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After flight delay, defending champion UConn arrives in Arizona for Final Four in middle of night

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Dan Hurley tried to find something to keep himself occupied as not one, but two planes sat on the tarmac.

A series of setbacks delaying the Huskies' trip to the Final Four in Arizona was tough for the UConn coach to take.

“I ruminated a lot. I spiraled. I had my head in my hands a lot,” Hurley said on Thursday. “It was a real mindful exercise from 11:30 to like 1:45 on the tarmac. It was therapeutic to watch the de-icing out the window.”

The reigning national champion Huskies were supposed to leave Connecticut around 6 p.m. EDT Wednesday, but their plane had mechanical issues getting to the East Coast. Hurley sent his players back to campus instead of waiting for what was supposed to be an 11:30 p.m. departure, only to be delayed again by another mechanical issue and bad weather once they returned to Hartford's Bradley International Airport.

UConn's flight finally left around 1:45 a.m. and landed at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport at 3:15 a.m. local time.

“What goes through your mind when you're done kind of complaining, cursing and muttering, you just start saying to yourself you don't really deserve to show entitlement,” Hurley said. “Such an honor to get a chance, a once-in-a-lifetime experience to play in a Final Four, coach in a Final Four that once the edge kind of wore off, lucky to be here.”

The delays put the Huskies behind schedule — at least for now -- for this weekend's Final Four. Alabama and Purdue arrived in Arizona on Tuesday night, and North Carolina State came in Wednesday afternoon.

The Huskies were able to get some sleep on the plane and Hurley gave them a couple more hours at the hotel by pushing most of their schedule back. The players were able to practice for about 90 minutes to get a feel for shooting in a football stadium in preparation for Saturday's national semifinal against Alabama.

“There's no excuses,” Hurley said. “I mean, I was driving a mini cheese bus to prep school games not too long ago.”

The Crimson Tide certainly won't take it easy on the Huskies after their delays. Alabama coach Nate Oats even used the opportunity to give Hurley, his friend, and the Huskies a hard time.

“Not sure what happened to the plane — it wasn't me,” Oats said. “I didn't send anybody over there to mess with the mechanics, but I'm sure he's conjured that up in his head already. I did get a good night's sleep, so that's nice.”

The Huskies had not been on a plane since after their March 6 game with Marquette, when they had to spend an extra day in Milwaukee because of a canceled flight. They took buses to the Big East Tournament and first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, both in New York, and the East Regional in Boston.

The latest travel woes were an inconvenience, but the Huskies have plenty of time to get ready for the Final Four — and for Hurley to think.

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AP Sports Writers John Marshall and Pat Eaton-Robb contributed to this story.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness