Nothing short of madness: UConn, NC State basketball seek rare feat in Men’s and Women’s Final Fours

With the UConn men’s and women’s basketball teams poised for potential NCAA championships, coaches Dan Hurley, left, and Geno Auriemma aim to guide their players to a special place in history. (Brad Horrigan/Hartford Courant/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

PHOENIX – As the UConn men’s basketball team prepares to take on Alabama in the NCAA Division I Men’s Final Four in Glendale Saturday, there’s a chance to make history. The Huskies are two wins away from becoming the seventh program ever to win back-to-back NCAA championships, and the first since Florida did it in 2006 and 2007.

However, with the UConn women’s basketball team also playing in the Women’s Final Four in Cleveland, UConn basketball has a chance to enter much more illustrious territory with four combined wins this weekend.

If both the men’s and women’s teams win their respective NCAA tournaments, it would be just the third time in history that one school wins both championships in the same year.

The incredible part? UConn accomplished the feat the previous two times in 2014 and in 2004.

UConn isn’t the only school with the chance at the rare feat, as the N.C. State men’s and women’s teams are playing in the Final Four. The men look to cap off their incredible run as an 11-seed as they face No. 1 Purdue, searching for its first national title since the iconic 1983 championship. The women are playing for their first championship in program history as they take on undefeated South Carolina.

If both UConn and N.C. State advance in both tournaments, it will be the Huskies versus the Wolfpack in both national title games.

Although the UConn men have dominated the past two tournaments, the women’s team is more well-renowned. During legendary coach Geno Auriemma’s 39-year tenure, the Huskies have 23 Final Four appearances, which has led to 11 national titles.

The 2004 title completed a three-peat from 2002-04, and the 2014 title was the second of four straight and kicked off the program’s NCAA record 111-game win streak.

“The pressure’s different at UConn,” Auriemma said Tuesday. “It takes a certain kind of kid to play here.”

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The UConn women, dealing with injuries all season, entered the tournament as a No. 3-seed. But led by Auriemma and star guard Paige Bueckers, adversity didn’t stop them from ending back up in familiar territory.

“Paige and the crew, it’s special,” men’s coach Dan Hurley said of the women’s team’s success. “Just speaks to a level of Geno and his staff, UConn women’s basketball, why they’ve been a premier program in the country.”

Despite UConn not winning the women’s tournament since 2016, there has been a welcoming trend recently for women’s basketball with an increase in media exposure and overall excitement.

Ticketing platform Logitix reported Wednesday that the average resale price for a ticket to the Women’s Final Four in Cleveland is more than double the average price for a ticket to the Men’s Final Four in Glendale.

“There’s more coverage nationally, internationally, and just more people buying into women’s basketball,” said Huskies forward Aaliyah Edwards, who is from Canada. “It’s a long time coming, and I think it’s going to grow even larger.”

The increased excitement around women’s college basketball is in part due to the sport’s star power across the country. UConn guard Paige Bueckers is a household name, as is Iowa superstar Caitlin Clark, one of the most popular athletes in the country. Bueckers will match up Friday against Clark as the Huskies take on No. 1 seed Iowa.

“I think the biggest thing about her is she competes and she’s just a winner,” Bueckers said of her rival going back to their AAU days. “It will be a great match-up.”

The Huskies men’s program hasn’t seen quite the success of the women but is still one of the premier college basketball programs over the last 25 years, with five NCAA championships over that span. Former legendary coach Jim Calhoun led the program to three national championships, including in 2004, while coach Kevin Ollie’s squad cut down the nets in 2014 as a No. 7 seed. Hurley currently has the program in another dominant run of their own.

The Huskies have won 10 straight tournament games by an average margin of 23 points, with the closest win margin being 13. They are the top overall seed in the tournament after winning as a No. 4 seed last season.

The Huskies don’t lean on a star like Bueckers, but their all-around cast has a few standouts, including 7-foot-2 center Donovan Clingan. Clingan had 22 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in the Huskies’ Elite Eight victory over Illinois, shutting the opponent down defensively in a 77-52 rout.

“I just think his impact all over the court, because he moves so well,” Hurley said of his big man’s contributions. “On the defensive end is where he’s at his best.”

Hurley said he started talking to Chicago Bulls coach Billy Donovan, who coached Florida to back-to-back titles, about a week after last season ended about the mentality of sustaining success and repeating. And clearly, he has had no trouble instilling the mindset into his current team.

That’s just the standard of success for UConn basketball, which has built elite basketball programs on the men’s and women’s sides of the sport. Basketball players join the programs to win titles, and more often than not, they at least have a legitimate shot, including this weekend in Phoenix and Cleveland.

“We’ve made an incredibly hard tournament to advance in look easy,” Hurley said. “Probably a lot easier than it really is.”

Brevan Branscum(he/him/his)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Brevan Branscum expects to graduate in May 2025 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism.