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Bracket Breakdown: UConn takes the title, again

The University of Connecticut Huskies etched their name in history last night, defeating the Purdue Boilermakers by a score of 75-60, and becoming the 2024 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Champions.

Annika Morris | Senior Graphic Artist

After another dominant tournament performance, the Huskies, who finished with an overall record of  37-3, captured the elusive title of back-to-back tournament champions. UConn is the first team to do so since Florida did it 17 years ago in 2006-2007, joining a list of only eight programs that have repeated as champions.

However, few teams have won the NCAA tournament in such a dominant fashion as UConn has done. The Huskies won their six NCAA tournament games this year by an average of 23.3 points, after last year’s 20.0 margin of victory. The Huskies have also managed to win all 12 of their tournament games the past two years by double digits.

This type of dominance is simply unprecedented in March. In a tournament that is historically characterized by “madness,” hallmarked by shocking upsets and nail-biting finishes, UConn has flipped the script and imposed their will on all opponents that were in their way on this relentless charge to the title.

Even after losing three talented starters to the NBA last year, the Huskies somehow found a way to reinvent themselves into something even more impressive than last year’s championship team. 

A lot of the credit deserves to be given to head coach Dan Hurley, who has built a strong winning culture and a powerhouse in Connecticut. Hurley brings an intense energy as a coach, asserting himself as one of, if not the best coach in college basketball.

The veteran backcourt of seniors Tristen Newton and Cam Spencer played smart and at their own pace. The two Huskies consistently made good decisions throughout the season, whether they were feeding or pushing the pace and taking their own shots, they led the way for UConn. 

Sophomore Donovan Clingan emerged as a star this year, stepping into a bigger role and excelling. The 7 feet 2 inches tall center was always a presence on defense and could take advantage of smaller opponents routinely on offense. His mobility at that size is rare and will likely land him at a high spot in the NBA draft.

Another draft prospect throughout the season was top-recruit Stephon Castle, who was instantly able to make an impact as a freshman. The explosive athlete is a hound on defense and developed offensively as the season went on. 

The final piece of the puzzle was sophomore power-forward Alex Karaban. His role as a floor spacer and sizable defender perhaps may have gone overlooked at times but his contributions to the balance of this lineup were essential.

Overall, it was the combined effort of this team that made it so special. Every player knew their role as part of this machine that unstoppably produced victories. Hurley and his players deserve a lot of credit for what they built.

As for the championship game itself, it played out like almost every other tournament clinic that UConn put on. The Huskies stuck to their strong game plan, played confident and smart, and never let the moment get the best of them.

There were brief instances where Purdue, who finished 34-5, held the lead early, and the seven-feet-four-inches-tall phenom Zach Edey looked unstoppable. But UConn stuck to a game plan that allowed Edey to thrive but cut off any sort of help Purdue could muster.

The game resulted in a late first and second-half surge from UConn that overpowered even an impressive 37-point performance from Edey. The Huskies stayed confident, energetic, and determined to finish what they started from the moment this tournament began. Tristen Newton, who led the way for most of the season for UConn, finished with 20 points, seven assists and five rebounds, and took home the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award.

This may very well have been the best college basketball team of our lifetimes, losing only three games all season, delivering such high-quality basketball and producing remarkably lopsided victories in March. It would be difficult to recall a more dominant tournament run in history.

Hard work, talent, scheming and all the other things that made this Huskies squad so great don’t converge so perfectly often. So while basketball fans might have missed out on the heart-racing excitement that March is usually known for, we should still take a moment to appreciate the greatness of the 2024 UConn Huskies.

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