UConn head coach Dan Hurley is confident the Big East Tournament and the entire postseason will bring the best to his team, as they face Providence in Thursday’s quarterfinal round at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
NEW YORK — UConn carries the weight of championship hopes and playing in a program with a rich history of postseason success into Thursday’s opening round of the Big East tournament.
The program’s heyday is more in the past than it is now.
In coach Dan Hurley’s first four seasons at the Storrs, the seven-time Big East Tournament champions, the Huskies, had never advanced to the semifinals of a conference tournament, including their previous home of the American Athletic Conference.
Prior to Harley, UConn had won only one AAC Tournament Championship (2016) in seven years in the league. The Huskies last emerged from the annual Big He East Division battle, winning the tournament title in 2011.
They hope to clinch the title this week, starting in the quarterfinals at No. 2 home Madison Square Garden at 2:30 p.m. Thursday against No. 5 seed Providence (21-10). is determined.
“I really want to win,” said junior Adama Sanogo. “March hasn’t been good for us in the last few years.
Eight-of-nine winners, the No. 4-seeded Huskies (24-7) are playing just enough to pull it off.
Their ability to carry out their duties may depend on how they handle the dazzling spotlights and pressured stages.
“Some programs come into these tournaments with more pressure,” Hurley said. “The secret to playing at UConn and coaching at UConn is to make sure that the players feel really joyful and excited about playing, and that extra bit of history and tradition of playing great in these tournaments. Try not to carry it as a burden.
“That’s probably something we have to deal with more than people who have no history and tradition to play against. It can’t be our anchor. It’s not that I’m too nervous to play hard, but it’s not that I’m too nervous to play hard.”
Hurley said earlier this week that finding that balance has been difficult.
This team is different, Hurley said, adding, “I think this group has attitude and confidence.
Harleys and Huskies spot on Thursday.
Providence is the first obstacle. The Monks, who ended the regular season on a two-game losing streak, have concerns of their own. They’ve lost their defense and he’s allowed 80-plus points in three of his last four games.
“They went through a little bit of what we went through[in January],” Hurley said. And playing in New York is a fresh start and reset …we know we will see the best versions of them. You can see.”
The Flyers proved they can beat the Huskies with a 73-61 victory in their first meeting at home on January 4 and an 87-69 loss in a rematch at the Storrs on February 22. both games.
“They’re a good team, they’re a tough team. But they’re getting in our way.”
A first-team selection in the Big East, Hawkins has the potential to make a big difference. He grows into a deadly offensive weapon and plays with a fearless spirit.
“Hawkins doesn’t lose sleep before these games,” Hurley said.
The Big East tournament will be a new experience for nearly everyone on the UConn roster. Only Sanogo and junior Andre Jackson have ever played in a postseason event.
The Huskies believe they can handle postseason pressure.
“I don’t think so,” said Redshirt freshman Alex Caravan. “I’m excited to enter a new season where you lose and you’re done. I’m looking forward to it, but I don’t feel the pressure.”
position: Madison Square Garden, New York
Tips: 2:30pm (FS1)
record: UConn 24-7, Providence 21-10
Last game: UConn beat Villanova 71-59 on Saturday. Providence lost to Seton Hall on Saturday, 82-58.
Possible starters: UConn, senior 6-5 guard Tristen Newton (10.1 points, 4.2 rebs, 4.5 assists), 6-6 jr. guard Andre Jackson (6.8 pts, 6.4 rebs, 4.3 ass), 6-5 so. guard Jordan Hawkins ( 16.4 pts, 3.9 rebs), 6-8 r-fr. forward Alex Caravan (9.7 pts, 4.4 rebs), 6-9 jr. forward Adama Sanogo (16.9 pts, 7.2 rebs)
providence, 5-10 Glad Guard Jared Bynum (10.1 points, 4.4 assists), 6-3 Glad Guard Noah Rock (11 points, 2.4 RBI), 6-3, etc. Guard Devin Carter (13.3 points, 5 RBI), 6-7 and more. Forward Bryce Hopkins (16.1 pts, 8.5 rebs), 6-8 r-sr. Forward Ed Crosswell (13.4 pts, 7.7 rebs)
Pay attention to: In the Big East Tournament Quarterfinals, UConn was seeded 4th and PC 5th. …his first matchup between the two programs in a Big East tournament since 1998, and his fifth overall. … SERIES: UConn led the series 46-31 and split the regular season meetings, each winning at home. The team is 2-2 in league tournaments. … notable stat: rebounds. The Huskies won 20 board battles and lost two. … Top reserves: 6-3 Jr. Guard Arin Breed (5 points, 2.5 revs). …The Monks won his two league tournament titles (1994, 2014) and the Huskies won him seven (2011, 2004, 2002, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1990). won the league tournament title. … NCAA NET Ratings: #6 UConn, #53 PC. … The game will include his selection of his three Big East First Teams of Hopkins, Hawkins and Sanogo. …UConn has played his 127th match with his MSG and holds a record of 67 wins and 59 losses. … Hot: Jackson is averaging 11 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists during his five-game win streak at UConn. Cold: The Huskies have his double-digit turnovers in his 10th straight game. …In 35 Big East tournament appearances, UConn is his 38-28. PC is always 25-39. …Hawkins has scored 20 or more points 13 times this season…In five straight wins, UConn averaged 81 points and he allowed 65.5. … NEXT: If UConn wins, it will face No. 8 seed Marquette or No. 8 St. He Johns in the semifinals on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
– Gavin Keef