UConn tries to repeat as NCAA Tournament champions: Comparing Huskies to back-to-back title teams



When UConn takes the floor in Glendale, Arizona at the Final Four, they will be two games away from making history and joining prestigious company. The reigning national champions and the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament could become the first team to repeat as national champions in men’s basketball since Florida did it in 2006 and 2007.

After a dominant run in last year’s NCAA Tournament that included six wins by double-digits, the Huskies are once again the favorites to cut down the nets. UConn plays No. 4 seed Alabama in the national semifinals on Saturday and will face the winner of No. 1 seed Purdue/No. 11 seed NC State for the title on Monday if they advance.

The Huskies have won all four games in this year’s tournament by double-digits by an average of 27.7 points. UConn entered the tournament with the second-highest point differential (+17.1) behind McNeese.

UConn is on the verge of repeating despite losing Adama Sanogo, Jordan Hawkins, and Andre Jackson Jr. to the NBA. The Huskies reloaded by adding Cam Spencer from the transfer portal and star freshman Stephon Castle via high school recruiting. Those players joined All-American guard Tristen Newton, big man Donovan Clingan and sharpshooter Alex Karaban to form one of the top starting units in the country.

“Oh, it’s harder. It’s way harder,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said last week when asked about repeating. “Coaching’s harder. … Obviously, you’re managing your roster with the portal, with NIL. I mean, for us, you better be a more skilled coach these days because you’re dealing with a lot more stuff. For us, I think we’ve made it look easy in these past two tournaments, but it’s hard. We do the hard things really, really well, like the defense, the rebounding, the way that we play at the offensive end of the court. So, yeah, I mean, it’s tough. It’s not easy. It’s going to get tougher.”

Year (Record)
Coach
Future NBA players Road to the national title
2023 (31-8)
Dan Hurley
Adama Sanogo
Jordan Hawkins
Andre Jackson
First round: 87-63 win vs. (13) Iona
Second round: 70-55 win vs. (5) Saint Mary’s
Sweet 16: 88-65 win vs. (8) Arkansas
Elite Eight: 82-54 win vs. (3) Gonzaga
Final Four: 72-59 win vs. (5) Miami
NCAA title game: 76-59 win vs. (5) San Diego State
2024 (35-3)
Dan Hurley
TBD First round: 91-52 win vs. (16) Stetson
Second round: 75-58 win vs. (9) Northwestern
Sweet 16: 82-52 win vs. (5) San Diego State
Elite Eight: 77-52 win vs. (3) Illinois

Repeat after me…

The first team to repeat as national champions was Oklahoma A&M (now known as Oklahoma State) in 1945 and 1946. Kentucky was the second after capturing back-to-back national championships in 1948 and 1949.

UCLA has the most national championships in men’s basketball (11) and most came in the 1960s. The Bruins are the only school to repeat as champions more than once. Future NBA players Gail Goodrich, Walt Hazzard, and Keith Erickson helped UCLA become the fifth school to accomplish the feat when they captured titles in 1964 and 1965. The Bruins continued their dominance into the early 1970s when they won seven consecutive titles from 1967-1973 under legendary coach John Wooden. 

Former Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski won his first national title in 1991 with a roster full of future NBA players such as Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill, Brian Davis, and Antonio Lang. The Blue Devils would defeat Michigan in the national championship game the following season after most of their core returned to school.

Then there’s Florida — the last team to win consecutive titles. The Gators had six future NBA players on their roster (Taurean Green, Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah, Chris Richard, and Marreese Speights) that helped lead the school to back-to-back championship wins over UCLA and Ohio State. 

UConn is the first reigning champion to return to the Final Four the following season since Florida. Here is how the Huskies compare to the last seven programs that repeated as national champions.

How Florida was able to repeat in 2007

Year (Record)
Coach
Future NBA players Road to the national title
2006 (33-6)
Billy Donovan
Taurean Green
Al Horford
Corey Brewer
Joakim Noah
Chris Richard
Marreese Speights
First round: 75-50 win vs. (14) South Alabama
Second round: 82-60 win vs. (11) UW-Milwaukee
Sweet 16: 57-53 win vs. (7) Georgetown
Elite Eight: 75-62 win vs. (1) Villanova
Final Four: 73-58 win vs. (11) George Mason
NCAA title game: 73-57 win vs. (2) UCLA
2007 (35-5)
Billy Donovan
Taurean Green
Al Horford
Corey Brewer
Joakim Noah
Chris Richard
Marreese Speights
First round: 112-69 win vs. (16) Jackson State
Second round: 74-67 win vs. (9) Purdue
Sweet 16: 65-57 win vs. (5) Butler
Elite Eight: 85-77 win vs. (3) Oregon
Final Four: 76-66 win vs. (2) UCLA
NCAA title game: 84-75 win vs. (1) Ohio State

Florida returned all five starters and debuted as the preseason No. 1 team in the Associated Press Top 25 poll before the 2006-07 season began. Noah, Horford, and Brewer bypassed the NBA Draft to return to school for another season, and that decision paid off big time. All three players went in the top 10 of the 2007 NBA Draft and left the school with another championship ring.

