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After back-to-back national titles, the UConn winning machine turns attention to historic three-peat

As the clock ticked down on UConn’s season, the celebrations were in full swing. After a dominant performance, the Huskies had romped to another double-digit victory – this time taking home the silverware, too.

Monday’s 75-60 win over the Purdue Boilermakers wrapped up UConn’s second successive NCAA men’s basketball national championship title, cementing the Huskies in the pantheon of great college teams.

The first back-to-back champion since Florida in 2006 and 2007 and only the third since 1973, UConn earned its titles in emphatic fashion, winning all six 2024 March Madness games by 13+ points for a second straight year.

Last year, the Huskies became the first program in men’s Division I history to accomplish the feat.

“I mean you can’t even wrap your mind around it because you just know how hard this tournament is,” head coach Dan Hurley told reporters after the victory over Purdue. “What a special group of people, a special coaching staff and incredible group of players.

“UConn’s a special place this time of year and they give us all the resources we need to do it like this in March and April.”

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Dominance

The UConn winning machine was developed in the 1990s under legendary head coach Jim Calhoun, who brought the program’s first men’s national championship to Storrs in 1999.

He went on to win a further two in 2004 and 2011 before Kevin Ollie won the Huskies’ fourth in 2014 after Calhoun retired. UConn then finally returned to the mountain top in 2023 under Hurley, winning the program’s fifth national title and reclaiming its spot as the team to beat in men’s college basketball.

Although the Huskies lost three of their main contributors before last season – with Adama Sanogo, Jordan Hawkins and Andre Jackson Jr. all moving to the NBA – it was more of the same this year for Hurley’s squad.

The team’s guard duo of Tristen Newton and Stephon Castle has been almost unstoppable for opposing defenses, while the emergence of Donovan Clingan at center has provided the size needed to dominate up front.

All-America guard Newton had 20 points and seven assists in the championship game, while Castle added 15 points. Clingan had 11 points and did his best to slow down Purdue’s star player and his opposite number, Zach Edey, who finished with 37 points and 10 rebounds in the losing effort.

The back court of Tristen Newton (left) and Stephon Castle (right) has driven the Huskies on their back-to-back title-winning run, although both are now NBA-bound. - Sarah Stier/Getty Images
The back court of Tristen Newton (left) and Stephon Castle (right) has driven the Huskies on their back-to-back title-winning run, although both are now NBA-bound. - Sarah Stier/Getty Images

UConn was the most well-rounded team in the competition, boasting the nation’s best point differential as a result of the most efficient offense in the country and a top-five defense.

The Huskies have now won six national championships, joint third all-time in men’s NCAA Division I basketball. All six have come since 1999, more than any other men’s team in that span, and second only during that time to the school’s women’s team (10).

How have they achieved this level of success? For Hurley, the answer’s simple.

“We’re the best program in the country right now,” Hurley told CNN Sport’s Coy Wire. “We’ve got all the right players.”

Three in a row?

With back-to-back titles secure, the question now is: can UConn achieve a historic three-peat?

No team has achieved the feat in the men’s game since UCLA did so in the 1960s and 70s, winning seven straight national championships between 1967 and 1973 under head coach John Wooden.

Such is the nature of college basketball, programs have to consistently find fresh sources of talent as players declare for the NBA or transfer to different schools.

UConn is no different, with Newton, Castle and Clingan all projected to be drafted in the 2024 NBA Draft. Newton and Clingan in particular are highly sought after players.

Clingan excelled in his first season as UConn's starting center. - Sarah Stier/Getty Images
Clingan excelled in his first season as UConn's starting center. - Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Hurley will have to conjure up some of his recruiting magic to bring in the next wave of title challengers for the three-peat. But in the immediate aftermath of Monday’s victory, he was full of praise for the players who are leaving this offseason.

“I mean, incredible. The legacy they’re leaving in a place that’s hard to leave a legacy,” Hurley said to CNN’s Wire.

“Just a place that’s impossible to be historical players, to have legacies that are as good as anyone that’s ever put the uniform on. It’s hard to do at UConn, so couldn’t be prouder and we’re going to miss them a lot.”

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