AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR…

2023-03-31 · 3 min read · March Madness/Basketball
Florida Atlantic Owls

NCAA.com | Al Bello/Getty Images

One of the wildest NCAA tournaments in recent memory has boiled down to four unlikely remaining teams; San Diego State, Miami, UConn, and the cinderella Florida Atlantic Owls.
It marks the first time ever that the final four will feature no 1, 2, or 3 seeds. Basically, this tournament is completely wide open. Each remaining team has a legitimate shot at winning a national championship.
San Diego State Aztecs (5)
The Aztecs feel like a team of destiny in some ways, a program that felt like they missed an opportunity when the pandemic cancelled the 2020 tournament. At that time, they were 30-2 and in line for a #1 seed, so a trip to the Final Four feels like the basketball gods have set things right.
San Diego State’s best hope for winning it is by relying on their elite defence. The best defensive team remaining by far, the Aztecs will be looking to slow the game down, muck it up, and dictate the pace.
They have the most experience left in the field, and they possess the kind of toughness you need in order to win late in the tournament.
However, if a high-scoring team like FAU or Miami can get hot and turn things into a track meet, San Diego State could be in some trouble.
Miami Hurricanes (5)
The U has been very impressive on their surprise run to the Final Four, particularly on offence. They’ve climbed to number five in the country in offensive efficiency on the year since the tournament started, and have averaged a whopping 87.5 points per game since the second round.
Every one of their starting five is a threat, but 6’7 senior Jordan Miller is the key. He’s been outstanding so far, with his best performance coming against in their most recent Elite Eight victory over Texas, where he dropped 27 points while not missing a single shot from the field, or the free throw line (yes, you read that right, 7-7 from the field and 13-13 from the line).
The electric guard Isaiah Wong is also capable of taking a game over at a moment's notice.
Miami’s Achilles heel is a defence where they rank 104th in the nation, but if they can find a way to take down UConn in the Final Four, they’ll be in a great position to take home the National Title against whoever comes out the other side.
Connecticut Huskies (4)
UConn is without a doubt the most talented team left on the board on paper. Their balance and depth are what make them so dangerous. Big man Adama Sonogo along with Jordan Hawkins are their two best players. Hawkins has hit 9 threes in his last two games, totalling 44 points over that span.
Sanogo meanwhile is shooting 66% from the field for the tournament and has been dominant on the boards averaging nearly 10 a game in March Madness.
UConn plays both ends, and they’re a complete team with few weaknesses, and they should be considered the betting favourites to add another title to the program’s illustrious history.
If we’re picking nits, UConn tends to get sloppy when teams apply real ball pressure and cut off transition opportunities, so a potential finals matchup against the Aztecs, or even the athletic FAU Owls (who we’ll get to in a second) could give them some issues.
Florida Atlantic Owls (9)
One of the most unexpected Final Four appearances in history, the Owls are the definition of a Cinderella team. But make no mistake, their magical run has been no accident. They’re coming off the most impressive victory in the tournament, beating a red hot, and talented Kansas State team that was looking like the favourite, in Madison Square Garden no less.
FAU is deep, energetic, extremely long and athletic. They get up and down, shoot a ton of three’s and have multiple guards who can initiate on the perimeter. The Owls used a 10-man rotation to constantly rotate fresh bodies in and out, allowing them to apply constant ball pressure and pick up full court.
They’re very active on defence and create turnovers and fast break opportunities as well.
Here’s the one problem…with the amount the Owls rely on the three-point line to keep them in games offensively, one bad shooting night can abruptly end their run. It hasn't come back to bite them yet, but with the added pressure and the added depth perception of a football stadium (which is where Final Four games could be played) it could be the makings of a disaster.
But there's just something special about this team that can't quite be put into words.
When a magical run goes this far, sometimes there's just no stopping it.
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Sports Tree Profile

By: Eddie Huband

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