HARTFORD, Conn. -- That sound was finally back.

If you're a UConn fan, a Big East aficionado, or simply someone who can sense when a game means just a little bit more because the opponent brings a history to a certain matchup, you know that sound. It's a particular type of din. Disdain from the toes up. Colloquial, unmistakable. 

UConn fans waited almost a decade for this night. No. 8 Villanova was in the building. The Huskies were ranked No. 21. Connecticut returned to the Big East in an official capacity on July 1, 2020, but right here -- this -- felt like the formal welcome back.

Tuesday night at the XL Center had everything you could ask for in a classic Big East battle. Two ranked teams going at it in a packed building in front of a partly drunken crowd. Two classic northeast programs. A late shot by the Huskies to clinch a 71-69 victory. 

Controversial officiating. 

Bill Raftery on the call.

And UConn coach Dan Hurley sequestered in the locker room, banned from watching it play out in person, plugging his ears as hard he could so the sounds of the crowd's reaction wouldn't spoil him watching the delayed TV feed in the bowels of the arena.

On this night, UConn came back to the Big East in full. You knew because of that sound. A late-arriving Connecticut crowd, worming their way from the handful of downtown Hartford bars that lubricated the masses before the most anticipated intra-conference home game since the last time UConn played in this storied league. It's not the Big East without UConn, and UConn's not UConn without the Big East.

This felt urgent, relevant. It felt right. It's the reason why the fanbase never relented, not for one day, after the school began a misguided trek into the American Athletic Conference. A cacophony of ecstasy and/or exasperation emanated multiple times, starting with UConn's tradition of playing the timeless (?) 2 Unlimited hit "Get Ready for This" right before tip-off.

The crowd's full-throat and yelling "U! ... C! ... O! ... N! N!"

This happens, like, five times. Over the course of 30 seconds it goes from embarrassingly corny to genuinely hype-inducing in ways that are hard to describe. Tuesday night brought that sound, and before too long, it carried fury. Official James Breeding's ejection of Dan Hurley with 4:53 remaining in the first half nearly put the building ablaze. In a bafflingly terrible decision by Breeding, Hurley's second technical was prompted by the coach briefly encouraging the crowd to get on its feet only seconds after receiving his first technical (for slamming the scorer's table and being a bit too demonstrative after a no-call on Tyrese Martin). 

An aghast Hurley took the slow way out and bathed in a standing ovation.

"It's happened to me before," Hurley said. "I know how to walk out, unfortunately for me." 

There's that noise again.

This time it's in the form of a building-shaking "REF, YOU SUCK! REF, YOU SUCK! REF, YOU SUCK!" chant that can practically be heard across the state.

UConn's back, and the noisiest night at the XL Center in years would be treated to arguably the best Big East game of the season so far. With 1:40 to go and a fever pitch in the arena in a 65-all game, the room gets even louder on an Isaiah Whaley block that winds up being a foul on Adama Sanogo.

"REF, YOU SUCK!" is back. Oh, wait. Yes, now there are F-bombs. 

What a night for the league. And a surprising loss for Villanova (21-7). The Wildcats led 69-65 with 26.2 seconds left. Villanova's not one to lose these types of games. A Tyler Polley 3-pointer -- off a nice set play called by Kimani Young, who coached the remainder of the night in Hurley's stead -- cut the Villanova lead to one. 

"This guy's one of the best associate head coaches in the country," Hurley said of Young. 

Somehow, ever-steady Villanova senior point guard Collin Gillespie got into a tie-up situation. Possession arrow to UConn, which led to RJ Cole's off-balance runner with 5.9 to go win it, thanks to an iffy charge against Gillespie in the closing seconds.

"It was an incredible atmosphere," Young said. "This is why we came to UConn."

The Huskies won 71-69 and the true ceremonial return of UConn (20-7) to the Big East was complete. Nights like this are why UConn needed to get back in this conference. Nights like this make you wonder why the hell it ever opted out of it to begin with.

"I know we're UConn, but we deserved to storm the court tonight," Young said.

Tuesday night marked the first time in almost eight years that UConn defeated a top-10 opponent. The students rushed the floor. Hurley said the environment felt like the movie "Gladiator."

