Danny Hurley and UConn are formally “operating” school basketball


Everybody already wrote their “now they’re formally a blue blood” story a 12 months 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 12 months’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 can be made in dangerous religion.

The 2022-23 Huskies had been a March juggernaut, changing into the primary group 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 turned 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 12 months later, Danny Hurley’s group was a good bigger postseason juggernaut, profitable the Huge East match this go-round after which happening essentially the most statistically dominant run to a nationwide championship within the historical past of March Insanity.

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

You can also make the case pretty simply that there hasn’t been a two-year run in school basketball like this since UCLA went consecutive season and not using 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 typical incidence again then. UConn simply turned the game’s first program to drag 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 12 months earlier than, was additionally a November juggernaut. And a December juggernaut. And a January juggernaut. And a February juggernaut.

From the opening tip of this season, a UConn group that was picked to complete third in its personal convention in October has appeared heads and shoulders higher than the remainder of the game. After they had been lastly confronted with the group that had essentially the most legitimate declare of being inside shouting distance of the reigning champs, the Huskies stored them at arm’s size in a style just about similar to the one they’d displayed over the previous three weeks.

Connecticut fell simply 3 times this season. All three losses got here on the street, 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 Huge East street recreation of the season, a defeat at Seton Corridor. Donovan Clingan performed simply 14 minutes due to an damage, which performed an element 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 the same leap 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 in the present day’s school recreation. His high 5 scorers from the 2006 nationwide title group — Joakim Noah, Taurean Inexperienced, Corey Brewer, Al Horford, Lee Humphrey, Chris Richard and Walter Hodge — all determined to run it again for an additional 12 months in Gainesville.

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

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

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

Cam Spencer arrived from Rutgers as the surface capturing alternative 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 just about each main statistical class there’s.

After which there’s Stephon Citadel, the one true freshman starter on any of the groups at this 12 months’s Ultimate 4. Regardless of realizing that he was the one surefire lottery decide on this Husky group, Citadel had no downside taking part in his half. It was an element that referred to as for him to rank fifth on the group in scoring, however nonetheless demanded him to showcase his potential for stardom on the subsequent stage when the state of affairs referred to 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 essentially 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 stated. “I see all the previous champs over there. We’ve been operating school basketball the final 30 years.”

In a single sense, positive. 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.

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 didn’t win greater than 19 video games. They completed with a shedding total document 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 Huge Dance since all the way in which 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 3 times.

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 group 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 a brilliant unusual conflict of the not-so-titans. Then there was final 12 months, the place Hurley’s group stored San Diego State from changing 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 due to the modifications introduced forth by not simply NIL and the switch portal, but in addition 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.