Busting Brackets

NCAA Tournament: Donovan Clingan's defensive presence remains vital as UConn Huskies march back to the Final Four

Illinois v Connecticut
Illinois v Connecticut / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages

In dominant fashion, the Connecticut Huskies have won their last ten NCAA Tournament games by 13 or more points. On Saturday night, Dan Hurley's squad advanced to the Final Four for the second straight year after defeating Illinois after an historic 2nd half performance, led by Donovan Clingan.

UConn is a special team for many reasons. They're a well-coached and disciplined unit that doesn't hurt themselves. If you want to beat the Huskies, you need to play near-perfect basketball, because they aren't going to help you out. Many talk about the elite offensive talent that they have at their disposal, whether you're talking about Tristan Newton, Cam Spencer, Stephon Castle, Alex Karaban, or Donovan Clingan. But the catalyst throughout this tournament for UConn has been their defense. Key rotations, defensive rebounding, jumping the passing lanes—whatever it may be, UConn is doing. 

When the second half began, the score was 28-23. Eight minutes later, the score was 58-23. The Huskies opened the second half on a 30-0 run. Illinois couldn't knock down shots, and they couldn't enter the paint with Clingan inside. He dominated this game on both ends of the floor, and he is the focal point on the defensive side of the ball. The 7-foot-2 center has the athletic capabilities to be an elite shot blocker, rebounder, and body inside for the Huskies defense, and has shown that all season. 

Clingan ended with 22 points, 10 rebounds, three steals, and five blocks vs. the Fighting Illini. Against Northwestern in the Round of 32, he racked up eight blocks. Thus far in the NCAA Tournament, he has 14 total blocked shots and has been an astounding presence for the defending champions, who are looking to go back-to-back. 

UConn will meet with the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Final Four, and this could be another matchup that favors Clingan. The sophomore is at least three inches taller than the tallest guy Alabama has on its roster. The downside of the Connecticut products game is his lack of success at the free throw line, shooting just 57.4%. However, on the season, he's still averaging 12.9 PPG, 7.5 REB, 2.5 BLK, and shoots 64.3% from the field. 

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Although Clingan averages the 4th most points on UConn, he has the 2nd highest usage rate when he's on the floor (25.1). He has a 91.1 defensive rating and leads UConn in both blocks and rebounds. It is clear they are better with him on the floor and he's been a clear X-factor that has the Huskies marching back to the Final Four.