"I'm still stunned from the ejection and in the surreal-ness of not being out there for the game," Hurley told CBS Sports. "But, you know, we think we're really good. ... Our expectations are that we have as good a chance to win the Big East Tournament as anyone when that comes around, and we expect to look like UConn in March."

The fans flooded the floor and stayed on the court for 10 minutes after the win. Broken sunglasses, torn-up posters and tallboys of Budweiser littered on the hardwood. This victory had some catharsis to it. UConn doesn't normally storm the court, but beating top-10 Villanova spoke to the validation of being back where it belongs. Before the game, Hurley reminded his players that they were the favorites. He didn't want them to attack this like an underdog. You're the team expected to win, now go out there and prove it.  

"We know what Villanova's been, but we know the steps we've taken to get here," Hurley said. "It's kind of weird to see UConn storming the court, but fans deserve it. Our fans deserve that."

It was a crazed night that effectively set the table for the main event: the Big East Tournament. A year ago, UConn returned to Madison Square Garden in March but did so without fans. In two weeks, MSG will be sold out, and an army of Huskies fans will flood midtown Manhattan. The Big East Tournament in 2022 will be as festive a spectacle as it's been in a long time. So many Big East fanbases covet those tickets, but this year is going to be a UConn takeover. This is a base that is starving to return to the nest. It would be fitting if Villanova and UConn could meet for a rubber match in Manhattan. There might not be a better environment in a conference tournament game anywhere else this season. 

22-4 Wyoming is a Cinderella special come March

The Mountain West is having one of its best seasons in its 23-year history. Wyoming, a 22-4 outfit that was picked eighth in the preseason, is a big reason why. That's because its coach, Jeff Linder, is running an offense like no other.

"There's nobody doing what we're doing," Linder told me this week. "We're the Tennessee Titans. And I have two Derrick Henrys that are going to pound on you, and eventually, you're going to break."

Linder is referring to 6-7 senior Hunter Maldonado and 6-9 sophomore Graham Ike. Maldonado has been at Wyoming his entire career, and he is among the best combo forwards in the country. Ike has the highest usage rate in the sport; 36.8% of the Cowboys' possessions end after the ball leaves his hands (on a made shot, missed shot to the other team or a turnover). Ike practically puts a groove into the court with how often he's owning the paint. (Maldonado ranks top-40 nationally in possession rate at KenPom.com as well, at 30.8%.)

Linder was hired to Wyoming in 2020 after a prideful four-year run at Northern Colorado. He took the gig at the height of the pandemic and "started the program from scratch." 

In Laramie, Wyoming. 

Big challenge. The Cowboys have only three NCAA Tournament appearances since 1988. 

"Signing a whole class without a visit was a minor miracle," Linder said.

Linder kept four players when he got the job. It didn't take long to decide who, either. When he was at Northern Colorado, he beat Wyoming three times. (No wonder they wanted him.) Within a couple of hours of signing his contract, Linder drove three hours to Colorado Springs and met with Maldonado to convince him to stay.

"He's a guy that bleeds brown and gold and wants to leave a legacy," Linder said. "He's an Econ finance major, 4.0. He's day-trading during the day. Really smart person."

Linder's wired a bit differently than a lot of other coaches. One example is his offensive style. It's simple, inelegant, but brutally effective. Another is how he's receptive to players' input on coaching tactics. Maldonado and Ike spend hours in his office, offering their opinions on schemes. Their voices can sometimes match what Linder's assistants are contributing. 

"Those guys have such a high feel for the game," Linder said. "They're right there with me in terms of developing the game plan. At the end of the day, they're the ones out there." 

The ball is in their hands so much, Linder trusts their vision.

Hunter Maldonado stuck with the program and has Wyoming authoring a signature season. Getty Images

"It's a collaborative effort with the three of us," he said.

Ike was recruited by Linder when he was at Northern Colorado. A hodgepodge of programs were recruiting him, then he tore his ACL the November of his senior season of high school. Some schools fell off. Linder convinced him to come to Wyoming after he got the job. Ike was the key piece. Linder said Ike's athleticism and game-disrupting potential projects to a Kawhi Leonard-like level. (Linder's had some experience recruiting overseen gems. He helped recruit Damian Lillard to Weber State when he was an assistant there, then recruited future first-round pick Chandler Hutchison to Boise State when he worked for Leon Rice.)

