Home USA News Rick Pitino expects ‘lethal’ UConn to repeat amid continued March Madness dominance

Rick Pitino expects ‘lethal’ UConn to repeat amid continued March Madness dominance

Rick Pitino expects ‘lethal’ UConn to repeat amid continued March Madness dominance

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After dominating March Madness last year, the UConn Huskies are doing much of the same this year.

UConn won their fifth national title last year, and in their six games, they won each game by at least 13 points.

They are halfway through going back-to-back, and in their first three games in this year’s tournament, they’ve beaten their opponents by 39, 17 and 30. Even in that 75-58 victory over No. 8 Northwestern, they led by as many as 30.


Dan Hurley and Rick Pitino

Head coach Rick Pitino of the Iona Gaels shakes hands with head coach Dan Hurley of the Connecticut Huskies before the first round of the 2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament held at MVP Arena on March 17, 2023, in Albany, New York.  (C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

In their last nine March Madness games, they’ve won by an average of 28.9 points, which explains why they are the highest-ranked team in the tournament.

The Huskies have a shot at making the Final Four on Saturday against No. 3 Illinois, and they enter as 8.5-point favorites.

They are 34-3 this season, and Rick Pitino, the head coach of Big East rival St. John’s, is predicting a repeat.

“I don’t see a weakness,” Pitino told the New York Post. “They have to have an off shooting night, and you have to have a great shooting night to beat them.”

UConn players celebrate

UConn guard Tristen Newton (2) and his teammates react in the final seconds of the second half of a second-round college basketball game against Northwestern in the NCAA Tournament, Sunday, March 24, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

“It’s going to take a special performance,” he added of the Illini’s chances of winning. “They can play in so many different ways. [Cam] Spencer’s the head of the snake, because he’s always in motion, he’s always creating the pass that leads to a great shot, he’s always getting the offensive rebound that’s key. But then you got [Tristen] Newton and [Stephon] Castle and [Donovan] Clingan who are all [projected] first-round draft choices, and they’re all tremendous in their own right.

“Then they bring in a backup center [Samson Johnson] who is as good as a [backup] center as there is in college basketball, and he’s playing great. Then you have [Alex] Karaban, the rest of the guys they bring off the bench. They’re a lethal basketball team.”

St. John’s was snubbed out of the tournament despite ranking 25th in the KenPom rankings, the highest-rated team to miss the tournament. They lost to UConn, 95-90, in the Big East tournament semifinals.

With a win, it will be UConn’s seventh Final Four appearance, and the first time they’ve ever made it in back-to-back years. This is their 13th time in the Elite Eight, and they had not made it in consecutive years since 1998 and 1999.

Donovan Clingan after dunking

UConn center Donovan Clingan reacts after dunking during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the championship against Marquette of the Big East Conference tournament, Saturday, March 16, 2024, in New York.  (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)


Pitino was the head coach of Iona last year, UConn’s first opponent en route to winning the championship.


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