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Danny Hurley and UConn are formally “operating” school basketball

Everyone already wrote their “now they’re officially a blue blood” story a year ago, so there’s no point in rehashing that. Although the urge is understandable. Extracting new narratives from periods of sustained dominance is difficult. No, this year’s storyline feels much simpler: The 2023-24 Connecticut Huskies are one of the greatest men’s college basketball

Danny Hurley and UConn are formally “operating” school basketball

Everybody already wrote their “now they’re formally a blue blood” story a yr in the past, so there’s no level in rehashing that. Though the urge is comprehensible. Extracting new narratives from intervals of sustained dominance is tough.

No, this yr’s storyline feels a lot less complicated: The 2023-24 Connecticut Huskies are one of many biggest males’s school basketball groups of all-time. Any debate on the contrary could be made in unhealthy religion.

The 2022-23 Huskies had been a March juggernaut, turning into the primary staff within the historical past of the NCAA match to win six video games by 13 factors or extra. 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.

A yr later, Danny Hurley’s staff was a good bigger postseason juggernaut, successful the Massive East match this go-round after which occurring probably the most statistically dominant run to a nationwide championship within the historical past of March Insanity.

Among the finest groups in historical past. That is completely ludicrous after shedding NBA gamers and 5 of the highest eight scorers.

— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) April 9, 2024

“What are you able to say?” Hurley mentioned after Monday evening’s 75-60 win over Purdue. “We received. By so much. Once more.”

You may make the case pretty simply that there hasn’t been a two-year run in school basketball like this since UCLA went consecutive season with out a loss in 1971-72 and 1972-73. In fact back-to-back titles (or within the Bruins’ case, back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back titles) had been extra of a standard incidence again then. UConn simply grew to become the game’s first program to tug off a repeat in 17 years.

The distinction between Hurley’s second nationwide championship squad and his first is that this one, regardless of shedding its two main scorers from the yr earlier than, was additionally a November juggernaut. And a December juggernaut. And a January juggernaut. And a February juggernaut.

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From the opening tip of this season, a UConn staff that was picked to finish third in its own conference in October has seemed heads and shoulders higher than the remainder of the game. After they had been lastly confronted with the staff that had probably the most legitimate declare of being inside shouting distance of the reigning champs, the Huskies saved them at arm’s size in a trend just about an identical to the one they’d displayed over the previous three weeks.

Connecticut fell simply thrice this season. All three losses got here on the highway, and all three featured their opponents giving an abnormally beautiful efficiency on offense.

On Dec. 1, UConn misplaced by 4 at preseason No. 1 Kansas. The Jayhawks shot 64.3 % from three.

On Dec. 20, UConn misplaced its first Massive East highway recreation of the season, a defeat at Seton Corridor. Donovan Clingan performed simply 14 minutes due to an damage, which performed a component within the Pirates capturing 51. 8 % from the sphere.

Ob Feb. 20, UConn — taking part in its third recreation in seven days — was blitzed at Creighton in a recreation the place the Bluejays hit 14-of-28 from past the arc and shot 54.7 % from the sphere.

The opposite 37 video games? All Husky victories, with 30 of these coming by double figures.

Florida made an analogous soar from “extremely spectacular March run” to “dominant from begin to end” of their back-to-back title run, however that was simpler to clarify. What Billy Donovan had going for him at Florida 17 years in the past is a close to impossibility in at the moment’s school recreation. His high 5 scorers from the 2006 nationwide title staff — Joakim Noah, Taurean Inexperienced, Corey Brewer, Al Horford, Lee Humphrey, Chris Richard and Walter Hodge — all determined to run it again for one more yr in Gainesville.

So how did UConn make repeating look even simpler nearly twenty years later?

Tristen Newton went from the largest query mark on the 2023 champions to a First Staff All-American in 2024.

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Donovan Clingan went from Adama Sanogo’s promising backup to probably the most dominant massive males within the nation and maybe an important participant on UConn’s staff.

Cam Spencer arrived from Rutgers as the skin capturing substitute for the departed Jordan Hawkins. He tossed in some elite craftiness and top-tier shit speaking for good measure.

In his second season as a full-time starter, Alex Karaban improved his numbers in nearly each main statistical class there’s.

After which there’s Stephon Fort, the one true freshman starter on any of the groups at this yr’s Last 4. Regardless of figuring out that he was the one surefire lottery choose on this Husky staff, Fort had no drawback taking part in his half. It was a component that known as for him to rank fifth on the staff in scoring, however nonetheless demanded him to showcase his potential for stardom on the subsequent degree when the state of affairs known as for it.

As for Hurley, few issues in sports activities have aged higher because the pandemic than his “folks higher get us now” declaration in January of 2020.

On the rostrum instantly after placing the ending touches on probably the most dominant two-year match run within the sport’s historical past, Hurley made a declaration.

“For the final 25-30 years, UConn’s been operating school basketball,” Hurley mentioned. “I see all the previous champs over there. We’ve been operating school basketball the final 30 years.”

In a single sense, certain. UConn has received all six of its nationwide championships since 1999. Nobody else has received greater than three over that point span.

But when the Huskies have been “operating the game,” they’ve actually been doing it in an unorthodox method.

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Seven instances within the final 15 years, Connecticut hasn’t even made the NCAA match. In 5 consecutive seasons from 2016-17 by way of 2020-21, the Huskies did not win greater than 19 video games. They completed with a shedding general report within the first three of these seasons.

Earlier than this March, UConn had not been a No. 1 or a No. 2 seed within the Massive 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 … they usually’ve achieved that feat thrice.

And about these three championships: They’ve all come towards 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 staff in NCAA match historical past — not simply nationwide championship recreation historical past, however any recreation within the historical past of the NCAA match. Three years later, the Seventh-seeded Huskies took care of Eighth-seeded Kentucky in an excellent unusual conflict of the not-so-titans. Then there was final yr, the place Hurley’s staff saved San Diego State from turning into the primary 5-seed nationwide champion ever, and the primary non-power convention champion since 1990.

However there was nothing weird about 2023-24, and there’s nothing unsure about UConn’s present standing inside the sport.

In a university basketball world nonetheless very a lot in a state of flux because of the adjustments introduced forth by not simply NIL and the switch portal, but additionally the cluster of retirements from Corridor of Famers like Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim and Jay Wright, there are two very clear realities at this second:

Danny Hurley is the brand new face of the faculty basketball teaching world, and the Connecticut Huskies are the game’s present high canine.

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