College Hoops

‘Iron sharpens iron’: UConn is proud of Big East’s basketball pedigree

'Iron sharpens iron': UConn is proud of Big East's basketball pedigree

Alabama and the rest of the football fans in the Southeastern Conference are about to find out what Big East basketball is all about.

The Crimson Tide, who have won 18 NCAA football championships but have never been to a men’s basketball Final Four, will meet top-seeded UConn in the national semifinals on April 6. The Huskies have a chance to win back-to-back NCAA titles — which would make it six in 13 years for the Big East, the league that takes pride in its basketball pedigree even as football money upended the rest of college sports.

“The Big East is a monster,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said after the Huskies steamrolled Illinois 77-52 on Saturday night — a March Madness -record 10th straight double-digit victory for the Huskies.

“Iron sharpens iron,” Hurley said. “The league prepares us for these nonconference games. … You’re going against beasts and monsters every night in the Big East, and the Big East prepared us for teams like Illinois.”

[RELATED: How UConn’s Dan Hurley became the biggest coaching personality in college basketball]

UConn has beaten three Big Ten teams this season, topping Indiana in the regular season and Northwestern in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies did not play an SEC team this year but went 3-0 against them last season, including an 82-67 victory over Alabama on Nov. 22, 2022.

“We’re going to be tough to beat,” said Hurley, whose team scored 30 straight points against Illinois to break open a game that was tied 23-all in the final two minutes of the first half. “It was a special level of basketball that we were playing.”

Donovan Clingan had 22 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots for UConn, which cruised to its fifth national title last year and seems inexorably headed for a sixth.

Their NCAA Tournament wins this year have come by 39, 17, 30 and 25 points.

Actor Bill Murray, whose son, Luke, is a Huskies assistant coach, watched the game from a courtside seat and took video of the postgame celebration, where his grandchildren were showered with confetti. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” star Larry David was also part of a heavily partisan crowd the Huskies (35-3) called “Storrs North” for the East Region games that were played about 90 miles from campus.

UConn, which won the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden and advanced to the Sweet 16 in Brooklyn, will now get on an airplane for the first time in almost a month and head to the Final Four outside of Phoenix. Alabama advanced with an 89-82…

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