March Madness 2024: UConn's flight to Final Four in Arizona delayed due to mechanical issues with plane

The No. 1 overall seed Connecticut Huskies, who are beating teams by nearly 28 points per game the past two weekends, finally found their toughest opponent so far in this tournament: airline travel. After more than eight hours of delays, UConn’s men’s basketball team finally took off from Windsor Locks, Connecticut at 1:33 a.m. Thursday morning, sources on the plane texted to CBS Sports as the aircraft was speeding down the runway at Bradley Airport.

The Huskies were initially supposed to be wheels up by 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday, but got delayed due to mechanical issues with the plane they were scheduled, UConn coach Dan Hurley told CBS Sports earlier in the day.

The NCAA oversees and handles all travel for all teams in both the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournaments. The plane UConn was supposed to be on was coming in from Kansas City but ran into multiple technical troubles that prevented it from leaving on time, Hurley said. 

Hurley told CBS Sports that the crew assigned to the flight would max it outs allowable work hours, per FAA guidelines. There was no backup flight crew to take UConn to Arizona. After scouring all backup plans and planes, UConn’s earliest option to get to the Final Four was via a smaller plane (that would still bring the entire team and staff) and was flown in from Cincinnati. 

After CBS Sports broke the story, the NCAA said in a statement it was working to resolve UConn’s travel delay as quickly as possible. 

“Due to mechanical issues with the original aircraft, UConn men’s basketball team is experiencing a delay and is now projected to depart at approximately 11:30 p.m. ET,” the statement said. “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 flight wound up taking off two hours later than was planned — and even 45 minutes later than the initial scenario of 12:45 a.m. ET. 

UConn’s plan is scheduled to land in Phoenix at 5:28 a.m. ET/2:28 a.m. PT.

Still, UConn won’t land until close to 4 a.m. ET/1 a.m. PT, per UConn. 

The school had to trim its travel party, per a UConn source, with the intention of not having to stop for a refuel in order to fly directly to Phoenix as quickly as possible.

The Huskies are going to get to Arizona on an adjusted sleep schedule, but still with plenty of time to spare before Thursday’s scheduled afternoon media availability. As of Wednesday night in Arizona, UConn was scheduled to arrive at State Farm Stadium on Thursday shortly before noon local/3 p.m. ET. 

All other teams got to Arizona without issue. Alabama and Purdue flew in Tuesday evening. NC State landed Wednesday afternoon. 

UConn is scheduled to play Alabama on Saturday at approximately 8:49 p.m. ET/5:49 local in Glendale on TBS/TNT/truTV. 

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