UConn eager for NCAA Tournament redemption

St. John's last chance starts now


BUFFALO — This may sound a little borderline obsessive-compulsive, sure, but then maybe you’ve forgotten the place that Connecticut basketball plays in the daily lives of the state’s citizenry. Perhaps you’ve forgotten the man who coaches them, a prince of coaching royalty who nevertheless coaches every minute as if someone is going to lock the gym forever on him.

Back in June, on the Storrs campus, folks started noticing something around the basketball offices. There were T-shirts sprouting up with “45:07” on them. The scoreboard clock at Gampel Pavilion was frozen with four digits — 45:07. Screen savers would have that number — “45:07” — bouncing all about their snoozing laptops.

“These guys,” Danny Hurley said Wednesday, “remember.”

Here is what they remember: With 5 minutes and 7 seconds left in the Huskies’ Big East semifinal game at Madison Square Garden on March 12, 2021, UConn led Creighton 53-50, with the winner getting a shot at upstart Georgetown in the finals. But the Bluejays outscored the Huskies, 9-3, won the game 59-56, and probably knocked UConn down a seed line or two in the NCAA.

There, as a 7 seed, UConn was pretty thoroughly outplayed by 10th-seeded Maryland in the East Regional’s first round. And just like that, a season of sweat and toil had vanished. Just like that, their first season back after flailing around the wilderness of the AAC was done, and the feeling was a vast chasm of loss.

All in 45 minutes and 7 seconds.

Head coach Dan Hurley of the Connecticut Huskies addresses the media
Dan Hurley doesn’t need to tell his players what’s at stake in Buffalo.
Getty Images

“That number is stuck in everyone’s brains,” Hurley had said during the summer, smiling a smidge at the notion but deadly serious in its affect. “I know as a coach, sometimes you think you can make a call tomorrow; ‘45:07’ makes me make the call today. Maybe one of our players wants to cut short a lifting session. Then they look to the scoreboard — 45:07 — and they finish their work.”