The 2023 NCAA Tournament concluded Monday night with UConn beating San Diego State 76-59 to claim the program's , with all five tournament wins coming since Jim Calhoun's first title in 1999. The Huskies have announced their return to the with a win that caps a historic tournament run, with plenty of ways to consider this 2023 title season as one of the best in the modern era.
Prior to the 2023 tournament, UConn had not won an NCAA Tournament game since 2016 and undergone both coaching and conference changes since in that drought. This was a program that lost its footing in the national landscape for a few years, but has steadied under Dan Hurley and now he and this 2023 team get to claim their own stake to the title-winning history of UConn basketball.
With both the 2023 title run and UConn's storied history in mind, some notable accomplishments that accompany the Huskies' win against San Diego State:
UConn is the best on title night, especially in Texas
UConn improved to 5-0 all-time in NCAA Tournament national finals, which is the best winning percentage and the most wins among undefeated teams in the title game. Interestingly enough, four of the five title game wins have come in the state of Texas and this is the second UConn title in Houston, the other coming in 2011. That 2011 UConn team is also the last team to start the season unranked in the preseason AP Top 25 poll and finish as national champions.
Dominant in the tournament
UConn is the first team ever to win six games by at least 13 points in the NCAA Tournament, and the first since 1981 Indiana to win every game by at least 13 points, as the Hoosiers only had five games in that title run. One aspect of the Huskies' excellence in this tournament has been the team's performance on the defensive end, where they became the second team ever to hold six straight opponents to under 40% from the field in the tournament. The defense even got better as the tournament wore on, as no team from the Sweet 16 on shot better than Gonzaga's 33.3% in the Elite Eight.
Marching through March
UConn's margin of victory in each game in the NCAA Tournament
|First round||Defeated (13) Iona 87-63||+24|
|Second round||Defeated (5) Saint Mary's 70-55||+15|
|Sweet 16||Defeated (8) Arkansas 88-65||+23|
|Elite Eight||Defeated (3) Gonzaga 82-54||+28|
|Final Four||Defeated (5) Miami 72-59||+13|
|Championship game||Defeated (5) San Diego State 76-59||+17|
|NCAA Tournament total||Margin of victory||+120|
Put Adama Sanogo among UConn greats
Sanogo had 17 points in the national championship game on the way toof the Final Four. That brought him to 118 points for the entire tournament, which ranks fifth all-time in UConn history. Each of the four players ahead of him were all the leading scorers, like Sanogo, for a national championship team. That's Rip Hamilton with 145 points in 1999, Kemba Walker with 141 points in 2011, Shabazz Napier with 127 points in 2014 and Ben Gordon with 127 points in 2004.
Dan Hurley made a comment that the Huskies' only struggles this season, a 2-6 run from late December to late January, came when they started Big East play. The Big East, Hurley argues, is the toughest conference in the country and the splits between UConn's conference record (13-7) and non-conference record (17-0) at least speaks to something unique about this Huskies' squad. One explanation that's probably a mix of both the Big East's strength and UConn's championship quality is how the combination of size, length, athleticism and intensity can be a real shock to the system when facing this 2023 Huskies squad. For coaches, and players, who have seen this group develop into the title contenders they became the style of play might not have been as disorienting as those non-conference opponents at the beginning and end of the season. One thing is for sure though, no one will be caught off guard playing Hurley's Huskies in 2024.
Joining the elite
No team has won three national titles under three coaches in a span of 13 years, and by winning a fifth NCAA Tournament title UConn moves into a tie with Duke and Indiana on the all-time list. Only UCLA (11), Kentucky (8) and North Carolina (6) have more titles than the Huskies, and all of those titles have been won in a shorter window than any of those other programs in the top six. It's been difficult to put a pin in UConn as a blue blood of the sport even in the midst of obvious success, perhaps because of the coaching turnover in recent years. But in reality the 2023 run was important because it marked a return to the biggest games in the tournament, making even the Sweet 16 for the first time since the 2014 title run. Now that UConn has cycled up again, it's deserving of the blue blood recognition as a program that has won more than anyone else in the last quarter century and projects to continue its success in the immediate future.
UConn 2023 Championship gear now available
The Connecticut Huskies have won their fifth men's basketball national championship and the first since 2014. Celebrate this historic win at the end of a wild tournament with UConn Championship Gear. Get shirts, hats, and more here now.
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