The 2022-23 UConn Huskies go down in history as one of the most dominant teams in NCAA tournament history. Not a single game in the Big Dance gave UConn basketball a serious challenge from the beginning to the end of a game. Each opponent went down like a firefly clipping the outer edge of a candle's flame. Once the Huskies started to heat up, it was effectively over for the other side.
The Iona Gaels, Sant Mary's Gaels, Arkansas Razorbacks, Gonzaga Bulldogs, Miami Hurricanes, and San Diego Aztecs all fell short — way short — of their goal of eliminating UConn. With the Huskies back on top of the world of college basketball, who's to say they can't do it again in 2024? Here are three reasons why Dan Hurley and his Huskies will successfully defend their national title.
3. Dan Hurley is the man
In just his fifth season as head coach of UConn basketball, Hurley has delivered the ultimate goal for the program. But even if the Huskies lost Monday night to the Aztecs, it would still look as though it's just a matter of time before Hurley and the Huskies would reach the top of the college basketball world. The recently concluded season was the third in a row that the Huskies made it to the NCAA tournament. In each of the first two years of that span, the Huskies struck out right in the very first round of the Big Dance.
UConn basketball finally made that huge leap in the 2022 season, culminating in a national title run that saw the Huskies beat each opponent in the NCAA tournament by double-digit points. Under Hurley, the Huskies became a mean machine in 2022, winning the first 14 games of the season. They had a bad stretch to start Big 12 play, losing six of their first 11 games against league rivals, but got it together the rest of the way. Something clicked for UConn. Hurley had the Huskies playing top-level basketball not just on offense but on defense. They finished the season third in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency with 120.8 points per 100 possessions and seventh in adjusted defensive efficiency with just 90.9 points allowed per 100 possessions.
The pieces may be different next season for the Huskies but the man most responsible for UConn's success is still with the team. In Dan Hurley, UConn basketball has a great one.
2. UConn gets fresh stock of elite talent
There will be new faces for UConn basketball in 2024, and they should make Huskies fans even more excited about the team's prospects of winning it all again. At the moment, the Huskies have the fourth-ranked 2023 recruiting class, per 247 Sports. They have secured the commitment of a five-star, three four-stars, and a three-star.
Five-star combo guard Stephon Castle will have an immediate significant role on the team, while four-star shooting guard Solomon Ball and four-star small forward Jayden Ross both carry the immense potential for the Huskies, who should see a great mix of promising additions and experienced holdovers. In the 2022-23 season, UConn basketball only had three seniors on the roster who played alongside six freshmen, two sophomores, and five juniors. Many of those are staying, which means a bunch of Huskies next season have first-hand experience of seeing what it takes to win it all.
1. Old faces are staying to run it back with the Huskies
Jordan Hawkins could be leaving, as this is the perfect time for him to declare for the 2023 NBA Draft. If he ultimately decides to play for another season with UConn basketball, that would give the Huskies' title hopes in 2024 a massive shot in the arm. Adama Sanogo could also be headed to the pros. Sanogo averaged 17.2 points on 60.6 percent shooting from the field, 7.7 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks per game in the last season.
A Sanogo departure would leave a big hole on the roster of the Huskies, but the team should have the personnel to fill the void. Donovan Clingan, the 7-2 backup of Sanogo last season will have a lot more on his plate next season. He should be one of the top players in the nation to watch out for ahead of the 2023-24 campaign. Do-it-all 6-6 guard Andre Jackson could also be returning for another go. Jackson put up 6.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per contest. With the experience he got from UConn's title run and the expected maturity of his game, his package should get scarier next season. At least one of Hawkins, Sanogo, and Jackson returning would be so beneficial for UConn, to say the least.