HOUSTON — The ball was on the baseline and in a nearly impossible spot, the pass had to go through body bushes and be sent to the perimeter where Alex Caravan was clear of everyone.Only UConn’s Tristen Newton I knew where the 6’8″ sniper was. Even though his lower body was inches from out of bounds, he fired the ball exactly where it should have gone.
Shake with a whistle.
Thus ended the first half as UConn demolished Miami 72-59 in Saturday’s second domestic men’s semifinal.
If Miami didn’t know it before, they certainly had to know in the moment: UConn had too many choices, too many answers. And with each game on the march through Monday night, the Huskies have proven they can’t do well.
they are inevitable. And San Diego State University is next to investigate.
Sure, I’ll warn you that anything can happen in a 40-minute basketball game with college players, but throughout this NCAA tournament, UConn will be anything but the best team in the country. There was no indication that there was.
And it wasn’t particularly intimate.
In a college basketball season defined by parity, there’s 40 minutes left before UConn runs through the entire bracket without even a hint of drama. Margins of victory: 24, 15, 23, 28, and 13, the last one still pending. A tournament as clean and dominant as this simply doesn’t happen, even with some of the greatest teams in history who have emerged as champions.
“When we’re playing harder than other teams, that’s our calling card, being a plus nine on the glass, playing elite defense, and having a lot of answers on offense. I don’t think there’s any place we’re weak when it comes to the team,” said coach Dan Hurley. “And we’re deep, so we can body blow our opponents and keep putting together quality possessions on both ends. It had a cumulative effect and we were able to beat our opponents .”
Maybe the Aztecs could be the team that finally digs deeper into UConn. However, the Husky is so well built that many things go wrong to put it in a losing position.
Should Andre Jackson be nailed to the bench after committing two fouls in the first five minutes on a do-it-yourself wing guarding the opponent’s best player? No problem.
Perhaps the best shooter in the country, Jordan Hawkins, made one basket in the first half after spending the last two days in bed sick?
These are not issues that plague Harley. He can flip lineups to play with his three big bodies, each doing something different, collectively destroying what opponents want to do offensively.
“Today we had completely lost our identity,” Hurley said.
Miami came back from a 13-point deficit in the elite eight game against Texas, but it was something else entirely when Caraban’s 3-pointer went through the net on the final possession of the first half.
Miami, a standout team that won the ACC regular season title, was simply out of that league. Against UConn, they had probably only a handful of possessions the entire game and were hitting good shots from half-court offense.
The rest of the time they were forced to score arms and bodies that always seemed to be in place.Even making layups was an uphill battle for Miami. Combined with the relentlessness and intensity that Harley demands in every possession, playing UConn doesn’t look like much fun.
“It all starts with defense,” Hawkins said. “Defensively, we’ve been very good, stealing matchups, rebounding the ball and getting out in transition. We’re playing to our strengths.”
Perhaps the better question at this point is why the Huskies have lost eight games this season?
Hurley explained that UConn’s six-game losing streak from New Year’s Eve to the end of January was the result of a defensive gap and a close game in the Big East against a team that knew them well. Once they finished the toughest part of their schedule and started defending again, the Huskies were back with a team that started the season 14-0, including a 15-point win over Alabama in November.
Perhaps that should have been a clue that UConn was ready to roll despite being the 4th seed.
“I think the group has shown their quality time and time again in terms of the level at which we can play,” Hurley said. It’s a battle-tested team.”
And now UConn is on the verge of winning its fifth national title in the last 24 years. This is truly an unthinkable run for a program that was built by Jim Calhoun, fell into disarray during the Kevin Ory era, and is now fully restored by Harley.
If the Huskies win, they will have as many championships in history as Indiana and Duke, and more championships this century than Kansas, Kentucky and UCLA combined.
That’s a big deal for a program without a historic blue-blood label, but UConn doesn’t need dusty banner verification to justify its place in the college basketball hierarchy.
Right now, no one is doing it well. One more win and it’s indisputable.