The Kawhi comparison is there in part because of Ike's huge paws. His hands are 13 inches from pinky to thumb, 12 inches from bottom of hand to top of middle finger. To hear Linder tell it, Ike's ACL surgery improved his elasticity and made him a better athlete. He comes from a strong lineage of athletes. His grandfather, Tom Graham, played for the Denver Broncos. His uncle, Daniel Graham, played for the New England Patriots and the Broncos.

Linder's team is not a hard scout, but it's a nightmare to stop. Using post-ups or dribble-downs, Maldonado and Ike get anywhere from 50-60 touches a game. Ike is No. 1 nationally in fouls drawn, Maldonado 19th. It's not a normal-looking offense. The system has drawn intrigue from coaches around the country, but as Linder explains it, "You can't play that way unless you have guys who are good enough passers."

They have to embrace the post life, too. Maldanado (6.3 apg) grew up as a post player. 

Why this style, anyway? Linder's biggest influence comes from European basketball, where the game tends to reflect college a lot more than the NBA does. And in Europe, the post scorer is still a valued position. Linder also previously worked in junior college (Midland) and at the Division II level (Emporia State). Guys with those types of backgrounds tend to be more flexible in their basketball philosophies.  

"We didn't have the best players, so you had to find ways to utilize the players the best way you could, to give you a chance to win," Linder said. "Coming up at those levels you have to be able to adjust. You can't be set in our ways. You're not scared to try different things."

As a result, Wyoming has a unit that doesn't turn the ball over but also ranks last in steal percentage. It doesn't give up many offensive rebounds, either. Almost all of the team's 2-point attempts come within eight feet of the rim, and nearly 41% of Wyoming's shot attempts are from the free throw line.  

Wyoming has won at least 25 games eight times. This year will be the ninth. The Pokes are floating in that 8/9 game territory now, but figure to be a fascinating NCAA Tournament sleeper no matter where they get seeded. Next up is the latest must-see Mountain West game: Wyoming plays at Colorado State on Wednesday night on CBS Sports Network at 9 p.m. The Cowboys won the first matchup. Both teams have two losses in conference play. The winner will be in command of the No. 1 seed in the Mountain West Tournament.

Oregon State having worst post-Elite Eight season ... ever

There has never been a team -- not even close -- to make an Elite Eight run and then follow up with an embarrassment of a season like what Oregon State is in the midst of. The Beavers, you might recall, had to make a mini-miracle run in the Pac-12 Tournament to even make last year's NCAAs. Once there, as a 12-seed, Oregon State proceeded to go on what I've maintained is the most surprising Elite Eight push by any power-conference program ever.

If anything, the Beavs' no-show this season only reemphasizes that. Do people realize this team is 3-22? It's perplexing. If anything, I'm impressed OSU is as high as 235th in KenPom. You can't tell me there are 130-plus teams worse than this, right? 

Oregon State is going to set the record for the worst season-after record for any Elite Eight team dating back to the expansion of the field to 64 teams in 1985. Here are the previous hangover years, the only ones from teams to make a regional final and then finish sub-.500 the next season. Two schools have had the bittersweet honor of doing this twice. Boston College of 1994-95, you're officially off the hook. 

  • Providence, 1988 (11-17)
  • Seton Hall, 1990 (12-16)
  • Minnesota, 1991 (12-16)
  • Florida State, 1994 (13-14)
  • Boston College, 1995 (9-19)
  • Duke, 1995 (13-18)
  • Mississippi State, 1997 (12-18)
  • Louisville, 1998 (12-20)
  • Providence, 1998 (13-16)
  • Oklahoma, 2010 (13-18)
  • Florida, 2015 (16-17)
  • Oklahoma, 2017 (11-20)    

@ me

The Court Report's mailbag! Find me on Twitter, toss a question and I'll answer some each week.

