Fighting “Four” a Championship


Four teams remain in the NCAA Tournament. That’s it, only four teams. There are no one-seeds, no two-seeds, and as a matter of fact, no three-seeds remaining. What has been a wild March Madness filled with upsets still has three games to go. With all the drama that has taken place so far, it is unpredictable what we will see in this final weekend of games. With that being said, here are my predictions for the semi-final matchups taking place on Saturday in Houston. 


(5) San Diego State vs (9) Florida Atlantic – Saturday @ 6:09 P.M. on CBS

Competing in the first semifinal game are the South Regional Champion San Diego Aztecs, who will face off against the East Regional Champion Florida Atlantic Owls. The Owls have made it to the Final Four as a nine-seed, the first nine-seed to go this far since 2013. San Diego State came out as the five-seed in their region, and only the second five-seed to win their region since the 2010 tournament. Two teams that have ridden a great amount of momentum the past few weeks will now clash in Houston for the right to play for a National Championship. 

Beginning with Florida Atlantic, the road wasn’t easy, as the Owls pulled off some improbable upsets along the way. Starting in the first round, they defeated a Memphis Tigers team that many thought would have the edge. Having to then face a Farleigh Dickinson team full of momentum posed a difficult challenge, but Florida Atlantic was again able to overcome that to reach the Sweet 16. Entering the Sweet 16 as yet another big underdog, the Owls pulled off a shocking upset of the Tennessee Volunteers, holding them to only 55 points. Winning this game set them up for an Elite 8 matchup with the Kansas State Wildcats, a team that nobody could stop in their previous games. Florida Atlantic overcame the challenge of being the underdog once again to defeat the Wildcats, and punched their ticket into the Final Four. With all that has transpired during the tournament so far, it only makes sense that a nine-seed is going to be playing in Houston this weekend. 

For San Diego State, the domination of their defense has been a strong factor in their berth in the Final Four. It began with a close win against a Charleston offense that was ranked sixteenth in the country in offensive efficiency. The Aztecs then had a convincing win against the Furman Paladins, a team that was ranked twelfth in the nation in total offense. Both of these teams averaged over 80 points per game during the regular season, but were held to under 60 points against this suffocating San Diego State defense. Taking their defensive strengths to the Sweet 16, the Aztecs matched up against the top-seed in the tournament, Alabama. With all odds against them, San Diego State used their defensive dominance to their advantage, and was able to come away with a seven point win against the Crimson Tide. They were able to hold Alabama’s top player Brandon Miller to only nine points in the win. Finally, for their Elite 8 game, they were tasked with slowing down a Creighton Blue Jays team that was red-hot going into the contest. With a spot in the Final Four on the line, the Aztecs pulled out a 57-56 win, and earned their spot in this weekend’s game in Houston. 

Looking ahead to this matchup, it’s clear that the battle between the San Diego State defense and Florida Atlantic offense will be the most crucial piece in determining a winner. The Owls have scored over 71 points per game so far during the tournament, while the Aztecs have only allowed just over 57 points per game. Leading the way for the Owls’ offense is point guard Johnell Davis, who has scored over 17 points per game during the team’s first four games. He now gets to face San Diego State’s defense that has dominated the opposing team’s top offensive threat. However, with all the odds that Florida Atlantic has overcome so far, it’s hard to imagine anyone putting them away easily. Having this game most likely come down to who can make a tough shot in a crucial moment, I believe that Florida Atlantic will shock the world one more time and secure a spot in the NCAA Championship Game. 


(4) UCONN vs (5) Miami – Saturday @ 8:49 P.M. on CBS

Capping off the Saturday slate, the West Regional Champion UCONN Huskies will face off against the Midwest Regional Champion Miami Hurricanes. These two squads enter this game having played their best basketball over the past few weeks, and now get to showcase their talents in front of the college basketball fanbase. Having defeated juggernaut opponents along the way, these two teams have proven to be more than ready for the big stage, and will now get to play for a spot in the National Championship Game Monday Night.

Starting off with Miami, cutting down the nets in Kansas City required a lot of grit and smart basketball, but the Hurricanes accepted the challenge and avenged their Elite 8 loss from last season to get to the Final Four. Right from the start, round one was a very difficult game, against a Drake Bulldogs team that had the lead for much of the game, but the Hurricanes prevailed in the end. They were then able to dominate an Indiana Hoosiers team that was led by one of the top players in the country, Trayce Jackson-Davis. The next two games, well, were almost impossible to win in the eyes of many. Facing off against the Houston Cougars in the Sweet 16 presented a tall task, especially with the Cougars playing for an opportunity to compete in the Final Four in their home city. Miami had no issues, however, defeating Houston by twelve and advancing to the regional final, where they would play the Texas Longhorns. Texas, a team picked by many to win the whole tournament, came out firing, leading much of the game, including a thirteen-point lead with twelve minutes to play. The relentlessness that the Miami Hurricanes squad showed during the final stretch of this game was absolutely unbelievable. They rallied to top Texas and secure a spot in the Final Four this weekend. 

Taking a look at UCONN, the Huskies entered the tournament as a four-seed that many said would surprise people, and they sure enough did just that. With dominating wins against Iona and then Saint Mary’s, the Huskies cruised into the Sweet 16, and would meet an Arkansas Razorbacks team that knocked off the one-seed Kansas Jayhawks. UCONN showed no rust, beating Arkansas by 23 and punching their ticket to the Elite 8. Their opponent, the Gonzaga Bulldogs, a team always poised for a deep tournament run.  In what was expected to be a tightly contested, physical game between two heavyweights in college basketball, the Huskies annihilated the Bulldogs, leading for almost the entire game. Leading the way for UCONN has been Adama Sanogo, who has averaged 20 points and almost ten rebounds a game so far. Sanogo has proven to be a challenge for opposing defenses, and has played a major role in the Huskies’ run to the Final Four. With this dominance by Sanogo and the entire Huskies team, they had the pleasure of cutting down the nets in Las Vegas as the West Regional Champions.

Diving into this matchup, it’s clear that the offenses of both teams are going to shine on Saturday Night. Both UCONN and Miami have averaged over 81 points per game scored during their first four tournament games. With Jordan Hawkins and Adama Sanogo for UCONN, and Isaiah Wong and Jordan Miller for Miami, finding a way to defend these rosters appears impossible. Having strong defensive play has been a consistent factor for both teams in their runs to Houston, and will have to be just as good to punch a ticket to the title game. Having already played such difficult competition, these teams are going to be ready for this showdown Saturday night. With both teams having played impressive basketball, it’s very difficult to say that one team has a clear advantage over the other. With all that being said, in what should be one of the best Final Four games of all time, I see the UCONN Huskies continuing their dominance and earning a spot in Monday Night’s National Championship game.