Despite their 85-66 loss to Creighton earlier this week, the UConn Huskies should still be the favorite for the 2024 NCAA Tournament. Photo Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports Feb 17, 2024; Hartford, Connecticut, USA; UConn Huskies guard Cam Spencer (12) warms up before the start of the game against the Marquette Golden Eagles at XL Center. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a fascinating season for men’s college basketball.

In the past week alone we’ve seen the UConn Huskies (No. 1), Purdue Boilermakers (No. 2), and the North Carolina Tar Heels (No. 7) all fall in upsets.

We’ve reached the sweet spot on the sports calendar where college basketball has everyone’s focus. The NCAA Tournament is weeks away and everyone will be filling out March Madness brackets in no time.

Which team is the best pick in a wide-open field with seemingly no clear favorite? Despite their 85-66 road loss to the Creighton Bluejays earlier this week, I’m still taking UConn to become the first NCAA Tournament repeat winner since the Florida Gators in 2007.

Here are five reasons why.

NET Positive

At 24-3, UConn is currently tied for the best record in college basketball even with Tuesday’s loss to Creighton. The Huskies are incredibly battle-tested, as well, winning 13 of their 24 games against teams in quadrants 1 or 2 of the NET Rankings. UConn’s 9-3 record against quadrant 1 teams is tied with Purdue and Houston for best in the nation. UConn will have chances to add to that total as well with games against Villanova and Marquette still coming up.

Pick your Poison

Part of UConn’s success this season has come from versatility on offense. Last season saw Adama Sanogo pick up the brunt of the scoring for the Huskies with 17.2 points per game. Just two other players saw their scoring averages in double figures. Jordan Hawkins tallied 16.2 per game and Tristen Newton scored 10.1 a game. This season, the Huskies have five players averaging 10 or more points per game, as players have gone above and beyond to replace the production lost by Sanogo and Hawkins’ departures.

Fearless Leader

No matter what you think of UConn’s enigmatic coach Dan Hurley, the results speak for themselves. He took over the Huskies program in peril in March 2018, as previous head coach Kevin Ollie had been fired with cause for multiple NCAA violations. After taking the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons to stabilize the program, Hurley got UConn back to the NCAA Tournament in 2021. The Huskies have made the tournament in each of the past three seasons including last season’s national championship victory.

They also have finished in the top four of the Big East in each of the past four seasons, having already clinched another top-four finish this season with their 14-2 record in conference play.

Home Sweet Home (Almost)

Barring a massive collapse, the Huskies are still projected to get a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This means they’ll almost certainly be slotted in the East Region. It’s a near certainty UConn will be playing its first and second-round games in Brooklyn before (assuming the Huskies advance) heading to Boston for the second weekend. These are both areas loaded with UConn fans and alums plus within a reasonable distance from UConn’s campus. The Huskies would essentially have four home games en route to the Final Four.

Someone Has to Win

I get it. The NCAA Tournament is a single-elimination tournament and anything can happen. With that said, UConn and Purdue have been the two best teams in the country for essentially the entire season. The Boilermakers have National Player of the Year frontrunner Zach Edey anchoring the team at center, as he leads the squad in scoring and rebounding. Edey is tall and tough to guard.

The best option for trying to slow down Purdue? Let Edey go off and focus on the rest of the squad. In Fairleigh Dickinson’s stunning first-round upset of Purdue in the 2023 NCAA Tournament, Edey had a team-high 21 points and 15 rebounds. The Boilermakers still lost 63-58, because no one else on the team could get it going. Edey made seven of the team’s 19 total field goals.  If UConn makes it to the Final Four, a semifinals or finals showdown with Purdue is likely. The Huskies are simply the better team.

That will be the case for UConn against any team it comes across in March, as well.