Mad about March - National Championship Edition
It is finally time to head to the great state of Texas and crown a new NCAA Men’s National Champion. The Final Four is set with three first-timers in San Diego State, Miami, and FAU along with perennial power UConn. Who will take home this year’s title? Let’s dive in and find out.
Game One: Florida Atlantic vs. San Diego State
Two teams making their maiden voyage to the Final Four matchup in the opening game on Saturday. FAU features a team full of skilled wings and an up-tempo style. They have veterans up and down the roster and the moment hasn’t seemed too big for them yet. FAU owns wins over Memphis, Fairleigh Dickinson, Tennessee, and finally Kansas State in the regional final.
San Diego State plays nearly the polar opposite of FAU in terms of style. The Aztecs want to control the pace and keep the score in the 60s with one of the best half-court defenses in the country. San Diego State enters the Final Four thanks to wins over Charleston, Furman, Alabama, and Creighton.
The Pick: One thing we have seen throughout the tournament is that San Diego State’s defense travels very well. They have controlled the tempo against all their opponents, particularly two of the better offenses in the country Alabama and Creighton. Even with the team’s best scorer, Matt Bradley, being held to just eight points in the last two games total, the Aztecs have found a way to win. Look for it to happen here against a very talented FAU team, but one that hasn’t seen this kind of half-court defense all year.
Odds: San Diego State (-2)
Game Two: Miami vs. UConn
Miami, another team that has never reached the Final Four, matches up with a UConn team looking for its fifth national title and first since 2014. Miami wants to play fast and has one of the best backcourts in the country in Isaiah Wong and Nijel Pack. That duo is supported by wingman Justin Miller, who was perfect in the regional finals with 27 points while not missing a shot from the field or free throw line. Big man Norchad Omier is averaging 14 rebounds per game in the tournament. Miami advances to the Final Four with wins over Drake, Indiana, Houston, and Texas, arguably the toughest road to the Final Four.
UConn arrives at the Final Four as likely the hottest team in the tournament. The Huskies have outscored their opponents by 22.5 points per game. UConn has size, depth, and shooting ability. Big man Adama Sanoga is averaging 20 points per game and just under 10 rebounds in the tournament. Meanwhile, sweet-shooting guard Jordan Hawkins is scoring over 17 points per game while shooting a scintillating 54% from 3pt range in the tournament. UConn has absolutely dominated the second half of each of their four games, wearing opponents down with relentless half-court defense and dominance on the glass.
The Pick: Miami has been outstanding in the tournament and withstood every challenge they’ve faced in the Midwest Region. I think they finally meet their match in this game. UConn has too much size and has the right mix of defenders to contend with Miami’s dynamic backcourt. I don’t think we’ll see another 20-point blowout win here, but the Huskies will do enough to advance to the title game.
Odds: UConn (-5.5)
National Title Game: San Diego State vs. UConn
I can’t imagine many brackets that featured this matchup as the final pairing. San Diego State gets here as a fifth seed out of the South Region and the Huskies arrive as the fourth seed in a stacked West Region. San Diego State belongs here after knocking off the #1 team in the country, Alabama, but Alabama did not present the challenges that UConn will in this matchup. Alabama thrives on 3pt shooting and offensive rebounding. San Diego State has one of the best 3pt defenses in the country and they thrive in team rebounding. UConn, while certainly a very capable 3pt shooting team, does not live and die by that shot. In fact, they prefer a more inside-out approach with two players, Sanoga and 7’2 freshman center Donovan Clingan both capable of carving out space in the paint. Eventually, the Aztecs are going to have to send help and that should free the UConn shooters. UConn will dominate the glass and the interior and once again pull away for a victory and the school’s fifth national title.
Title Odds: UConn (-125)
*Tournament title odds in parenthesis and courtesy of Draftkings.com