Final Four-bound UConn men encounter long travel delay, arrive in Phoenix in the wee hours

The UConn men’s basketball team made it to the Final Four with four one-sided victories in the East Regional. But qualifying is one thing; getting to Phoenix was no easy task.

The Huskies, who have had a string of travel nightmares, were stuck on campus waiting out a 5 1/2 hour delay in their flight to Arizona Wednesday night before a plane was made available. Once on board, they were delated another two hours, due to minor mechanical issues and the need to de-ice the plane, and finally took off just past 1:30 a.m. Thursday. The finally landed in Phoenix 3:14 a.m. Pacific time, 6:14 a.m. Eastern. It is likely their schedule of practices and press conferences will have to be adjusted, and they lose time to get acclimated to the time difference..

The Huskies play Alabama at 8:49 p.m. Saturday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

The NCAA handles travel arrangements for the tournament.

“Due to mechanical issues with the original aircraft,” read a statement released by the NCAA at 9 p.m. Wednesday, “UConn men’s basketball team is experiencing a delay and is now projected to depart at approximately 11:30 p.m. ET. In conjunction with the school and charter airlines, the NCAA worked to develop several options for travel alternatives to Phoenix. We are very disappointed that UConn will arrive later than anticipated and it’s unfortunate the team’s travel experience has been impacted.”

The other semifinalists, Alabama, NC State and Purdue, were all on the ground in Phoenix earlier on Wednesday. The Huskies, after their late-afternoon send-off, went for a team dinner with plans to take off from Bradley at 6 p.m. The plane to take them was from Kansas City, as first reported by  CBSSports.com’s Matt Norlander, but logistical and mechanical issues with the plane kept it on the ground there. The flight crew was over its hours limit.

A smaller plane was considered, which would have required a fueling stop. Or if they waited for the plane from Kansas City, they could not have left until 10 a.m. Thursday. The red-eye route was settled upon.

“The delays were the result of an unfortunate set of circumstances,” the NCAA said in a statement after the Huskies landed safely.

Last year at the West Regional, the team found its hotel arrangements in Las Vegas inadequate and had to move during the stretch. During the last week of the regular season, the UConn traveling party was stranded in Milwaukee due to problems with the plane after playing Marquette, with a quick-turnaround before playing at Providence.

None of these past problems, of course, have affected UConn’s on-court performance. The No.1 overall seed in the Field of 68, the Huskies played their first- and second-round games in Brooklyn, the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games in Boston, both sides within driving distance.

Last year, the Huskies were flown to the Final Four in Houston on a jet owned by the Patriots. That was not an option this time, a school spokesman said, because the Patriots have since terminated their agreement with Eastern Airlines.

Previous post Apple AirPods 2 fall to just $89
Next post Scientists Splice Material From Creature That Can Survive Outer Space Into Human Cells