The last three UConn men’s teams to finish November undefeated (excluding the shortened 2020–21 season) have gone to the Final Four. The last two have won the national championship.
The 2022–23 Huskies will enter December without a loss. And if an impressive weekend at the Phil Knight Invitational was any indication, this year’s team has a very real chance of going to a Final Four … and maybe all the way.
It’s true UConn’s schedule in Portland didn’t match it up with an elite team. The Huskies took down a severely banged-up Oregon and a slightly overmatched Iowa State in two of their three games after the Cyclones upset North Carolina. Alabama could well get there, but the Crimson Tide aren’t in that category just yet. And before that, UConn played five buy games, all against far inferior competition. But there’s something to be said for UConn’s consistent dominance: In all eight games this season, the Huskies have had a 95% or better win probability with five minutes to go, per KenPom. UConn hasn’t trailed in the second half this season and, outside of a few nervy moments in a tied game against the Tide, hasn’t even played a high-stress minute of basketball. During a time of year that produces unpredictable results and surprising struggles against lower competition, the Huskies have rolled along untouched.
Since turning the program around, Dan Hurley’s good-but-not-great Connecticut teams have often been able to win only in rockfights. They haven’t necessarily shot poorly on a percentage basis from deep, but they have been much more reliant on pounding you on the offensive glass and defending at a high level. This year’s group is different, as evidenced by its weekend in Portland. It’s much more capable from deep, like the 17-for-37 from beyond the arc it shot to blow Oregon out of the water in Game 1 in Portland. Nearly 44% of the Huskies’ shots have been from three; that number didn’t top 35% in each of the past two years. The Alabama win showed this group’s ability to go on big runs and put a game out of reach, something Hurley highlighted as a difference-maker between this year’s group and ones of old. And Sunday’s victory against Iowa State was a vintage Hurley effort, dominating the glass 48–19 and tallying 21 offensive rebounds (an absurd 64% of its misses).
What’s more, the Huskies showed how many different players can beat you. UConn had three leading scorers in three games: Tristen Newton against Oregon, Adama Sanogo against Alabama and Donovan Clingan against Iowa State. Clingan dominated the Cyclones’ experienced front line and was named the Invitational’s MVP as a result, helping UConn cruise despite getting virtually no production from Sanogo or Jordan Hawkins because of foul trouble.