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UConn’s dominant title run proves that Huskies do ‘run faculty basketball’

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The chants of U-C-O-N-N hailed down for a 12th straight time on the NCAA Tournament stage as the team from the northeast farmland of Storrs, Connecticut — where they get through the long and cold winters with the warmth of basketball success — has made history.  Billy Donovan, you now have company

UConn’s dominant title run proves that Huskies do ‘run faculty basketball’

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The chants of U-C-O-N-N hailed down for a twelfth straight time on the NCAA Match stage because the group from the northeast farmland of Storrs, Connecticut — the place they get via the lengthy and chilly winters with the heat of basketball success — has made historical past. 

Billy Donovan, you now have firm, and the title of the person becoming a member of you is Dan Hurley. The 51-year-old UConn head coach has completed what feels an increasing number of inconceivable by the day within the present age of school basketball, dropping 5 of his prime eight scorers from a nationwide championship group and by some means managing to steer his program to back-to-back titles for the primary time since Donovan and Florida did it in 2006 and 2007.

However this yr’s group did not simply repeat; it dominated, closing out the 2024 NCAA Match with a powerful 75-60 win over Zach Edey and the Purdue Boilermakers on Monday night time at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. UConn received its six event video games by a mixed margin of 140 factors, which is the best mark ever by an NCAA males’s event champion.

“Clearly, what may you say?” Hurley stated. “We received … by quite a bit once more.”

With the victory, UConn improved to 6-0 in nationwide championship video games, matching North Carolina for the third-most titles all-time and cementing themselves as one of many biggest applications within the historical past of the game. Solely UCLA (11) and Kentucky (eight) personal extra nationwide championships than the Huskies.

“I feel it is up there by way of the best two-year runs {that a} program has ever had,” Hurley stated. “I am unable to say something about Duke as a result of I’ll piss my brother [Bobby] off. However I assume I can say stuff about Florida. However I really like Billy Donovan. 

“I simply suppose it is the most effective two-year run in a really, very very long time simply due to all the things we misplaced from final yr’s group. To lose that a lot and, once more, to do what we did once more, it is received to be as spectacular a two-year run as a program’s had since previous to whoever did it earlier than Duke. To me, it’s extra spectacular than what Florida and Duke did as a result of they introduced again their total groups. We misplaced some main gamers.” 

The Huskies misplaced three starters from their 2023 championship group, together with Jordan Hawkins and Andre Jackson, who had been each NBA Draft picks, and Adama Sanogo, who was the Most Excellent Participant of final yr’s Closing 4.

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However the three essential returnees from final season’s title-winning group — Tristen Newton, Alex Karaban and Donovan Clingan — have entered themselves right into a particular column in UConn lore, and are merely wired in another way.

There’s Newton, the Cool Hand Luke level guard, who grew to become the primary participant ever to report 20 factors, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and never commit a single turnover in a nationwide championship sport. The senior ground basic delivered 20-7-5 with not a single mistake in a masterclass efficiency on Monday night time.

“This teaching employees trusts in me to run the group, so I’ve no alternative at UConn however to capitalize off the chance,” Newton instructed FOX Sports activities. “The coaches did a terrific job getting me to come back again. Our thought was to be one yr and completed, however after profitable the primary nationwide championship, you instantly wish to do it once more.

“Our tradition and relentless competitiveness helped us win two in a row. It is selflessness. It is shopping for into your position. It is profitable. Protection, rebounding and sharing the ball. These are the three messages for each sport. We did that each sport this yr, and I might say it labored out fairly nicely.”

There’s Karaban, the sophomore stretch ahead who instructed me postgame that Hurley and his star-studded employees of Luke Murray, Kimani Younger and Tom Moore have a knack for figuring out guys who’re “wired on basketball.” 

Then there’s the native product, Clingan, the jolly inexperienced large who will get picked early on draft night time this June and has entered his title into the e book of UConn legends.

“What we confirmed tonight is that now we have the most effective group within the nation and the most effective employees within the nation,” Clingan stated. “No person practices two and a half hours the day earlier than a sport. This group simply loves one another, man. It was the most effective resolution of my life to come back to this college.” 

And it was the most effective resolution for UConn athletic director David Benedict to rent Hurley in 2018, pulling him from Rhode Island to Storrs, the place he has discovered the proper marriage and a fan base that feeds off basketball success. There’s nothing regular in the case of faculty basketball in Storrs, as a result of that would not be adequate to do the extraordinary. 

It is why Cam Spencer elected to come back to UConn for a fifth season of school basketball, and why he would not speak to anyone in October when he misplaced an exhibition taking pictures competitors to his teammates, and why he tackled Hurley within the ultimate seconds of Monday night time’s sport when he got here off the courtroom.

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“It is the profitable customary right here, and accountability each single day,” Spencer instructed FOX Sports activities when requested what makes UConn such a particular place. “This program is all about profitable, and there is a blue-collar toughness in Storrs, Connecticut. Every part right here is about rising as a participant and discovering methods to win.”

That nonstop drive to maintain including to the {hardware} cabinets might be heard in Hurley’s postgame feedback.

“Yeah, we’ll take pleasure in this for a few days,” Hurley stated when requested what’s subsequent. “On the flight dwelling tomorrow, we’ll begin speaking about what the roster’s going to appear to be. Clearly, we graduate some gamers. We will lose a pair doubtlessly to the NBA early entry. We will dive in and put collectively a roster that may play a comparable stage of basketball to the one that you just guys have witnessed the final two years. That will probably be our mindset.” 

That very mindset, coupled with the outcomes on the courtroom, can’t be argued, which is why Hurley stated he isn’t fascinated about the Kentucky teaching job.

“The very last thing I am fascinated about is one other place,” Hurley stated. “We’re able proper now to be back-to-back in an period that makes it robust to do it, and now you are fascinated about the prospect to do it thrice, like a dynasty in trendy occasions. That is what I am fascinated about.”

Hurley has a terrific stage of respect for the College of Connecticut and appears on the program’s historic run as a solution to make Benedict and the individuals who employed him proud.

“Dave Benedict and this college noticed one thing in me, and I am simply thrilled to have the ability to pay this place again for what they’ve completed and the chance they’ve given me,” Hurley instructed FOX Sports activities. “They’ve given us the assets to place collectively a dynasty.” 

On this ever-changing world of school basketball, profitable back-to-back titles is spectacular alone. However Hurley and his employees have a singular capacity to search out gifted gamers who’re wired to win, which makes this UConn program one scary freight practice for the remainder of faculty basketball. 

On Monday night time, the Huskies flexed their muscular tissues as soon as once more, and even with the two-time nationwide participant of the yr, Zach Edey, scoring 37 factors for Purdue, it did not matter in the long run end result. And within the strategy of profitable a second straight nationwide title, this UConn program put collectively the latest show of a run of excellence that stands in a category of its personal. 

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Hurley’s phrases throughout the postgame trophy ceremony are validated when a program accomplishes what UConn has completed:

“For the final 30 years, UConn has been operating faculty basketball.” 

John Fanta is a nationwide faculty basketball broadcaster and author for FOX Sports activities. He covers the game in quite a lot of capacities, from calling video games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Community to offering commentary on The Area of 68 Media Community. Comply with him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

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