College Hoops

UConn doesn’t shy away from legacy talk as it returns to Final Four

UConn doesn't shy away from legacy talk as it returns to Final Four

The UConn men’s basketball team has only trailed for 28 seconds in this NCAA Tournament. All of those 28 seconds came in the first four minutes of the Sweet 16 game against San Diego State, a rematch of the 2023 national championship.

At that first media timeout, trailing 10-9, players put their hand up, holding themselves accountable for a missed rebound or an extra pass that wasn’t made, whatever they could’ve done better. Out of the timeout, Stephon Castle made one of two from the free throw line, Donovan Clingan stripped Jaedon LeDee and Alex Karaban, in transition, nailed a 3-pointer from the logo.

The Huskies haven’t trailed since.

They went on to win the game by 30 and put together a remarkable 30-0 run to race past Illinois, punching their ticket to the Final Four for the second year in a row. Their average margin of victory through four tournament games is 27.8 points.

“It’s really never stressful,” Karaban said.

UConn guard Cam Spencer (12) celebrates during the second half of the Elite 8 college basketball game against Illinois in the men's NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
UConn guard Cam Spencer (12) celebrates during the second half of the Elite 8 college basketball game against Illinois in the men’s NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Of course it’s not. The UConn players have always pressed forward, saving time for reflection until that final goal is accomplished – or somehow, some way, one of the other three teams left finds a way to beat them. Over the last two years UConn has won 31 of its 32 games against nonconference opponents, all by double-digits. This year it set a new program record for wins (35-3) while claiming dual championships in the Big East and setting a new NCAA Tournament record for consecutive double-digit victories (10), which dates back to last year’s title run.

This euphoric two-year stretch represents an emphatic resurrection of the program under Dan Hurley. And the team hasn’t shied from any of it.

“We’ve just got people that are desperate to win more. We’re winners. We’ve got ‘We’ guys. We’ve also talked about legacy,” Hurley said. “These guys right now are leaving a legacy in a place that’s hard to leave a legacy. It’s been a historical season in a tough place to make history. They’re galvanized by that. It’s special.”

Hurley pointed out Tristen Newton‘s legacy, in particular, saying the consensus First Team All-American is “making a case for the greatest career that any guard’s ever had while wearing the uniform at UConn.” In just two seasons.

UConn didn’t…

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