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UConn men's basketball team beats Purdue — winning back-to-back championships

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The University of Connecticut men's basketball team has done it again. The Huskies beat Purdue in last night's NCAA men's basketball final to become the eighth program to win back-to-back titles. Joining us now to discuss is ESPN panelist and Washington Post columnist Kevin Blackistone. Kevin, they were the favorites, UConn was the favorites. They won by 15. What stood out to you from last night's game?

KEVIN BLACKISTONE: Well, they're just such a dominant team. I mean, for the sixth time in a row - sixth time in history, we saw a team win all 6 games by double digits, 140 points in all for UConn. Just extremely dominant. They have a big guy, over 7 feet, they have guards, they had graduate students.

MARTÍNEZ: (Laughter).

BLACKISTONE: They had a sensational freshman in Castle. And they've got a great coach, who, you know, the camera loves to see on the sidelines because of all of his histrionics, who's actually a brilliant coach and comes from what you could probably say is America's college basketball coaching family.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, that's Dan Hurley, brother of Bobby Hurley, the Duke point guard from back in the day. Also, the father was a great high school coach in New Jersey, Bob Hurley.

BLACKISTONE: Correct.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. Purdue has a center, Zach Edey, 7'4, Associated Press Player of the year. He had 37 points yesterday, the rest of the team had only 23. So it sounds like UConn had a good strategy - let him get his and then shut down everybody else.

BLACKISTONE: They sure did, and it worked to a tee. And they're one of the few teams that could put a 7-footer on, Zach Edey, and not have to double him all the time with another person, leaving someone else open. So that strategy absolutely worked for them. It looked, early, as if that was going to be a problem. Zach Edey really started the game on fire, but they were able to lock him down and wear down the rest of the team. And, you know, Zach Edey also plays just about every second of every game, and he did last night, and you could see that begin to wear on him as the game went on.

MARTÍNEZ: So UConn wins back-to-back titles.

BLACKISTONE: Right.

MARTÍNEZ: The last time - actually, the only time a team has won three in a row, John Wooden's UCLA Bruins in 1973. That's when they finished a run of 7 in a row.

BLACKISTONE: Oof, crazy.

MARTÍNEZ: Any chance UConn can go three-peat?

BLACKISTONE: Well, you know they're going to - they lost some players last year to the NBA. The same thing is going to happen this year. They were able to reload and pull this game off, so I think the possibility is there. Dan Hurley is that good of a coach and that good of a recruiter. And they still have some pieces there, like Diarra, who will be an anchor for next year's team. So I think, going into next year, they're favored again.

MARTÍNEZ: Speaking of the NBA, the NBA recently announced that it was shutting down its developmental league. That gave elite high school prospects a chance to make some money if they didn't want to go to college. But now, Kevin, that college athletes can cash in and cash in a lot, I mean, could college basketball get better? Could it start soaking up all that talent that maybe would go there instead of college?

BLACKISTONE: Well, it's a possibility. There's still another development league out there that can take in those very same players, but obviously, this is one avenue that will be choked off. And that does mean that, you know, maybe some more players who were thinking about going straight to the pros will instead go to college, especially if they have a decent NIL valuation deal that they can cash in.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, that's ESPN panelist and Washington Post columnist Kevin Blackistone. Always appreciate the insights. Thanks a lot.

BLACKISTONE: Thank you, A.

(SOUNDBITE OF MANU DIBANGO'S "GROOVY FLUTE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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