Busting Brackets

Beauty And UConn's Beast: How Huskies offense gives them chance to repeat

Xavier v Connecticut
Xavier v Connecticut / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

In a sport with massive yearly roster turnover, where teams are reliant on the continued growth and focus of young men under the age of twenty-three, it makes sense that there hasn't been a repeat National Champion since Florida in 2007. Until perhaps this year, as 2024 UConn has the best chance of any defending champion since those legendary Gators.

Why are the Huskies headed for a #1 seed and the chance to overcome history? Above all, it is due to the nation's best offense (per Kenpom), a group that is special, not due solely to a special scheme or a transcendent player, but rather a diverse array of ways to beat you.

UConn's offense has let them down just once, a mid-December loss to Seton Hall. After having the pleasure of seeing the Huskies in person over the weekend portion of the Big East Tournament, it's evident why. Led by perhaps the best guard in the nation in Tristen Newton, UConn has the core playmaker necessary to keep them around in every game.

The Huskies victory over Marquette in the Big East Championship Game displayed an uncommon method of attack, a deliberate, brutish game, with everything centered around Newton getting the ball to UConn's beast in the middle, 7'2" Donovan Clingan. Clingan led the way with twenty-two points and sixteen rebounds, on a super efficient seven for twelve from the field, all while battling the Golden Eagles' own All-Conference big, Oso Ighodaro.

This wasn't the first leading man performance for Clingan, he put up similar numbers in significant victories all season, including an earlier blowout of Marquette, a revenge victory over Seton Hall and an early season tone setting win versus Gonzaga. He's the main reason for UConn leading the nation in two point percentage and the Huskies are likely headed for a strength on strength clash in the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, with a bunch of top fifty teams at defending inside the arc staring them down. The best in the nation in that category, Auburn, is a potential Sweet Sixteen opponent and facing Iowa St or Illinois in the Elite Eight won't be much easier.

But Donovan Clingan towers over everyone, even in those matchups. Assuming UConn gets to Boston for the second weekend, they won't be going to the Final Four without a superstar performance from their center. And yet on UConn's best days, Clingan is nothing more than an offensive side piece, with his foul-riddled semifinal performance against St. John's serving as the perfect example.

At times, UConn's offense is symphonic. A dash of Vivaldi on hardwood. A show worthy of the world's greatest arenas. And it's all thanks to the majestic two man off-ball game of Cam Spencer and Alex Karaban, a pair of absolutely perfect players to slot next to Newton, Clingan and the high ceiling/low floor Stephon Castle.

Spencer is the nation's second best three point shooter this year with minimal dribble action, thanks to likely being the best cutter and curler into three point shots in all of college basketball. An incredibly savvy player, Spencer both knows how to use subtle movement to slide into open space as the play develops around him and how to play off the traffic created in the lane to stop Newton and Clingan and free himself on cross-court cuts.

Karaban is one of the nation's preeminent stretch fours, with a 39.5% three point percentage, and he shares Spencer's sense for finding the small open spaces while the Huskies' offense is in motion. However, his special skills pay off around the rim as the Big East's leading two point shooter under seven feet. This is due to Karaban's ability to attack the gaps in the paint without the ball, masterfully sliding in behind Newton's attacks to provide a perfect outlet.

Top 20 players in East Region of NCAAT. Top 20 players in East Region of NCAAT. dark. Next

Spencer and Karaban's highlight reels should come with a melodious soundtrack. And with Newton there to serve as the perfect attacking point guard to open up space, this trio is as great of a core as a championship offense could ask for. But in a six-game span where perfection is required, some of the nation's best defenses will bring a disruptive cymbal crash (looking at you San Diego St). In those moments, even many of the best teams can collapse, but thanks to Donovan Clingan, UConn has the best emergency offensive option that college basketball has seen in a long time.