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    Sunday, June 16, 2024

    UConn men’s basketball opens Big East season in Hurley’s home state vs. Seton Hall

    UConn head coach Dan Hurley speaks during a news conference at the NCAA Final Four on April 2 in Houston. The Huskies would go on to defeat San Diego State the following night to win its fifth national championship. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

    UConn’s journey in what’s expected to be a brutally tough Big East Conference will start in coach Dan Hurley’s home state.

    Hurley will bring his defending national champion Huskies to the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on Wednesday, Dec. 20 to face Seton Hall.

    There will be few easy league games.

    Marquette, Creighton and Villanova will likely join UConn in the preseason top 25. Xavier and Providence are always difficult to beat. Some other teams, like St. John’s under the guidance of Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino, will be improved.

    UConn will host St. John’s in its league home opener on Saturday, Dec. 23. Times and locations of home games will be announced at a later date.

    “We think the league is going to be this year, far superior than it has been,” Hurley said recently. “I think there’s going to be more depth at the top and then I think the middle and bottom are going to be even better.”

    The Huskies are coming off a fourth-place finish in league play last season, posting a 13-7 record. They reached the Big East tournament semifinals.

    They’ll be attempting to win their first Big East regular-season crown since 2011.

    Big East dates for UConn fans to circle on the calendar include a visit by defending league champion Marquette on Feb. 17 and home games against Creighton (Jan. 17), Xavier (Jan. 28) Providence (Jan. 31) and Villanova (Feb. 24).

    UConn ends the regular season with its toughest back-to-back road stretch, traveling to Marquette on March 6 and Providence on March 9.

    The Big East tournament will take place March 13-16 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

    Overall, UConn’s complete schedule will feature plenty of quality competition, with non-conference road games at Kansas (Dec. 1) and Gonzaga (Dec. 15 in Seattle) and neutral site games at Madison Square Garden against North Carolina (Dec. 5, Jimmy V Classic), Indiana (Nov. 19, Empire Classic) and either Texas or Louisville (Nov. 20, Empire Classic).

    “It’s not an easy schedule,” redshirt sophomore Alex Karaban said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. (The non-conference schedule) will definitely prepare us for the Big East. The Big East is getting better, too. St. Johns, Georgetown will be a lot better, in my opinion. Marquette, Creighton, Providence, Xavier, they’re elevating themselves.

    “We’ve got a long way to go, a lot of competition ahead. But we’ll be ready.”

    g.keefe@theday.com

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