HOUSTON — For the past several years, there’s been a five-letter term — standard common usage — to designate fun/obviously dominant teams. Car.
But UConn has reached the point where it goes beyond the label.
Car is a ridiculous undersell. This Herculean Huskies roster is one hell of a locomotive, hurtling down the tracks with one game left before it can be racked up with some of the best NCAA tournament teams of all time. There is only one more opponent to cling to in one of the most dominant pursuits for a national title the sport has ever seen.
Saturday was more of the same superiority: another double-digit victory in this tournament,from No. 5 Miami.
“Another! Another!” UConn coach Dan Hurley screamed as he high-fived with outstretched arms from UConn fans leaning over the railing as Hurley jogged into the tunnel.
In that superficial punking we saw the recent all-too-easy win over an overwhelmed non-conference opponent. Get this: UConn, seeded No. 4, is 16-0 against non-Big East teams this season and has won all of those games by double digits, with an average margin of 24.7 in his favor.
“We’re capable of body blowing our opponent,” Hurley said. “It has a cumulative effect. It could break opponents. And we’re a unique team in terms of our style of play, which hurts you in conference play because people are a lot more familiar. You see them twice. The games are a lot more physical. When the People see us for the first time with the two centers and all the shooting, there aren’t any real players like Andre Jackson in the country, he’s so hard to prepare for, so we’re a unique team.
Connecticut celebrated its 30th win in convincing style against the Hurricanes and sucked the drama out of the atmosphere at NRG Stadium. Not that far from San Diego StateTo knock FAU out of the tournament with 35 wins, Dan Hurley’s team had no plans to do things as convincingly as the undercard.
Miami went down a respectable path here, playing the best possible seed in every game in the first four rounds of the tournament. But UConn is on another level. That was evident in the opening minutes of Saturday’s national semi-final nightcap.
With the 13-point win, the Huskies become the fifth team to win five Big Dance games by 13+ points in the same tournament. And among teams that made the title game by all-double-digit wins in all five previous matchups, four of the five won the national title (Michigan State in 2000, Duke in 2001, North Carolina in 2009, Villanova in 2018).
The only one who didn’t cut the nets: UNC in 2016. In this building. Because of another Kapow, or rather: a bang.
Saturday night got so procedural that the Huskies emptied the bench to end the game. Hurley lived a basketball dad’s dream: He challenged his son Andrew to check in at a Final Four and earn playing time.
Long before the game was in hand, UConn made sure there would never be any doubt. The Huskies’ defense performed in a way that must have surprised Miami; The Hurricanes had a season-low 24 points at halftime and were the third consecutive victim of a season-low in efficiency. After UConn involved the high-octane Arkansas and the ever-dangerous Gonzaga on 32 and 33% shooting nights, respectively, the Hurricanes hung their heads on the way back to the locker room after only getting 32% off the field.
As of Saturday night, there hadn’t been a team in over 60 years that had kept their opponents below 35% shooting in the three rounds leading up to the national title game (Ohio State did it in 1961).
“We really went for a full 40 minutes here in the tournament and obviously we pretty much nailed it from the round of 64,” said senior Joey Calcaterra.
And like Gonzaga, who was off a season-low with 54 points in the regional finals, Miami will leave Houston after hitting a season-low 59 points. One of the best shooting teams and most efficient offensives has been crushed and eliminated.
So here’s UConn, a team that beat Iona by 24 and Saint Mary’s by 15 and Arkansas by 23 and Gonzaga by 28 and Miami by 13 and who knows what damage could be in store for fifth-placed San Diego state Monday night.
Adama Sanogo (21 points, 10 rebounds) is the first Husky in history to score 100+ points and 40+ rebounds in a tournament. He overwhelmed teams and was by far the best player in this blast of a bracket.
It’s one remarkable performance after another with this group. Hawkins, who Hurley “has felt like dying for the last two days,” went 3-of-4 from beyond the arc and became the sixth person to ever have three or more 3-pointers in five games in a single NCAA -Tournament hit.
There were a couple of Miami pushes in the second half, but those were hampered by two ridiculous hammer dunks from Andre Jackson Jr., who didn’t even play well on Saturday. That’s the joke of it all. Only Sanogo and Hawkins scored double digits for UConn. This was far from an A-level game for this team.
“We know we have the nation’s best big man, the nation’s best shooter and the nation’s best defender,” said point guard Tristen Newton. “We’re not going to try to do a superhuman feat. We’re just going to go out there and do what we’ve been doing all season.”
As we head towards the final game of this 2022-23 campaign, let’s take a minute to acknowledge the ironic nature of what UConn is doing here. This was a season that contained a chorus of many that made sense for months but are no longer true: There is no great team this year. Turns out that was wrong. It is UConn. UConn is great. Again, winning the one extra game it takes to win a national championship is pleasantly favored.
A resilient team from San Diego State that has probably never felt so good will be waiting for you on Monday night. While the Aztecs are top-flight defensively, this won’t be the best defensive unit UConn will face this season. Alabama does slightly better. The state of San Diego is just behind the tide. UConn is not bullied.
It could be a massive matchup. It could be like FAU-SDSU and go to the end.
Or come on: Monday night could be like every other game UConn has played in this tournament and non-conference. It could be an outbreak. It could be a laugh. It could be just what we’ve come to expect from the best team with the best roster in college basketball: a Connecticut crowning glory that cements that team’s legacy and confirms once and for all the program’s return to national dominance and prominence.
https://www.cbssports.com/college-basketball/news/powerhouse-uconn-is-40-minutes-away-from-completing-one-of-the-most-dominant-ncaa-tournament-runs-in-history/ Powerhouse UConn is just 40 minutes away from one of the most dominant NCAA tournament runs in history