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UConn men and women head to NCAA Final Four this week

UConn Huskies center Donovan Clingan (32) lets everyone know who is going to the Final Four after the NCAA Elite Eight, East Regional Final between the UCONN Huskies and the Illinois Fighting Illini on March 30, 2024, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.
Fred Kfoury III / Icon Sportswire
UConn Huskies center Donovan Clingan (32) lets everyone know who is going to the Final Four after the NCAA Elite Eight, East Regional Final between the UCONN Huskies and the Illinois Fighting Illini on March 30, 2024, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.

The UConn women's and men's basketball programs head to the Final Four this weekend, setting up another possible dual national championship for the state's flagship public university.

The defending national champion men's program scored 30 straight points to power their way back to the Final Four on Saturday night, steamrolling Illinois 77-52. It was a March Madness record 10th straight double-digit victory for the top-seeded Huskies.

Paige Bueckers — a spectator a year ago due to injury — lifted the UConn women back to the Final Four Monday after scoring 28 points in a 80-73 win over Southern California.

The UConn women play in the Final Four Friday, April 5, at 9:30 p.m. The men's team tips off Saturday, April 6, at 8:49 p.m.

Connecticut Public's John Henry Smith recently sat down with host Frankie Graziano to chat all things UConn and March Madness.

UConn Women

“We've got the UConn women in the Final Four versus some person named Caitlin Clark. Maybe you've seen a commercial or two or heard of her,” Smith said tongue-in-cheek.

The UConn women will play Clark and her top-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes (33-4) on Friday in Cleveland. Clark is the reigning AP Player of the Year, a four-time All-American and a transcendent star who has grabbed national headlines even outside the sports section this season.

“I'm gonna be like [UConn Women’s Coach] Geno [Auriemma] and I'm not gonna say anything bad about Caitlin Clark. She’s great,” Graziano said. “She scored 40 last game against LSU – we don't want her scoring 60 points.”

Graziano said he likes the Iowa match up for UConn, because the Huskies team is looking the healthiest it has been in a while.

The Huskies have been ravaged by injuries, forcing Auriemma to play four freshmen and leaving him with little depth. Fortunately, he's still got the marvelous Paige Bueckers, who has returned to her All-America form after missing last season with a knee injury.

“They're the healthiest that they've been because Paige Bueckers is at her healthiest. They got their star back,” Graziano said.

UConn Men

“On Saturday, the top-seeded UConn men are taking on Alabama for the right to go and defend their championship [Monday night] in the championship game,” Smith said.

UConn is favored on many brackets to win their 2nd consecutive National Championship–including several celebrity brackets from the likes of Jimmy Fallon and former President Barack Obama.

Donovan Clingan powered UConn back into Final Four behind 30-0 run in a 77-52 rout of Illinois on Saturday. The Huskies, who cruised to their fifth national title last year, seem inexorably headed for a sixth: Their NCAA Tournament wins this year have come by 39, 17, 30 and 25 points.

“When's the last time we've seen something like this, John Henry, where we’ve seen a team dominate like this?” Graziano asked.

“The Huskies are slobber-knocking opponents at a rate in which we have not seen since John Wooden's UCLA teams of the 1960s,” Smith said.

“We're talking about a great weekend for the NCAA with the potential (in Sunday and Monday's championship games) of having Clark or Bueckers against South Carolina on the women's side and then on the men's [UConn’s Donovan Clingan] “Cling Kong,” [Purdue University’s Zach] Edey."

“It's going to be a fun weekend.”

Basketball capital of the world?

The University of Connecticut is the only school to have ever won the men’s and women’s NCAA Division I basketball championships in the same year. They’ve actually accomplished that feat twice–both in 2004 and in 2014.

“Imagine if you can be double champions again? Husky heaven here in Connecticut,” Graziano said. “That's what people are hoping for.”

2024 marks the fifth year both programs have made it to the Final Four.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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