Anyone who can remember 2007 will fondly recall that “The Departed”, directed by Martin Scorsese, won the Best Picture Oscar, that there was the first-three-way tie in the history of Jeopardy!, and that HBO aired the final episode of “The Sopranos.”

Also that year, the Florida Gators won the NCAA men’s national basketball championship for a second straight season. Those Gators, led by Al Horford and Joakim Noah, were coached by Billy Donovan.

Florida became the tournament’s first repeat champion since Duke in 1992, and to this day Donovan’s Gators remain the last team to go back-to-back in March Madness. The Connecticut Huskies hope to repeat that feat in this year’s tournament, which begins March 21 after conference tournaments are held and the field of 68 is announced on March 17.

The Huskies might be ranked No. 2 behind the Houston Cougars, but on the Betway board they are the +500 favorites to win the NCAA title after finishing first in the Big East with an 18-2 conference record and 28-3 overall mark. They defeated ranked opponents North Carolina, Gonzaga and Texas in non-conference games, defeated No. 4 Marquette by 28 points at home, and then again downed the Golden Eagles (by then ranked No. 8) by seven points on the road last Wednesday. Since Christmas, UConn has lost only once – a Feb. 20 road game at Creighton.

So, if you are looking for a team with a head of steam, you have found it.

Heck, if the Huskies can pull off this repeat, they might start to rival the fame of their school’s women’s program, which has won 11 national championships. The fellas have won five -- cutting down the nets in 1999, 2004, 2011, 2014, and 2023.

UConn head coach Dan Hurley got ready for this year’s tournament by wrapping up the regular season with a 14-point road win at Providence that ended with him jawing with a Friars fan before walking off the court holding up two index fingers.

“I just told him, ‘I’ve got a national championship ring, and we won the regular season in the Big East, and we’re champions,’” Hurley said. “'And you should shut up, and you shouldn’t be running your mouth at that point in the game. You know, just get out of here. You know? Just go.'”

“I'm not going to lie, it felt pretty good,” said Hurley, who previously coached Providence rival Rhode Island and was 0-5 in the building originally known as the Providence Civic Center. “I've had to eat (expletive) in this building a bunch.”

The NCAA championship game will be held at State Farm Arena in Glendale, Ariz., which seats 63,400 for football and could sell all those seats to the famously rabid and loyal UConn fans if their team were guaranteed a spot in the final.

The Huskies will have to win five games to make it that far, but they are a lock for a No. 1 seed and could play opening-round games close to home in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center and in the East Regional’s final rounds at TD Garden in Boston. Both of those locations are easy commutes for fans from the Nutmeg State.

The Betway board lists the Huskies at just +110 to reach the Final Four, as sure a sign as any that the oddsmakers believe in this UConn team.

Last year, UConn opened the tournament as a +1600 outsider but ended up playing +8000 longshot San Diego State for the title. The Huskies beat the Aztecs 73-59 to cap a 6-0 tournament run in which they won every game by at least 13 points and earned a visit to the White House.

If they win again, they will get another trip to Washington during an election year taking place in a politically polarized climate that is colder than the coldest winter night on the UConn campus in Storrs, Conn.

Last season, the Huskies started 14-0 and were considered the best team in the country. UConn then lost four of its next six games and was dismissed as the top team on the national scene. Still, the Huskies not only elevated their level of play down the stretch, they left no doubt throughout the NCAA Tournament that they were the best team in the country.

Not even one game was close.

This season, UConn did not allow any opponent to score more than 67 points over its final 15 games, and the second victory over Marquette marked the Huskies’ first road win over a ranked team in more than a decade.

At +500 to win it all, their odds will only go lower on the Betway board as the tournament unfolds. If the Huskies win every game convincingly in the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden this week, that number could be cut in half by Monday.

Here are Betway’s NCAA championship odds for the 10 schools considered to have the best chance to win it all:

NCAA Basketball odds to win Men's National Championship 2024

Connecticut +500
Houston +600
Purdue +700
Tennessee +1200
Kentucky +1800
Auburn +1800
Iowa State +2000
North Carolina +2000
Marquette +2000

Odds are subject to change*

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