To the Connecticut Huskies, this is not unfamiliar territory. They won national titles in 1999, 2004, 2011 and 2014. And it is not surprising that they have been a prime contender this year. In the early part of the season, UConn looked like the best team in the country, or at least one of them as they got off to a 14-0 start. Then they went into a mini-tailspin. But now they are looking extremely formidable. And perhaps they are – to borrow a cliche – peaking at the right time. They have rolled through the first five games of the NCAA Tournament, winning all games by 13 points or more.
Will they finish the job? They have a chance as they line up against the San Diego State Aztecs in the national title game at 8:30 PM ET at NRG Stadium in Houston.
We’ll try to make their case in this piece.
Here are the numbers
In the NCAA Championship odds that have been posted at this title game at BetOnline, Connecticut is solidly favored:
San Diego State Aztecs vs. UConn Huskies Betting Info
|Date:||Monday, April 3rd, 2023|
|Time:||9:20 p.m. ET|
|Location:||NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas|
NCAA Championship Betting Odds
San Diego State
|+7 ( -110 )||131½ ( -110 )||+290|
|-7 ( -110 )||131½ ( -110 )||-360|
Maybe this team is head and shoulders above the rest
The Huskies have taken other teams who had been “hot” and turned them away. During the regular season, they beat Alabama by fifteen points. And to get to this point in the NCAA’s, they have vanquished Iowa by 24, Saint Mary’s by 15, Arkansas by 23, Gonzaga by 28 and Miami by 13. It is conceivable that they are playing at such a high level that they have that extra gear. They got off to a nice first-half lead against Miami and never relinquished it. The other foes were blown away with great second-half efforts.
The 1-2 punch up front is too strong
It’s very possible that Adama Sanogo could be the Most Outstanding Player in the tournament. He has indeed averaged 20.2 points and 10.2 rebounds in the Big Dance, as people question whether he could play in the NBA.
What’s interesting is that in some ways UConn actually gains when Sanogo leaves the floor. That is because they have come to count on a solid 13 minutes per game from freshman center Donovan Clingan. A Connecticut native, Clingan blocks 1.8 shots per game, with 7.1-point and 5.7-rebound averages. That in just 13 minutes per contest. He’s 7-foot-2, so opponents are going to be compromised in the middle on the second unit.
They hit the offensive boards
We admit that Miami was not capable enough as a defensive team to shut UConn down. The “scramble” defense they employ didn’t do much to mitigate the fact that when you have a good defensive possession against UConn, you have to stop them twice. That is because they are the second-best offensive rebounding team in the nation. The Huskies pull down 38.6% of their missed shots. That is phenomenal.
They make offenses one-dimensional
UConn’s opponents have scored only 23% of their points through triples. That is the fourth lowest rate in the country. So let’s conclude that they do an extremely good job closing out at the perimeter.
That might leave SDSU limited in terms of ways to score. Sure, they can get to the free throw line, and they may succeed with that. But this may not go well if they are forced to take shots inside the arc. Against FAU they were just 16-for-39 (that’s 41%). And for the entire season, they are 48.8%. That is 246th in the country.
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