In early 2020, the Big Ten suspended Alan Griffin two games for stepping on Sasha Stefanovich's chest. I can understand why someone with the handle @IlliniBurner would be twisted over that. But, as I said on Monday's emergency episode of Eye on College Basketball, a one-game suspension for the two Michigan players and the one Wisconsin player who threw punches is the right and suitable punishment. You have to sit if you ball fists and throw. Period. That's in the Big Ten rulebook, and the rulebook was abided by. But the players did not instigate the issue, nor did they truly elevate it to a destructive scene. As for wanting consistency with how punishments are handed down, that's never been a reliable thing in college sports and likely never will be. 

Love to check the ol' Twitter mentions to discover folks accusing me of saying or writing things that I didn't say or write. But since this has become a topic of discussion this week, allow me to finally voice my opinion on handshake lines: I don't care if they do or don't exist. If you want to keep them for sportsmanship's sake, that's fine. If you want to do a casual/informal parting of ways with waves, nods, good-games and fist-bumps, hey, have at it. I do not care either way whatsoever. They're not going anywhere anyway (they were largely on hold during last season because of COVID), but if they did cease to exist, that would be fine. 

Yes. If Auburn wins out and finishes with a 31-3 record, they'll absolutely have a shot at the No. 1 overall seed. In fact, they might have the best case of any team in the country (even over a two-loss Gonzaga team) if that were to happen. Alas, I don't think it will. There's a better chance Auburn gets a No. 2 than is the overall No. 1. 

We are not. Last year's TV perk of getting the NCAA Tournament at one site also meant, for the first time, we had Sweet 16 games in standalone windows. That won't be happening this year. The tournament and the TV schedule will be going back to its usual template, meaning the regional semifinals will be in a two-at-a-time format for Thursday and Friday nights. I think that's better, anyway.

The Flyers are 19-8 and their best wins are: neutrals over Kansas, Miami, Belmont, all of which are 65th or better at KenPom. There's also a home win over Virginia Tech and a road victory against VCU. Dayton is 52nd in the NET with a 7-5 Quad 1+2 record. But those three Quad 3 losses are kind of a killer. I don't think it's impossible, but I think Dayton needs to win its final four regular-season games (including the finale vs. 22-4 Davidson) to make this a real discussion. There is a slight chance, though. The door is not closed. 

Final shots

• This went largely unnoticed, but three days before Juwan Howard made national news, Oral Roberts and North Dakota State had a postgame fracas that led to suspensions for players and fines for the coaches
An efficient read by 247 Sports' Eric Bossi on where Bronny James stands as a prospect right now. Important context: he's not a top-50 player (per 247) in his class as of now. LeBron James is determined to play in the NBA with his son. Is James setting Bronny up for failure here?
BYU is trying to find a way to schedule an extra game in order to help its vulnerable NCAA Tournament chances. Problem is, the WCC regular-season schedule ends a week earlier than most other conferences that house bubble teams.
• Not only is this year going to be the best year for foul shooting in college basketball history, the six best years of it ever have all been the past six seasons. Shooting is incrementally getting better at the college level, and I don't think that's something discussed enough. 
• More conference shuffling: North Carolina A&T is leaving the MEAC to join the CAA, which will be a 13-school league as of July.
• We have another team joining Division I. Lindenwood University (out of Missouri) is jumping up to join the OVC. No more D-I teams. I'm begging.
• Seattle U's basketball team got put in a tough spot at the start of this season when former coach Jim Hayford resigned after making racially insensitive remarks. Interim Craig Victor has guided the Redhawks to a 21-win season and the year's not over yet. It's the program's most wins in a season since 1985. Victor should be awarded the full-time job, like, today. Yesterday. Get it done. 
• Georgia assistant Wade Mason left the program this week after getting into a physical altercation with a support staff member last week. Around college basketball, Tom Crean is expected to be fired the day after Georgia's season ends.
• Credit to Casual Hoya for doing the math on this one, but here are the schools having the worst collective seasons in conference play in men's and women's basketball: Delaware State (0-21), Georgetown (2-29), San Jose State (2-28), Charleston Southern (3-26), Cal Poly (3-19).
• Watch Matt Painter explain why he's a no-zone coach. A nice a peek into the coach-beat relationship. Love this stuff.