It’s extremely difficult for men’s college basketball teams to reach back-to-back Final Fours, let alone win them in this day in age. The level of roster attrition that occurs every offseason makes it hard for even a blue blood program to maintain that high level of play for multiple seasons a time.
Well, UConn didn’t get that memo. Because this is still the best team in the country, and I don’t see how they’re not in Glendale this April.
The No. 1 Huskies lost the likes of Adama Sanogo, Jordan Hawkins, and Andre Jackson Jr. from last year’s national championship team, and yet are somehow ahead of where they were exactly one year ago. Losses to Kansas and Seton Hall are the only blemishes on their schedule so far as they’ve mowed through what has been a pretty challenging slate. They’ve scored double-digit wins over highly ranked opponents like North Carolina and Creighton and have proven that they can close out close games like Saturday’s 66-65 victory over Villanova. They have six Quad 1 victories on their resume heading into the new week, trailing only Purdue in that category.
Connecticut’s lineup has been killer as nearly all of their starting five are averaging double-digit points. Cam Spencer and Tristen Newton have been a complementary backcourt duo while Alex Karaban gives them great floor spacing and can play the 5 when called upon. And then there’s 7’2” Donovan Clingan, who is getting back up to speed after missing five games with a foot injury.
Like last season, UConn plays at a slow, but deliberate pace and boasts the third-most efficient offense in the country. The team’s effective field goal percentage is an impressive 56.8% and they’re taking advantage of a high offensive rebounding rate to give themselves more opportunities to score. When they’re inside the arc, they’re money, shooting 59.7% from two. And on the other end, they’re limiting opponents to just 43.1% shooting from two and are making things difficult down low with one of the highest block rates in the country.
And yet, there’s still some value to be had with their chances to go all the way. The Huskies are listed at +1100 to win the national championship at DraftKings Sportsbook, tied with Arizona for the third-shortest odds in the country. They were a brutal bad beat heave from covering in five of their last six games, three of them on the road. The only teams ahead of them are Purdue and Houston and with all due respect, do you trust those teams to go on a longer run than the defending champs??
We haven’t had a back-to-back champ since Florida pulled it off in the late 2000’s. Given how the season is playing out in Storrs, this Huskies team could grab that baton.