Peerless Final Four Combatants Ready For Houston

Ken Cross

March 28, 2023 at 11:48 am.

Going into the NCAA Tournament, college basketball odds experts had  Final Four entrants picked as 1-seed Houston (+120) led with Alabama (+180), Kansas (+190), and Purdue (+1100) as the followers. UCLA, a 2-seed in the West Region, was sitting well ahead of the Boilermakers with a (+240).

Most people didn’t study underdogs who were long shots to get to the Final Four in Houston as those numbers came out in force on the evening of March 12 when conference tournaments came to a close.

Miami, Florida Atlantic and San Diego State won regional finals this past weekend as the three will make the initial Final Four appearances in the schools’ history.

UConn won four national championships in the Jim Calhoun era and Danny Hurley will take the Huskies back to look for a fifth national title in his third season at the helm.

According to, UConn started with the best preseason odds (+800) to win the national championship of our four combatants. San Diego State (+6600) and Miami (+8000) were posted with long odds. Florida Atlantic was off the board as the Owls did not appear until Feb.1 when they started with (+25000) odds.

Of course, those odds fell immeasurably before the Elite Eight i as UConn sat at (+325) with San Diego State (+1000) and Miami (+1200) following. FAU (+1400) still had long odds before their Elite Eight victory over Kansas State.

The Hurricanes were the only team that appeared in the Elite Eight a year ago as Miami (+2500) in ’21-’22 fell to national champion Kansas.


Florida Atlantic – San Diego State Matchup Opens Final Four

The Owls are Conference USA’s regular season and tournament winner, as it has been a busy postseason for the conference. Charlotte won the CBI over Eastern Kentucky, while UAB and North Texas have jumped into the NIT’s Final Four.

Florida Atlantic has proven its 35-3 mark is not a fluke with wins over Memphis, Tennessee and Kansas State, plus their victory in the Round of 32 over Fairleigh Dickinson. That came two days after the Knights became the second 16-seed to knock off a 1-seed as they handed Purdue a 63-58 setback.

The leadership of Johnell Davis in the backcourt leaves the Owls with plenty of depth around the perimeter. Alijah Martin has become a dynamic three-point threat as he shoots 37.8 percent from behind the arc.

The presence of 7-foot-1 Vladislav Goldin in the middle makes coach Dusty May’s squad a tough matchup with his six guards as seven range from 26 made threes to the 68 by Martin.

San Diego State’s matchups with Goldin will be a major story in who can control the inside. Nathan Mensah produced in the paint with his length and blocked shots in the win over Creighton. SDSU also has solid post players in Jaedon Ledee and Aguek Arop as their depth in the post is as important as on the perimeter rotation.

If the Owls go with the four-guard offense, the matchups of Davis, Martin and Nick Boyd on Darrion Trammell, Lamont Butler and potentially Matt Bradley will be key in deciding the game for either team.

SDSU is an athletic and physical defensive team that is capable of turning defense into offense as the Aztecs score 71.5 points per outing.

San Diego State is known as a defensive team that holds opponents to only 27.9 percent (3rd/CBB) of their three-point line attempts and that could be a major story in how this game plays out.


‘Canes, Huskies Getting Set For Duel in Nightcap

Miami came alive in the latter part of the second half to pass Texas, 88-81.

The Longhorns had a 67-55 lead with 10:14 remaining, but a layup on Bensley Joseph and a jumper by Isaiah Wong completed a 9-4 run before an and-one by Norchad Omier gave Miami its first lead at 73-72 win at 5:26 remaining.

This Hurricanes offense has lots of depth and it features plenty of dynamics which cause matchup issues for opponents on defense.

UConn’s defense holds opponents to 29.7 percent from three which is where Miami can control its opponents as the Hurricanes shoot 36.9 percent from three.

Nigel Pack makes 2.5 triples per game and Isaiah Wong shoots 38 percent.  Those three-point threats can also work off the dribble which complements an inside game of Jordan Miller, Norchad Omier and Wooga Pooler and the Hurricanes combine to shoot 48.4 percent (14th/CBB).

Poplar is a strong inside-outside player who can be a tough matchup with his myriad of skills.

The Huskies’ one-two punch of Adama Sanogo and Jordan Hawkins also makes opposing defenses have to choose how to game plan. Sanogo gives UConn a stellar inside punch as he averages 17.1 points and 7.5 rebounds, while shooting 60.2 percent from the field.

Hawkins averages 3.1 triples per game while shooting 38.5 percent from three, and he and Sanogo average 24 of the Huskies’ 60.1 field goal attempts.

Alex Karaban is a 6-8, 240-pound forward who averages 40.6 percent from three and is another solid matchup option for the Huskies.

UConn took Gonzaga’s Adam Timme totally out of the game in the Huskies’ 82-54 win in the Western Finals.

He scored only 12 points and made 5-of-14 shots while he averaged 21.2 points per game throughout the season. Guard Julian Strawther was only 4-of-15 as he was well below his seasonal mark of 15.2 points per game average as well.

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