The 2023 NCAA Men’s Final Four field is set, ready to descend on Houston. These aren’t the four teams anyone expected to get there, regardless with plenty of storylines and excitement over the next few days.
Brackets have been busted throughout the country, and Connecticut, San Diego St,, Miami (Fla.), and Florida Atlantic have made it through.
Here’s a brief look at how this quartet was able to get past their Elite Eight opponents to clinch a spot in the national semifinals.
UConn Routes Gonzaga
The UConn Huskies enter the Final Four as the prohibitive (-130) betting favorite, according to NCAA Men’s championship odds by BetUS sportsbook.
They were quite proficient in the first four games of the tourney, having finished their run to Houston by blowing out the Gonzaga Bulldogs, 82-54.
UConn was a West region No. 4 seed in the event, but it played as well as anyone in beating Iona (24 points), St. Mary’s (Cal.) (15 points), Arkansas (23 points) and Gonzaga by 28. So, a total margin of 90 points in those wins. This will be the sixth Final Four appearance by the Huskies, the only program among this season’s participants to previously reach this level.
That’s just the fifth time a +90 point differential through four games has been accomplished.
Aztecs on Defensive
San Diego St. was a No. 5 seed in the South, clawing its way to Houston with a one-point (57-56) win over the Creighton Bluejays in the final of the region. Aztec guard Darrion Trammel hit a free throw with just 1.2 seconds remaining. SDSU eliminated tournament top seed Alabama, 71-64, in the previous round
So, not only is this the first Final Four appearance by the Aztecs, it’s the first time a Mountain West Conference member has made it this far. SDSU is one of the highest-ranked defensive teams this season (No. 25, opponents 62.9 ppg), riding that defense to the Final Four.
‘Canes Humble ‘Horns
The Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes are another program headed to its first Final Four. that after a 88-81 second-half steamroll win of Texas in the final of the Midwest. The fifth-seeded ‘Canes outscored the Longhorns, 51-36, after intermission.
This was an Elite Eight team a season ago, then suffered a blowout loss to the Kansas Jayhawks. Jordan Miller led the way past Texas with 27 points in the victory and was perfect (7-of-7 FG, 13-of-13 FT) in the contest.
The No. 9 seed (East) Florida Atlantic Owls are by far the biggest surprise in the Final Four. Florida Atlantic used a terrific comeback to dispose of Kansas St., 76-76, in the final of the region, heading to Houston with a ton of momentum.
By contrast with UConn, FAU had a 19-point differential in winning its four games thus far.
It was overlooked much of the season, despite a fine Conference USA season en route to just the second tournament berth in school history.
Entering the NCAA’s priced at 300-1 odds (+3000) odds to win it all, with two more victories. They’d be the biggest ‘dog to ever accomplish the feat. FAU has rattled off 11 wins in a row.
In the national semifinals, Connecticut is listed as a 5½-points favorite over the ‘Canes, while the Aztecs are -2 over FAU, as per NCAA March Madness odds.