PORTLAND, Ore. — After UConn hit 37 three-pointers in Friday’s win over Oregon, coach Dan Hurley was asked if he planned on hitting so many from afar.
“No, I like 30 for me,” Hurley said. “I’m not Nate Oats, I don’t want to get into my 40s.”
Oats, who coaches Alabama, just started his game against Michigan State. As it turns out, Hurley Oat’s love of threes exaggerated; The Crimson Tide picked up just 23 in their 81-70 win over Michigan State and has a five-game average of 30.1.
This will be a different kind of challenge for UConn, a team with the coverage and depth of backcourt to match and maybe try to play the game even faster than Hurley would like.
[ UConn men put on shooting, passing clinic to rout Oregon in Phil Knight opener, 83-59 ]
So Hurley and Oats, close longtime friends, agree on exactly this, as do many other tenets of the coaching philosophy. They will lock the coaches’ horns in Friday night’s semi-final game of the Phil Knight Invitational.
Oats was coaching at Romulus High in Michigan when, in Rhode Island, Hurley successfully recruited one of his players, EC Matthews, to play for the Rams. After Bobby Hurley got the job at Buffalo, he hired Oats as his assistant.
Oats became Buffalo’s head coach when Bobby Hurley went to Arizona State and has become one of the hottest coaching articles in the country. Eventually, he landed in Alabama in March 2019 to build a basketball program in the long shadow of his football dynasty. Oats has built a top-20 program, guided ‘Bama to the Sweet 16 in 2021 and was on track to face Dan Hurley at last March’s NCAA tournament before both UConn and Alabama in the first round were eliminated.
Here’s everything you need to know for the UConn-Alabama game:
Side? site: Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Portland, Ore.
time: 9:30 p.m. EST.
Series: UConn leads 1-0.
Last meeting: March 27, 2004 – UConn 87, Alabama 71 in Regional Finals in Phoenix
TV: ESPN2 (Roxy Bernstein, Bill Walton)
radio: UConn Sports Network on 97.9 ESPN, Mike Crispino and Wayne Norman.
On the game: The winner of this game advances to Sunday’s PKI Championship game against the winner of the semifinals, North Carolina-Iowa State.
hard hats: After each game, Alabama awards a hard hat to the player who best embodies a worker’s ethic. This practice was inspired by Lindsey Hunter, who trained with Oats in Buffalo. Hunter, as you may recall, once scored 39 points in the Gampel Pavilion to knock UConn out of the NIT in 1993.
Great newcomer: Freshman Brandon Miller scored 24 points in Alabama’s win over Michigan State to earn the “hard hat” on Friday. Miller averaged 21 points over the first five games.
Similarities: Like UConn, Alabama had a disappointing end to the 2021-22 season, losing in the NCAA Round of 64, and like Hurley, Oats quickly revamped its roster with eight new players, four rookies and four trades and now has what is considered the deepest team he had there. Alabama played 10 in a near-ending game against Michigan State.
Great return: Senior point guard Jahvon Quinerly, a transfer from Villanova, returned from his knee injury earlier than expected and had 10 points against Michigan State.
UConn’s way: The Huskies went 17-to-37 on threes, a school record for brands, and 30-to-63 from the floor in their decisive win over Oregon. Tristen Newton scored 23, Jordan Hawkins 18.
Dom Amore can be reached at [email protected]