This past season was one to remember for UConn’s men’s basketball team. There were ups at first that came in the form of a 14-game win streak to start off the campaign. Then the month of January felt like a nosedive as the Huskies withstood a 2-6 span. Afterwards, the group recuperated and came back stronger than ever, winning eight of their last nine regular season games. They lost in the Big East Tournament semis against the Marquette Golden Eagles and trailed to 13-seed Iona at the half of their first-round NCAA Tournament game, not signs that they’d do much. Their next 11 halves of basketball were a masterclass as they outscored their tournament opponents by an average of 20 points en route to their fifth championship. Through all 39 games, what was the top moment? DC Sports discusses…
Win at home over Marquette
Associate Sports Editor
Coming off a narrow, six-point road win over lowly Georgetown, nothing about this matchup against No. 10 Marquette indicated that the Huskies were going to break out of their slump. UConn won the game by 15, but it wasn’t even that close. They led by 25 points in the second half against a team that was one of the hottest in the country and the eventual Big East champs. In the grand scheme of the season, this was the turning point for UConn. The Huskies rediscovered their identity with 48 rebounds to the Golden Eagles’ 24. The biggest headline was Tristen Newton’s second triple double of the year, a feat that no other UConn player had ever accomplished. From that game on, the Huskies only lost two more, a big confidence boost that contributed to their championship.
Elite 8 Blowout of Gonzaga
This may be the most underrated option on the board and with the absolute insanity that went on in Vegas, it would be a shame if nobody selected UConn’s 82-54 blowout win over Gonzaga to advance to the Final Four. One of the primary reasons that I selected this game was due to the momentum that Gonzaga brought into this game off Julian Strawther’s Lillard-like shot from the tip of the Sweet 16 logo to lift them to victory. A shot like that is going to give your team’s fans some confidence and I could certainly hear it as I admired the city of Las Vegas. Despite that, UConn not only handled business against the Bulldogs, but absolutely obliterated them. Instead of Zags fans having plenty to talk about after the game, it would be Huskies fans that were experiencing the times of their lives. From that game being Drew Timme’s final college basketball performance to Connecticut advancing to their first Final Four since 2014, it’s a memory that these players and this fanbase will cherish for a long time.
Winning the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Oregon
I doubted the UConn men’s basketball team all season long, and they proved me wrong time and time again. I doubted them during their dominant national title run, something I might regret doing in 30 years, but I especially had concerns at the beginning of the regular season. Given the roster turnover the team experienced, which included losing three starters and the team’s top bench player, I felt it would be a down year in Storrs. Once they traveled to Portland for the Phil Knight Invitational, however, my perception significantly changed. Against the Oregon Ducks, the Huskies made a single-game program record 17 triples, scoring over 60% of the team’s 83 points from downtown. Beating the Alabama Crimson Tide, the No. 1 overall seed in March Madness, by 15 on Black Friday proved to be the biggest win of them all in that invitational. UConn left Oregon with a multiple-team event championship after drubbing the Iowa State Cyclones by 18, and that is when I started to believe they could compete for a national title.
Winning the National Championship in Houston
Yes, it’s the easiest choice, but hear me out. It’s not because of what the team did, which is winning its first national championship since 2014, but because of how amazing this season has been. This team began unranked, just like the 2011 national championship team. The Huskies struggled in the Big East, finishing fourth. But their tournament run was dominant like 2004’s run and in non-conference play this season. To see legends like Ray Allen, Kemba Walker and Rip Hamilton in the stands and to have Jim Calhoun come in and make speeches throughout the season, it all came together in the end. I almost chose the win over Marquette in Hartford because that’s when I knew this team would be in the Final Four. But crossing the finish line with confetti raining as they received their fifth trophy, there was no doubt that moment was my favorite moment of the season. Even though UConn solidified that they were back when they beat Gonzaga, they ended the blue blood debate on Monday night.