Florida started 11-0 in SEC play before losing its first conference game of the season to Vanderbilt. The Gators would go on to lose two of their next three games before firing off 10 straight wins en route to another championship. Florida opened the NCAA Tournament with a 112-69 win over Jackson State and knocked off Purdue, Butler, and Oregon on its way to the Final Four in Atlanta.

In a rematch of the 2006 title game, Florida eliminated UCLA with a 76-66 win in the national semifinals before taking down a Greg Oden-led Ohio State team 84-75. Florida coach Billy Donovan would coach eight more seasons in Gainesville before taking a job as the coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2015.

How Duke was able to repeat in 1992

Year (Record)
Coach
Future NBA players Road to the national title
1991 (32-7)
Mike Krzyzewski
Christian Laettner
Bobby Hurley
Grant Hill
Brian Davis
Antonio Lang
First round: 102-73 win vs. (15) Northeast Louisiana
Second round: 85-70 win vs. (7) Iowa
Sweet 16: 81-67 win vs. (11) UConn
Elite Eight: 78-61 win vs. (4) St. John’s
Final Four: 79-77 win vs. (1) UNLV
NCAA title game: 72-65 win vs. (3) Kansas
1992 (34-2)
Mike Krzyzewski
Christian Laettner
Bobby Hurley
Grant Hill
Brian Davis
Antonio Lang
First round: 82-56 win vs. (16) Campbell
Second round: 75-62 win vs. (9) Iowa
Sweet 16: 81-69 win vs. (4) Seton Hall
Elite Eight: 104-103 win vs. (2) Kentucky
Final Four: 81-78 win vs. (2) Indiana
NCAA title game: 71-51 win vs. (6) Michigan

Duke became the first repeat champion since UCLA won seven consecutive titles by knocking off Michigan 71-51 in the final game of the 1991-92 NCAA Tournament. The journey getting to the Final Foul in Minneapolis wasn’t easy. The Blue Devils survived a nail-biter in the Elite Eight against Kentucky to advance. Laettner hit one of the most iconic shots in college basketball history against the Wildcats – a turnaround jumper at the buzzer to seal a 104-103 win in overtime.

Like Florida, Duke opened the season as the consensus No. 1 ranked team in the AP poll and held the top spot all 18 weeks. Laettner would earn multiple honors: the Oscar Robertson Trophy, Wooden Award, Naismith Award, Adolph Rupp Trophy, and more. Laettner is the only player to start in the Final Four four consecutive seasons.

Other back-to-back NCAA Tournament winners

UCLA (1964-65 and 1967-73)

Year Record Coach Runner-up
1967 30-0 John Wooden Dayton
1968 29-1 John Wooden North Carolina
1969 29-1 John Wooden Purdue
1970 28-2 John Wooden Jacksonville
1971 29-1 John Wooden Villanova
1972 30-0 John Wooden Florida State
1973 30-0 John Wooden Memphis State
Year Record Coach Runner-up
1964 30-0 John Wooden Duke
1965 28-2 John Wooden Michigan

The team with the most national titles in college basketball history became the fifth program to win back-to-back championships in 1964 and 1965 under Wooden. After a two-year title hiatus, UCLA won seven straight national championships — an unbreakable record. UCLA featured future NBA stars Gail Goodrich, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jamaal Wilkes, Bill Walton, and more on those teams.

Cincinnati (1961-62)

Year Record Coach Runner-up
1961 27-3 Ed Jucker Ohio State
1962 29-2 Ed Jucker Ohio State

First-year coach Ed Jucker led Cincinnati to its first national title in 1961 with a 70-65 overtime win over Ohio State. The Bearcats defeated Creighton, Colorado, and UCLA to set up another date with the Buckeyes for the championship. Cincinnati won the rematch 71-59 to become the fourth program to repeat. Cincinnati’s roster featured future NBA players Paul Hogue, Bob Wiesenhahn, and Tom Thacker.

San Francisco (1955-56)

Year Record Coach Runner-up
1955 28-1 Phil Woolpert LaSalle
1956 29-0 Phil Woolpert Iowa

Led by future NBA star Bill Russell, San Francisco won back-to-back national championships. San Francisco’s roster also featured future NBA player Mike Farmer, who played eight seasons in the league. Outside of a 57-56 win over Oregon State in the West Regional final in 1955, the Dons won their other eight NCAA Tournament games by double-digits.

Kentucky (1948-49)

Year Record Coach Runner-up
1948 36-3 Adolph Rupp Baylor
1949 32-2 Adolph Rupp Oklahoma A&M

Kentucky’s first national championship in program history came in 1948. Future NBA players Alex Groza, Ralph Beard Wah Wah Jones, Cliff Barker, Joe Holland, and Jack Parkinson led the Wildcats to a win in the championship game over Baylor, 58-42. Groza, Beard, Jones, and Barker returned the following season to help Kentucky repeat.

Oklahoma State (1945-46)

Year Record Coach Runner-up
1945 27-4 Henry Iba NYU
1946 31-2 Henry Iba North Carolina

Oklahoma State was known as Oklahoma A&M before the school switched its name in 1957. The Cowboys became the first team to repeat as national champions with wins over NYU and North Carolina in consecutive seasons to etch their name into the history books.





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