What happened?  And what's next?

What happened? And what’s next?

Prior to this year, the last time the UConn men’s basketball team had qualified for the NCAA tournament for a second straight season was Jim Calhoun’s final season at the helm.

The last time the Huskies were bounced from the first round of the NCAA tourney for a second straight season, Calhoun wasn’t even a college student yet.

There were positives to UConn’s 2021-22 season, which ended unceremoniously with a first-round NCAA tourney ouster to New Mexico State (!) On Thursday night in Buffalo. And there were negatives.

The Huskies won 23 games, their most in six years. They scored big wins over highly-ranked teams like Auburn and Villanova. They put two players on the Big East all-conference team and another on its all-rookie squad. The talent level continues to rise.

But UConn also went 1-5 against the other top three teams in the league standings. The Huskies sandwiched that emotional win over Villanova on Feb. 22 between two more losses to the Wildcats, who’ve beaten them five of six times since Dan Hurley has taken over the reins.

Still, that’s better than UConn’s 0-5 record against Creighton the past two seasons.

And now, first-round consecutive NCAA tourney losses.

Hey, it happens. It happened to Calhoun in 2008. He followed it up with a trip to the Final Four the following season. It happened to Calhoun again in 2012. He retired after that.

Kevin Ollie made an indecipherable mess of the UConn program that Hurley has spent much of the past four years cleaning up. Still, Ollie’s NCAA tourney record is 7-1, never losing in the first round.

In fact, Hurley has made it trap the opening round in consecutive seasons: 2016-17 and 2017-18 at Rhode Island, arguably a more difficult feat than doing so at UConn, given the disparate talent levels between the programs.

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