Connecticut head coach Dan Hurley celebrates during the net cutting after the men's national championship college basketball game against San Diego State in the NCAA Tournament on Monday, April 3, 2023, in Houston. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

UConn Men’s Hoops Now Among the Blue Blood Programs

As the final buzzer sounded at NRG Stadium Monday night, head coach Dan Hurley’s vision of UConn men’s basketball had finally come to fruition.

The Huskies’ 76-59 win over San Diego State marked the program’s fifth national championship since 1999 and its third in the last 12 years. Monday night’s win put the Huskies in elite company, as their fifth championship now ties them with Duke and Indiana for the fourth most college basketball national titles. Only UCLA (11), Kentucky (8) and UNC (6) have more championships.

Calhoun Era

Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun brought the Huskies into national relevance in the early 1990’s. After taking the job in 1986, Calhoun began to build the foundation of what the program has become today. During his time as head coach, the Huskies appeared in four Final Fours including three national championship wins. Calhoun also guided the Huskies to 10 Big East regular season titles and seven Big East tournament titles in his 26-year career at UConn.

The program captured its first national championship in 1999 with a record of 34-2. The Huskies began the year 19-0 and didn’t look back. They clinched both the Big East regular season and tournament titles before going on to win the National Championship over Duke. The team was led by consensus first-team All-American Richard Hamilton.

Its second national title team in 2004 featured seven NBA players. Led by Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon, the Huskies went 33-6. Despite finishing second in the Big East regular season standings, the Huskies won the Big East Tournament before eventually defeating Georgia Tech in the national championship game.

In 2011, the Huskies captured their third national championship and this would be the last under Calhoun. The team finished the regular season with a mediocre in-conference record of 9-9. However, the Huskies caught fire late in the season led by the play of standout guard Kemba Walker. They won five games against four ranked opponents to take home the Big East Title, and they rode that momentum all the way to a national championship win over Butler.

New Head Coach

Following Calhoun’s retirement from coaching in 2012, former UConn guard Kevin Ollie accepted the job as head coach. Ollie served on the Huskies’ coaching staff from 2010-12 before moving to head coach. Ollie led the Huskies to 20 wins in his first season, but the program was suspended from postseason play due to several years of low scores on the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate.

In Ollie’s second season as head coach, he led the Huskies to their fourth national championship. After a solid regular season, UConn entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 7 seed. Surviving in an overtime win over St. Joes to open up the tournament, the Huskies rattled off wins over Villanova, Iowa State, Michigan State and Florida before defeating Kentucky in the National Championship. The Huskies were the first and only seven seed to ever win the NCAA Tournament. After a few subpar years and a pending NCAA investigation, Kevin Ollie was fired for just cause.

Hurley Time

On March 22, 2018, Dan Hurley was hired as the head coach of the program. The Huskies went just 16-17 in Hurley’s first season before postseason play was cancelled due to COVID-19. They then missed the tournament in 2020 and were eliminated in the Round of 64 in 2021 and 2022. However, it all came together for Hurley and the Huskies in 2023. UConn began the year 14-0 and were ranked as high as No. 2 in the AP Top 25. Though, a 3-6 stretch in January almost knocked the Huskies out of the rankings.

The team found its footing despite the tough start in Big East play and finished 13-7 in conference. After getting bounced by Marquette in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament, UConn earned a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Hurley’s squad displayed its dominance all tournament long, winning all six tournament games by double digits. Despite a late rally from San Diego State in the final, the Huskies rallied to a comfortable victory to close out the Aztecs. Standout forward Adama Sanogo received honors as the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player.

The Huskies come in to next season ranked as the way-too-early No. 1 team, according to ESPN.

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