UConn sweeps Illinois in the Elite Eight and is on the verge of an all-time dominant American sports history. | Top Vip News

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BOSTON – Rarely in this sport, and in this beloved, bold and beautiful group of tournaments, have we seen such a fierce team. This is ridiculously overbearing. I’m talking about the Connecticut Huskies, who are redefining the boundaries of our imagination with each passing game.

Rarely have we seen a regional final go from seemingly close to as absurdly non-competitive as what happened Saturday night in Boston.

For nearly 20 minutes, Illinois was fooled into thinking it had any hope of a chance against Connecticut, the overall No. 1 seed, in the East Region final. Then the second half began, the dam burst, the ground collapsed on Illinois as UConn went on a historic 30-0 run that rocketed it to a second straight Final Four, cruising at the speed of sound.

The final: Huskies 77, Fighting Illini 52.

UConn’s historic NCAA Tournament breakout continues.

The game went from 23-23 with 1:23 left in the first half to 53-23 in favor of the Huskies with 13:17 left. They played the last 13 minutes out of obligation, nothing more. A tsunami hit the coast of Boston this afternoon, and as a result, Illinois was wiped out and kicked out of this group.

Let me repeat: a 30-0 streak. IN THE ELITE EIGHT. Against the country’s number 2 offense. The Huskies held Illinois to a season-low 23 first-half points on just 0.73 points per possession, and the Fighting Illini went more than 45 minutes in real time without a point.

It was so loud that even Larry David, sitting in the front row about 30 feet from the UConn bench, was screeching at Hurley with about six minutes left on the clock.

“Shame on you, Hurley! Eliminate those starters! Stop training!” David interrupted. “The game is over!”

Even when the game is over, the fight is never over for Hurley or his team. He said Friday that this group “feels different.”

“We broke through last year. We’ve set a standard,” he said. “Maybe we feel a little less pressure as an organization because we feel like now we’ve established a level of where our program is, that we’ll be in this place in the future. Obviously, this year and in the future.”

On Saturday, with his last plunder, we all see it and we are amazed. Hurley’s program is the best of the best. But even if this type of run isn’t repeatable in the coming years (although Hurley will surely try), UConn’s championship hopes are largely repeatable. They seem inevitable.

“These guys play every possession like it’s the end of the world,” Hurley said after Saturday night’s win.

UConn went from averaging 0.89 points per possession in the first half to 1.12 by the end of the game.

“We didn’t even shoot well,” Hurley said with a laugh.

The Huskies were 3 of 17 from 3-point range and won by 25. A joke.

The Huskies, who last year set an NCAA tournament record by winning six games by more than 13 points and an average of 20.0 points, have beaten four teams in this tournament, in the East Region, which many considered the most difficult for selection. Sunday: by an average of 27.8 points and with a differential of +111 points in four games.

That is the fourth-best point difference heading into a Final Four in history (Kentucky 1993, Duke 1999 and Kentucky 1996 the only ones with a larger margin). The Huskies are the only school to have won 10 consecutive NCAA Tournament games by double digits, and they have done so by winning each of them by at least 13 points. What’s more, Saturday was UConn’s 25th win in its last 26 games. They are making the top 10 teams look like 16 seeds.

After UConn beat Northwestern in the second round, Hurley walked into the locker room and told his team, “I don’t know how we’re beating these teams in this environment. You guys are special.”

Special team. Dominant career. He is two victories away from writing a legacy among the all-time greats in the history of college sports.

The 30-0 storm will become he Topic of conversation/most remembered thing from this game. We will remember it for decades. But before the avalanche, UConn dominated because it was led by the biggest, baddest man in the building: Donovan Clingan. He gutted Illinois, finishing with 22 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks, and the media in press row agreed that the official block count might be one or two fewer than he actually had.

“I thought I was seven,” Clingan told me later.

The defining sequence, the moment when the game was over long before it was officially over, came with an outrageous block by Clingan, and then led to a dunk at the other end.

Clingan has had some standout games, but this could be the pinnacle of his two-year career. Illinois only scored 14 points on 5-of-38 shooting in 22 minutes when Clingan was on the court. UConn was +29 with Clingan on the court. Truly absurd statistics. His impact could be felt in the five states bordering Massachusetts. He joined Danny Manning as the only players to have a game of 20+ points, 10+ rebounds, five+ blocks and multiple steals at this point in the tournament.

“Let’s get out of here! It’s time to go to Phoenix!” Clingan yelled at Hurley in the tunnel as the two headed to a raucous locker room.

The Huskies are the first team to reach the Final Four back-to-back since North Carolina in 2016-17. They are the first reigning champions to do so since Florida in 2006-07.

And in the Huskies’ last eight tournament games, they’ve been trailing by just 5 minutes and 50 seconds. They are the only school to win consecutive Elite Eight games by more than 25 points (Connecticut defeated Gonzaga 82-54 a year ago).

Entering Saturday, Illinois had scored 70-plus points in 21 straight games, 60-plus points in 70 straight games. He finished with 52. Vaporized. And just like that, UConn just became the seventh team to hold all four of its opponents under 60 points in the run-up to a Final Four.

Terrence Shannon Jr., who began Saturday scoring more than 25 points in seven straight games, finished with eight points on 2-of-12 shooting. Stephon Castle closed it. Unfactored and weakened under pressure from UConn.

“Steph, there’s a reason why in the basketball world people are so excited about Steph. He’s a winning player and has an incredible NBA career ahead of him,” Hurley said.

Hurley attributed the team’s performance not only to his players, but also to the pregame preparation and presentation of assistant Luke Murray, who has outplayed so many scouts for the Huskies this season, along with assistant Kimani Young.

Connecticut will fly to Phoenix in the same situation it began this tournament: as the highest-ranked team with the best chance of winning it all. The main difference in the last two weeks is how UConn went from being a great team to having historic potential. It stands on the precipice of history. The history of this team transcends college basketball.

“We have NBA-level players that are just willing to share and have created an incredible culture,” Hurley said. “We will be difficult to beat.”

Difficult? Almost impossible. It is the seventh Final Four for this blue blood. Somehow, Connecticut’s story keeps growing, getting bigger, better, more unreal. You’re not supposed to be that good in 2024 in men’s college basketball.

I’ll keep saying it until UConn wins the title or someone surprises the world. There may be a team that can beat UConn. But I have no idea who will beat UConn in this tournament.

We head to the Final Four with a team capable of becoming not only the best UConn team of all time, but also one of the best teams in the history of college basketball.

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