11 video games earlier than its stunning run to the 1988 nationwide championship.

When you’re sensing a development right here, there’s a purpose.

Connecticut’s all-time profile as a top-tier school basketball program isn’t simply distinctive, it’s in its personal galaxy. It additionally doesn’t appear to make a rattling little bit of sense.


Whereas most of school basketball’s prime applications tout at the very least a few nationwide championships from an period the place solely a handful of groups performed within the NCAA event or when the game wasn’t totally built-in, UConn is the other. Just about your entire historical past of this system — which now features a good 5-0 document in nationwide championship video games — is restricted to 1990 and past.

Earlier than 1999, UConn had by no means performed in a Closing 4. Since then, the Huskies have made it to the game’s largest stage six instances, and lower down the nets on all however a kind of journeys. Their 5 nationwide titles are two greater than some other program over the identical time span, and Monday evening’s win made them the primary program to make use of, in succession, three coaches who all received nationwide championships (solely three different colleges — Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina — have received titles underneath three completely different head coaches, interval).

Nonetheless, there are many individuals who will argue that UConn has not been the perfect males’s basketball program of the twenty first century, and people arguments aren’t with out some advantage.

Seven instances within the final 14 years, Connecticut hasn’t even made the NCAA event. In 5 consecutive seasons from 2016-17 by means of 2020-21, the Huskies did not win greater than 19 video games. They completed with a dropping total document within the first three of these seasons.

UConn has not been a No. 1 or a No. 2 seed within the Huge Dance since all the best way again in 2009. They’re the one program to win a nationwide championship as a non-top 2 seed since third-seeded Florida captured the 2006 nationwide title … and once more, they’ve accomplished it thrice.

And about these three championships: They’ve all come in opposition to tremendous weird fellow nationwide finalists.

In 2011, UConn took down Eighth-seeded Butler in a recreation the place the Bulldogs shot the bottom share of any workforce in NCAA event historical past — not simply nationwide championship recreation historical past, however any recreation within the historical past of the NCAA event. Three years later, the Seventh-seeded Huskies took care of Eighth-seeded Kentucky in a brilliant unusual conflict of the not-so-titans. Then there was Monday evening, the place Danny Hurley’s workforce saved San Diego State from changing into the primary 5-seed nationwide champion ever, and the primary non-power convention champion since 1990.

Hell, even the 2004 workforce performed a third-seeded Georgia Tech squad that was a shock finalist to most.

The ‘99 upset of top-seed Duke was legit, although, and it was spectacular. First half Ricky Moore eternally.

Whereas Connecticut nonetheless doesn’t rank as a prime 25 workforce within the historical past of the game when you’re simply going off of all-time wins, no program has been extra seen on the primary weekend in April to youngsters and 20-somethings than the Huskies. Distinction that with the truth that there are 48-year-olds studying this proper now (thanks, by the best way) who’ve solely seen UCLA win one nationwide championship, and 28-year-olds who’ve by no means seen it occur.

The last word query here’s what can we make of this program that has been to 11 fewer regional finals than Kansas and 11 fewer Closing 4 appearances than Duke, however now has as many (Duke) or extra (Kansas) nationwide championships than each? Shit, I don’t know. But when there’s a weird school basketball season that appears to be hurdling uncontrolled in the direction of a weird NCAA event, I do know they’re my decide.



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