In what has been the wildest March Madness College basketball tournaments in recent history, filled with shocking upsets and Cinderella stories, (5) San Diego State University and (4) University of Connecticut have fought hard the entire tournament and will now be rewarded with a matchup in the National Championship game on Monday April 3 at 9:20 p.m. EST. Below I will be providing a recap of the Final Four, as well as my thoughts and predictions of the National Championship Game.
Final Four Recap
Staying true to this year’s tournament, the Final Four featured even more excitement and memorable matchups. In the first Final Four game, we saw (5) SDSU take on (9) Florida Atlantic University, in what was each school’s first appearance in the Final Four. Neither of these teams were expected to make it this far, but have proven that they deserved to be there after each team rattled off impressive tournament wins.
FAU was the second 9-seed to ever advance to the Final Four, after Wichita State did so in 2013, and entered the game as a 2-point underdog to SDSU, after winning their four opening tournament games by a combined 19 points, the fewest of the Final Four teams. Their opponents, SDSU, had won their four games by a combined 37-point margin, including a nail biting 1-point victory over (6) Creighton and an impressive win over (1) Alabama.
Just as Vegas predicted, this was a tightly contested game that featured a number of lead changes throughout the matchup. SDSU’s early lead quickly vanished as FAU held a 7-point lead heading into halftime. However, following an impressive 2nd half, capped off by a buzzer beating 2-point jump shot by Guard Lamont Butler, the SDSU Aztecs were able to claim a 72-71 victory over the FAU Owls.
Although their Cinderella story didn’t end the way that they hoped to, the FAU Owls were extremely impressive throughout the tournament and have nothing to hang their heads over. They were truly a great team and fought all the way to the end. Moving on to the second Final Four matchup, we saw (5) University of Miami, who made their first Final Four appearance in NCAA tournament history, take on a much more seasoned and experience (4) University of Connecticut squad.
The UConn Huskies entered the game as 5.5-point favorites, which honestly seemed a little low for a team that hadn’t won a tournament game by less than 15 points heading into the Final Four. The UMiami Hurricanes enjoyed a historic and memorable tournament run up to this point, which featured a combined 44-point win margin, including wins over (4) Indiana, (2) Texas, and (1) Houston, but you could tell that they simply weren’t good enough to compete with the Huskies.
UConn has been far and away the best team of the tournament and entered the Final Four with a 90-point margin across just four games, for a 22.5-point win margin per game. Entering the tournament, the Huskies ranked 3rd in the country in BPI and were drastically underrated by the selection committee who gave them a 4-seed. The Huskies showed their dominance from the start of this game and held an impressive 13-point lead heading into halftime.
The Hurricanes matched the Huskies 2nd half scoring, as it finished 35-35, but it wasn’t enough to overcome their opponents, who won 72-59. Despite losing this matchup by double digits, you have to admire the Hurricanes, who never gave up and fought all the way to the final buzzer. With the conclusion of the two Final Four matchups we can now prepare for a National Championship game that will surely bring a lot of buzz.
College Basketball National Championship
As mentioned above, the (5) SDSU Aztecs will be taking on the (4) UConn Huskies in an exciting National Championship matchup. The game will take place on Monday April 3 at 9:20 p.m. EST at the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. Heading into this fierce matchup, the Huskies are a 7.5-point favorite over the Aztecs, which isn’t too surprising considering the Huskies combined 103-point win margin in the tournament so far.
Although the Huskies have yet to win a game this tournament by less than 13-points, I expect this matchup to be much closer than expected. The Aztecs aren’t necessarily the best team that this Huskies squad have seen up to this point, but they’re battle-tested and have been able to make adjustments and find ways to win in every game up to this point.
Brian Dutcher, SDSU head coach, has done a brilliant job with his squad up to this point, and has been able to utilize his team’s strengths to find different ways to win. Dutcher’s squad entered March Madness with a 31-6 record and a Mountain West Conference title, and it definitely seems like that wasn’t enough for the South California school, who will now compete for their first Men’s Basketball National Championship in school history.
On the other side of things, this National Championship appearance has been years in the making for UConn head coach Dan Hurley, who is in his 5th season with the team. This year marks Hurley’s third consecutive March Madness appearance with the Huskies, but is the first time he’s been able to find success, after being bounced in the first round in each of the past two seasons. Despite only earning a 4-seed on Selection Sunday, this UConn squad is one of the best in the country and wholeheartedly deserve their spot in the National Championship.
Although I think that either team can win this game, I have to go with the UConn Huskies to be crowned National Champions and defeat the SDSU Aztecs. The Huskies haven’t just won their five tournament games, they’ve dominated them. There hasn’t been a moment in this tournament where they’ve looked susceptible to defeat, as they’ve cruised past each opponent. I predict a narrow 73-68 Huskies victory, as the Aztecs will cover the spread and keep this game close. As we approach the National Championship game, let me know your predictions for this matchup and who will be crowned Kings of the Tournament.