Big East Baller Update No. 18: More national champions in the Space City

The UConn Huskies face the Marquette Golden Eagles in the semifinal round of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on Friday, March 10. After an incredibly close game, the Golden Eagles beat the Huskies 70-68., ending UConn’s run in the tournament. Photo by Erin Knapp, Photo Editor.

Houston, Texas, has hosted four Final Fours in the NCAA Tournament’s 84-year history. Three of them have been since 2010, and each one ended in the same result for the Big East Conference. In 2011, the UConn men’s basketball team capped off an 11-game winning streak with their third national title behind “Cardiac” Kemba Walker. Five years later, Kris Jenkins’ buzzer-beater against the North Carolina Tar Heels gave the Villanova Wildcats their first national championship in 31 years. 

In 2023, Connecticut made the Final Four for the sixth time in program history, winning the national championship and proving why the Big East remains the best college basketball conference. 

Writer’s Note: It still does not feel real that UConn now has five national titles and is 5-0 in championship games. 

Writer’s Note II: “Five-Time, Five-Time, Five-Time, Five-Time, Five-Time.” – Booker T

UConn 72, Miami 59 (April 1) and UConn 76, San Diego State 59 (April 3): Five-Time Champs 

Head coach Daniel S. Hurley is a national champion. The NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, Adama Sanogo, is a national champion. Richie Springs, the longest-tenured player on the team, is a national champion. All-Big East First Team selection Jordan Hawkins is a national champion. Andre Jackson Jr. is a national champion. The remaining 12 players I have not yet mentioned are all national champions. 

The Huskies are the top dogs for the fifth time. They beat their opponents by a combined 120 points, averaging 20 points per victory, and went 17-0 in nonconference play. UConn trailed for 4.5 minutes across both Final Four games, all of which came against the San Diego State Aztecs. Three years ago, after a loss to Villanova, Hurley said that “it’s coming.” I have said that it has been here in the past, but 1,171 days after he uttered those words, it has officially arrived. 

The UConn men’s basketball team captures their fifth national title after defeating San Diego State 76-59 in the NCAA National Championship game at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas on April 3, 2023. This win marked the Huskies last championship win since 2014, as UConn’s Tristan Newton carried the Huskies to victory with 19 points while Adama Sanogo was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding player.

The past three years: A personal reflection of the Big East Baller Update 

The recap you just read about Connecticut winning their fifth title is 167 words. I could have written more about UConn’s dominant tournament run, but I am not the one in charge of doing so. If you have followed along over the years, that is the one thing I have to keep constant in writing these weekly articles; I cannot write much about the Huskies because the beat writers already handle that duty. 

While it is nice to see them win a national championship, I doubted this team all season long. With Tyrese Martin and R.J. Cole going pro and both Isaiah Whaley and Tyler Polley out of eligibility, I felt like this would be a down year for Connecticut. They proved me wrong time and time again.  

With that out of the way, I can reflect on one of my signature weekly articles as a UConn student. This is not a goodbye letter to The Daily Campus sports section; I still have one more year as an undergraduate student. This is just a reflection of the “Big East Baller Update.” 

The “Big East Baller Update” replaced its predecessor, “Around the American,” when the Huskies returned to the Big East in 2020. I first signed up to write the article during my freshman year of college, when there was not much to write about at the collegiate level as the Big East cancelled all fall sports. Even though it was not my first article for the organization, I had so much fun writing that article that I almost immediately took the next one the following week. 

“Around the American” summarized some of the biggest storylines that took place in the American Athletic Conference over a seven-day window, referencing every game while highlighting the leading scorer, but the “Big East Baller Update” shies away from that. What I was told when I first took on the article was to summarize the three most important non-UConn games that took place over the past week. Over the past three years, I have written all but two editions of the “Big East Baller Update,” and I have not looked back. 

If you have followed along, you know that I craft a creative game recap title that is a play on words of some sort. The thought process behind that all started back in the second edition, when the Kansas Jayhawks took on the Creighton Bluejays in the Big East-Big 12 Battle. It is a bird-themed adaptation of the Broadway musical “Rock of Ages,” and that motivated me to come up with even more creative game titles as the seasons passed. This is different from the creative titles I developed for each weekly edition, which started when I wrote my first Big East Tournament preview in 2021. I knew that I wanted to title this article “Tourney Time,” but after writing that preview and watching every tournament game, I realized that those titles could stick. During the summer of 2021, I came up with so many ideas that I listed them all down in a Google Doc. 

I first got invested in Big East basketball in 2016, when I attended the Big East Tournament Championship game between the Wildcats and the Seton Hall Pirates with my dad. Since I started writing the “Big East Baller Update,” I have become more and more interested in the Big East, which has included reading a book on the conference from 1979 to 2013. It is through these experiences that I can conclude that the Big East is the best conference in college basketball. 

Let me conclude this article in a manner similar to how I started my first update. Basketball fans, thank you so much for reading these weekly updates over the last three years. I know that this season was chaotic and competitive but consider how conference play will be just as exciting next year. This has been a Big East Baller Update. Stay balling. 

Leave a Reply