What we learned: DJ Burns Jr., Zach Edey have come to rep the big men

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The Elite Eight opened Saturday with a dominant display from UConn, even by UConn standards.

The No. 1 overall seed mounted a 30-0 run on either side of halftime and brushed aside Illinois with ease. Dan Hurley’s Huskies team is the first defending champion to reach the Final Four since Florida did so in 2007.

Now, the focus turns to UConn’s next opponent. In Saturday evening’s West Regional final, Clemson and Alabama play for the chance to meet the Huskies at the Final Four.

Sunday’s action will tip off with the Midwest Regional final between top-seeded Purdue and 2-seed Tennessee. The Elite Eight will conclude with an ACC flavor in the South Regional, as fourth-seeded Duke will try to advance to its 18th Final Four against surprising 11-seed NC State.

Here’s what we learned from Saturday’s games. And this is how we reseeded the Elite Eight.

Can anyone score at the rim on Donovan Clingan and UConn? Clingan’s performance — especially defensively — on Saturday was otherworldly, one of the most dominant showings we’ve seen all season. It became evident very quickly that Illinois was going to struggle scoring in the paint. The Illini missed eight of their first 10 layups, with Clingan blocking three shots in the first half and altering several others. Illinois shot just 25% inside the arc. In Clingan’s first 17 minutes on the floor, Illinois scored four points. Perhaps the Illini should have opted to shoot more jumpers instead of driving at Clingan so often, but Terrence Shannon Jr. really struggled to make shots, and Coleman Hawkins couldn’t get going from the perimeter. Here’s the stat of the night: Illinois went 0-for-19 on field goal attempts contested by Clingan, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

What the win means for UConn: It’s going to take an awfully impressive performance to make UConn sweat in a game, let alone beat the Huskies. Illinois played as well as it could defensively for the first half and still lost by 25. UConn is simply playing with so much confidence at this point, it’s difficult to come up with a way for the Huskies to lose. The signs were there early on Saturday: UConn missed its first 10 3s and only shot 3-for-17 from behind the arc, Tristen Newton didn’t make a field goal, Stephon Castle only scored two points, Illinois battled with the Huskies on the glass — and again, UConn still won by 25.

What the loss means for Illinois: Illinois simply ran into a buzzsaw in the second half of Saturday’s game, but the Illini potentially established how it wants to look moving forward under Brad Underwood. They made a tweak midway through the season, becoming more of a five-out team with spacing and shooting. It turned Illinois into the nation’s second-best offense entering Saturday’s game. Even though Shannon, Domask and Quincy Guerrier are out of eligibility and Coleman Hawkins said after the loss that his Illinois career is likely over, it gives Underwood a blueprint on how he wants to attack the portal and the recruiting trail and build his roster moving forward. — Jeff Borzello

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