UConn men's notes: Hurley and Northwestern's Collins have a lot in common

Mar. 24—NEW YORK — Northwestern coach Chris Collins marvels about UConn's togetherness, toughness, competitiveness and unselfishness.

And that was before Northwestern played UConn in Sunday night's NCAA tournament East Region second round game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Collins credits coach Dan Hurley for UConn's team-first mentality and toughness.

"It's a direct result of them following the personality of their coach," Collins said. "Really, that's who Danny is. Danny has done an amazing job getting a talented group, a collection of guys, to really buy in to each other, to play as a team, to be unselfish, to not really care who scores, to move the ball, find the right shots.

"You know it's very apparent they're a very together group and they are a tough, competitive group. And when I say those characteristics, you think of their coach. So I think that Danny sets the tone with that. His leadership, his ability to mold his program in his personality is really impressive. I think his players are just an extension of who he is. That's probably the best way I can describe it."

Collins also is impressed with UConn's balance.

All five starters are averaging double figures for points, making the Huskies a difficult team to defend.

Playing in the Big Ten, Northwestern has faced some of the best teams in the country including Purdue, a national championship contender, and Illinois both twice.

UConn ranks right up there.

"We played great teams," Collins said. "UConn is as good as any of them. I mean, arguably, they are the best team in the country. I've watched them from afar. I marvel at the team they have and how they play together and how tough they are and competitive. And they show up every night. Their balance is really something to admire."

Entering Sunday's action, UConn had won seven straight NCAA tournament games by at least 13 points, the most in March Madness history.

Like father, like son

As sons of coaches, UConn's Dan Hurley and Northwestern's Chris Collins have a lot in common.

They both basically grew up in gyms.

Bob Hurley Sr. had a Hall of Fame career as high school coach in New Jersey while Doug Collins had a long and distinguished career as a NBA coach.

"We obviously have fathers in common," Hurley said. "I don't think there's a coach that I probably could relate to more in our game than Chris, especially the way our two dads coach. I mean, our two dads poured every part of themselves and coaches with such incredible emotion, passion, intensity.

"Watching his dad at games get so emotional and knowing how my dad feels at my games, I just think that there's probably not a coach besides my brother that I can relate to in our profession than Chris. We're so similar in so many ways, it feels like you're looking in the mirror."

Hurley remembers watching Chris Collins play for Duke at the 1994 Final Four in Charlotte. Collins had a terrific career (1992-96) as a Blue Devil guard and played a season with Dan's brother Bobby.

Collins, who is in his 11th season at Northwestern, has built a close bond with his father through their love of basketball.

"We've had such an amazing relationship through the game our whole lives, and it's special to have him be able to come to my games and watch my teams compete," Chris Collins said.

Big East teams march on

Some Big East coaches and fans were critical of the NCAA selection committee when only three league teams earned bids, with one being automatic qualifier UConn due to winning the tournament title.

Prior to Sunday night's March Madness action, Creighton and Marquette were still alive, earning spots in the Sweet Sixteen.

Third-seeded Creighton advanced with an 86-73 double overtime win over No. 3 Oregon Saturday night while No. 2 Marquette defeated No. 10 Colorado, 81-77, on Sunday, making Big East teams 5-0 overall.

The Big East has the best record in NCAA tournament play at 18-4 in the last two seasons than any conference.

Creighton will face No. 2 Tennessee in the Midwest Region Sweet Sixteen while Marquette will play No. 11 North Carolina State in the South Region

If UConn beat Northwestern Sunday night, it would play either No. 5 San Diego State or No. 13 Yale in the East Region Sweet Sixteen Thursday in Boston.

News and notes

UConn freshman Stephon Castle on his role as a defensive stopper on the perimeter: "I'm just buying into what coach asked me to do, knowing what my abilities are and that I'm capable of it." ... The Huskies attempted Sunday to advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the second straight season and 19th time in program history. .... Sophomore Donovan Clingan's NCAA tournament got off to a strong start as he had 19 points and eight rebounds in the first round win over Stetson on Friday. In six March Madness games last season, he averaged 5.8 points and 5.0 rebounds.