Dan Hurley’s UConn is the most fascinating team in March Madness

Connecticut has defeated Alabama and Iowa State on a neutral court, has wins over Providence and Creighton and is the only team to lose to Marquette since mid-January. It also lost to Big East rivals St. John’s and Seton Hall and has seven conference losses, one of only two teams (the other being Tennessee) in the NET’s top 16 with that many setbacks in league play.

It was very good with a little early and late break. The Huskies can beat anyone, but they can also lose to anyone. The ceiling is the national championship and the floor is the third empty March in a row. As the fourth seed, he is the favorite to win this week’s Big East Tournament.

There’s no more fascinating team this month than Dan Hurley’s Huskies.

Hurley has elevated the program in five years, recruiting top-ranked recruits and will reach its third straight NCAA Tournament when the pairings are announced next Sunday. But they have high hopes for the Nutmeg State. Strong regular seasons are not enough. Fourth places are not even in league play.

They appear to be on the rise at the right time, entering this week’s Big East Tournament on a five-game winning streak after upsetting Villanova in Philadelphia on Saturday night. Then again, last year’s team looked poised to explode as well, winning seven of eight games before losing to Villanova in the Big East Tournament semifinals before losing to 12th-ranked New Mexico State in the Dance.

UConn coach Dan Hurley (right) with guard Tristen Newton (left).USA TODAY Sports

March hasn’t been good for UConn of late, losing back-to-back years as the No. 1 seed in the big tournament and holding a 2-2 record in the conference tournament since returning to the Big East.

This team definitely has breakout potential. It’s deep and talented, led by NBA first-round pick Jordan Hawkins. UConn is one of only two teams, along with Houston, ranked in the top 12 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. He is 12-6 in Quad 1 and 2 games and his last three losses have come by seven points. It is second nationally in rebounding margin led by the 1-2 middle punch of Adama Sanogo and Donovan Clingan, and has more offensive firepower than recent UConn teams.

The Huskies are absolutely a Final Four contender and could be as high as a three seed. They will almost certainly be sent to Albany the first weekend, and could be at Madison Square Garden the second weekend. The school’s best March since winning it all in 2014 is on the line. But also another disappointing end, like the last two years. That ugly stretch in January, when they lost six of eight games, happened.

UConn's Jordan Hawkins (24) St.  He will lead against John's on February 25, 2023.UConn’s Jordan Hawkins (24) St. He will lead against John’s on February 25, 2023.Jason Szenes for the NY Post

Under Hurley, UConn has yet to show it can handle the pressure of March. Few teams will be under the microscope like the Huskies and few coaches will have as much scrutiny as Hurley. It’s a commute in Storrs.

Dance dream

Some tournament week expectations: A rubber matchup between No. 10 Gonzaga and No. 17 Saint Mary’s in the WCC title game. The second matchup between red-hot Hofstra and the College of Charleston in the CAA. Fordham made a run at the Atlantic-10 Championship and turned the Barclays Center brown. Oral Roberts and Max Abmas closed out a dominant Summit League season and returned to the tournament, reaching the Sweet 16 two years ago. Iona and Rick Pitino cruise through the MAAC, and San Juan gives its fans a reason to smile, even if it’s only for one day, in a tough season. In the mid-to-low major tournaments, this causes more confusion in the NCAA Tournament. It’s one of the best weeks on the sports calendar, with the NCAA Tournament, the start of the baseball season and the NFL regular season. Everyone but the bottom four of the Ivy League can dream of being a part of Madness.

Game of the week

Big 12 Tournament, Wednesday through Saturday

Far and away the best league in the country, the Big 12 will feature four days of can’t-miss games at T-Mobile Arena in Kansas City. At least 70 percent of the conference will reach the NCAA Tournament, and Oklahoma State will reach 80 percent of the bubble. The eight teams from the quarter finals can dance. Even Oklahoma, which finished last in the league, has double-digit wins over ranked opponents Alabama, Kansas State and TCU.

Bryce Thompson (1) and Oklahoma State are on the March Madness bubble entering the Big 12 Tournament.Bryce Thompson (1) and Oklahoma State are on the March Madness bubble entering the Big 12 Tournament.AP

super 16

NCAA Tournament Top Four Seed Prediction (Listed in Order)

1. Alabama, Kansas, Houston, UCLA

2. Purdue, Texas, Baylor, Arizona

3. Marquette, Gonzaga, Tenn., UConn

4. Kansas State, Virginia, Iowa State, Xavier

Stock Watch



The Bruins should be the top seed in the West after knocking off eighth-ranked Arizona on Saturday night to extend their winning streak to 10. All four of their losses — to Arizona, USC, Baylor and Illinois — have come against projected tournament teams. . They have elite seniors in Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jacquez Jr., the second-ranked defense in the nation in efficiency and are peaking at the right time. UCLA won the Pac-12 by four games – the largest margin since Stanford in 2004.

Penn State

A week ago, after blowing a 19-point second half deficit at home to Rutgers, the NCAA Tournament seemed like a long shot. But the Nittany Lions responded by rallying from 16 points down with a win at Northwestern to stun No. 21 Maryland, giving Penn State its fifth Quad 1 win. He has now won five of his last six games under impressive second-year coach Micah Shrewsberry and can dream of reaching the championship for the first time in 12 years.



It’s been a long stretch of mediocrity for Ed Cooley’s 20th-ranked Friars. Xavier’s two losses this week against No. 19 and Seton Hall are not. Since the beginning of February, they have lost five out of nine games. Most troubling, Providence hasn’t shown itself capable of beating anyone of note on the road — it’s 6-8 from Amica Mutual Pavilion — and all of its remaining games will be at relatively unknown venues. This is not like a group ready for a big march.

Hubert Davis

Barring an ACC Tournament title, North Carolina will be the first Associated Press No. 1 seed not to reach the NCAA Tournament since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. With four starters from last year’s national runner-up, along with key transfer Pete Nance from Northwestern, the basement should be a Sweet 16. Not NIT. No seventh place in the woeful ACC. Not a disastrous 1-9 mark in Quad 1 games. This ultra-talented group that gelled so well late last year never came together. Davis must respond to this huge disappointment that will forever be on his resume no matter what happens in his coaching career.

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