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‘Only just begun’ | Legendary UConn coach Jim Calhoun speaks to men’s basketball team ahead of Sweet 16

The team booked its ticket to the West Regional in Las Vegas after sidestepping Saint Mary’s for a 70-55 win on Sunday.
Credit: AP
Connecticut's Adama Sanogo (21) drives against Iona's Silas Sunday (33) in the second half of a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 17, 2023, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

STORRS, Conn. — Legendary UConn men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun was on hand Monday night to give the men’s basketball team some final words of encouragement before they jet off to Las Vegas for the NCAA Sweet 16.

“Right now, you’re 80 minutes to Houston,” Calhoun told the team during a recent practice. “Now, I know it’s longer – 30 minutes of basketball. You’re going to a weekend trip, 80 minutes. If I were you, I can smell it.”

The team shared a video on social media.

Calhoun won three national championships as head coach of the UConn men’s basketball team – in 1999, 2004 and 2011. He is one of just six coaches in NCAA Division I history with three or more titles.

“You know, guaranteed 50 years in basketball, some guys I’ve had up there that you know – you’re more than good enough to do it,” he said. “Bring yourself and bring everyone else with you. You’ve got something special going on. I can feel it.”

He continued: “When you are good this late now, it’s a great sign.”

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The Huskies are back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2014 – the year they ultimately won the whole tournament. They are looking like the beasts of the Big East again.

The team booked its ticket to the West Regional in Las Vegas after sidestepping Saint Mary’s for a 70-55 win on Sunday. Next up is eighth-seeded Arkansas, which knocked off No. 1 seed Kansas.

“Eventually our depth, elite rebounding, top-20 defense, top-five offense, with the depth, I think we’re able to break some teams,” said UConn coach Dan Hurley, a former Seton Hall guard from New Jersey who was hired in 2018.

The team’s last championship run in 2014 came as a member of the American Athletic Conference, the league birthed from the Big East’s football-basketball breakup in 2013.

UConn went with the football schools and played seven years in the AAC, where its football program floundered while its vaunted men’s basketball team slipped into irrelevance.

With Hurley in charge, it has risen again, taking another step after being one-and-done in the NCAA Tournament the past two years at a place that never lost its lofty standards.

“I think in the first and even second round of tournaments, it’s more of a burden to play at UConn than it is an advantage,” Hurley said of the pressure.

These Huskies were up to the challenge.


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