UConn's path to back-to-back championships

UConn's Path To 2024 National Championship

A couple of quasi-related tidbits before we look at the ups and (not many) downs of the UConn Huskies defense of their men’s basketball championship:

In a reminder that opinions are like assholes because everybody has one, Draymond Green, the valedictorian at clown college, tweeted at Huskies forward Samson Johnson during the final.

Admittedly, there was a stretch of the game during which Edey was less productive.

But when you consider that Danny Hurley (pretty good coach) would have centered his game plan on stopping Edey, that Bleacher Report has Huskies big Donovan Clingan going in the top ten of the NBA draft and Edey around 20, that Edey finished with 37 points and ten boards, 21 of those points in the second half, we can only stand in amazement of what his stats would have been if he hadn’t “quit.”

Next, to those who make the absurd claim that Caitlin Clark can’t be considered the GOAT in women’s basketball because her team didn’t win a national title: (By extension, this would make more than 500 NBA players better than Charles Barkley).

Were you watching? Have you ever played a team sport?

Now, if you would like to contend that Ingemar Stenmark was a better skier than Hermann Maier based on World Cup wins, have at it. You believe Novak Djokovik has bypassed Roger Federer? How can I argue?

But if you watched Clark drag that collection of (perfectly lovely, no doubt) teammates to two consecutive national championship games, repeatedly lead the country in scoring and assists, cause a WNBA team to relocate to a much bigger arena in anticipation of her visit, and have the Iowa state fair commission of life-size statue of her in butter, and you still think she’s not greatest, I don’t know what to tell you.

Thanks for listening to me rant. I feel better. On to UConn.

UConn's National Championship Odds

After its national championship victory in 2023, Connecticut was +1100 to repeat, located in a cluster of other favorites that included Purdue at +1600 and Alabama at +1400 (Duke was +1300).

Pretty prescient.

But by Nov. 6, the day the Huskies opened by putting a 95-52 beating on Northern Arizona, UConn was one of four teams at +2000, along with Arizona, Marquette and Creighton, with Purdue and Duke now the favorites to keep Connecticut from repeating.

The Boilermakers remained the odds-on favorites throughout the regular season, with UConn suffering losses at the hands of Kansas, Seton Hall and Creighton (have those teams ordered jackets: “We beat UConn 23-24”? Actually, for Creighton, it could be “We beat the hell out of UConn,” the Huskies losing by 19 at Creighton, dropping to 0-4 in Omaha.)

The other conference loss, in a game played at Newark, was by 15 points.

From ESPN:

Seton Hall used suffocating defense to stun No. 5 UConn 75-60 for its biggest victory in three years.

“Really, just really stunned by how unprepared I had these guys for a tough physical conference game,” UConn coach Danny Hurley said. "Credit, (Seton Hall coach) Shaheen (Holloway) credit Seton Hall. You know, they just kind of poked us there in Big East Conference fashion. So just a really, really disappointing effort.”

2024 March Madness

So, though Connecticut entered March Madness at +500, with Purdue +700 and Houston +750, there did not yet exist an air of inevitability they would become the first repeat winners since Florida.

It’s worth noting, though, that Hurley’s team was coming off an ass-kicking tour of the Big East, with convincing revenge wins over Seton Hall and Creighton late in the regular season, followed by conference tournament victories of 27, 25 and 16 points.

Bettors took note, with UConn reportedly penned in as the national champ on fully a third of brackets.

As both teams cruised through March, with Connecticut winning their tournament games by 39, 17, 30, 25 and 14 points entering the final, while Purdue won their games by 28, 39, 12, 6 and 13, the gap between them widened. The Huskies went from +350 to +240 to +200 to -105 to -190 to -300, while the Boilermakers started at +650, then went to +700 to +600 to +325 to +210 to +250.

On the day of the championship, CBS Sports had their six experts make their picks, taking a 6.5 point spread into account, with three choosing the Huskies to cover, and three the Boilermakers.

Matt Norlander came out looking pretty sharp.

The Huskies are one game away from being considered one of the greatest teams with one of the most impressive runs in college basketball over the past 50 years. I'm siding with that. I'm riding with the team that has refused to find a close game in the past 11 NCAA Tournament matchups that it's been presented. On Saturday, its starters all scored 12+ points, the first time that had happened in a national semifinal since Duke in 1994. UConn keeps producing stats and putting on performances that reinforce just how absurdly abnormal all of this is. Zach Edey needs to get close to 30 points and 15+ rebounds, and that alone will not get it done. The line wasn't as high as it should have been. On Monday, for the 12th time in a row, UConn will win a tournament game by double digits (but Purdue will get it closer than the other 11). Pick: UConn -6.5 (Huskies 80, Boilermakers 70)

UConn’s win made it the first time that the top overall seed won the tournament since 2012, when Kentucky did it.

At least one sports book has Duke and Kansas as co-favorites to win next year at +1100, with UConn +1200 to become the second team ever to three-peat. They can match UCLA by winning the next five.

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