The NCAA Tournament has had a little of everything this year, and on Monday night, it will have a winner.
The Connecticut Huskies face the San Diego State Aztecs in the title game at NRG Stadium in Houston, the final act of a March Madness that has seen plenty of thrills and upsets. It featured the second upset by a No. 16 seed of a No. 1 seed in tournament history, as Fairleigh Dickinson stunned Purdue. A second No. 1 seed — Kansas — failed to make it out of the first round, while the other two No. 1s — top overall seed Alabama and Houston — were bounced in the regional semifinals.
It was the first time all four No. 1 seeds failed to reach a regional final. Instead, a No. 4 seed, two No. 5s, and a No. 9 made the trip to Houston. San Diego State (32-6) advanced to its first NCAA Tournament title game in school history with a dramatic 72-71 victory over Florida Atlantic on Lamont Butler’s buzzer-beater in the first game Saturday night, while UConn (30-8) led wire-to-wire in a 72-59 triumph over Miami in the nightcap behind 21 points and 10 rebounds from Adama Sanogo.
Nearly every oddsmaker has installed the Huskies as 7.5-point favorites for the championship game, and all are aligned on the total at 132.5 points. There are plenty of prop plays also available.
UConn trying to run non-conference table
About last night…#Made4March pic.twitter.com/A360f9Ud9M
— UConn Men’s Basketball (@UConnMBB) April 2, 2023
The Huskies improved to 16-0 against teams outside the Big East with Saturday night’s win over the Hurricanes, with all of their tourney victories coming by double figures. UConn has won those games by an average of 24.7 points, with the five NCAA Tournament wins coming by 20.6 per contest. Eight of those victories have come at neutral venues, and four wins among those are over AP Top 25 opponents.
While Sanogo leads Dan Hurley’s team with 17.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, the junior forward has leveled up in the tournament. He has averaged 20.2 points and 9.8 rebounds in the five wins, posting three double-doubles and shooting 68.2% (45-for-66) from the field. Sanogo is a strong favorite to be named Most Outstanding Player, with the SuperBook offering -125 odds for him to claim the honor.
He has gotten plenty of help on the perimeter, though. UConn has shot 40.1% (50-for-123) from 3-point range, hitting at least nine in all five victories. Jordan Hawkins is 19-for-38 from beyond the arc, draining three or more in all five games, and averaging 16.4 points. The Huskies have also shared the ball well, racking up 19 or more assists in four NCAA Tournament wins and posting a 1.63 assist-to-turnover ratio.
UConn has also gotten the job done defensively, limiting opponents to 34.7% shooting — 29.1% from deep — and 59.2 points per game during the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies have held all five opponents under 40% from the field and have a plus-10.8 rebound margin per contest.
Aztecs look to complete improbable run
Watching this on repeat all night long.#TheTimeIsNow | #MFinalFour pic.twitter.com/wyyqTqGaBO
— San Diego State Men’s Basketball (@Aztec_MBB) April 2, 2023
San Diego State is trying to become the first team west of Texas to win the NCAA Tournament since Arizona cut down the nets in 1997. The Aztecs completed the fifth-largest comeback in Final Four history Saturday night, overcoming a 14-point deficit in the final 13:53 by holding Florida Atlantic to just five baskets after falling behind 56-42.
Before Butler’s game-winning jumper, Jaedon LeDee made two field goals in the final 66 seconds to keep the Aztecs within striking distance, while Matt Bradley and Micah Parrish helped fuel the comeback as well. Bradley had a team-high 21 points, while LeDee, Parrish, and Aguek Arop accounted for all 27 of San Diego State’s bench points.
The Aztecs survived despite allowing the Owls to shoot 40.9% (9-for-22) from 3-point range — only the sixth opponent to reach 40% against SDSU all season. San Diego State ranks third in Division I, limiting opponents to 28.2% shooting from deep, and is 20th in effective field goal percentage defensively at 46.5%.
Brian Dutcher’s team hit 9-of-18 from beyond the arc versus Florida Atlantic, the fourth time in 2022-23 the Aztecs made 50% or better of their 3-point shots. Bradley had gone 1-for-10 from long range in the NCAA Tournament before sinking 4-of-8 shots from 3-point range in Saturday night’s win. His 21 points were his most since scoring 23 versus UNLV on Dec. 31.
Let’s look at all those lines
With UConn being a relatively large favorite, moneyline plays are not very rewarding. As of Sunday night, FanDuel (-345) was the only mobile sportsbook under -350, with PointsBet, Betway, the SuperBook, and Hard Rock all on the number.
On the flip side, those confident in San Diego State upending UConn have plenty of options to consider for a healthy payout. DraftKings tops the list at +320, followed by WynnBET (+310), Circa Sports (+305), and Caesars (+300) as the books willing to cross the +300 threshold.
The lone books to move off UConn -7.5 are BetRivers and Barstool Sportsbook, as the Kambi platform powering both has the Huskies as 8-point favorites at -106 compared to -114 for those who want the Aztecs and the points. There is a little bit of gamesmanship among the books at UConn -7.5, with WynnBET slicing some of its vig by offering both sides at -108. Hard Rock and Tipico are offering the Huskies at -105 laying 7.5 and the Aztecs -115 taking the points, while FanDuel has a -104/-118 split at that number.
WynnBET has the same -108 offering on both sides of the 132.5 points total, while the Kambi platform has a -107/-113 split for the over/under. The only other books straying from the standard -110 on both sides are Hard Rock, which has a -105/-115 split, and FOX Bet (-105/-118).
Some of the more interesting player prop offerings center on Sanogo, Hawkins, and Bradley. The Kambi platform has a notable swing for Sanogo’s over/under for points, offering a -130/+100 at 15.5 points going to +108/-139 for 16.5 points. It also has offerings at half-point increments for the over/under for points+rebounds+assists, including -117/-112 at 24.5, -103/-127 at 25, and +110/-143 at 25.5.
FanDuel is offering -114 for Hawkins to hit at least three 3-pointers, while DraftKings counters with -105 for the over on 2.5 3-pointers made. The two online titans notably diverge on their offerings for Bradley’s over/under at 12.5 points. DraftKings has a -130/-105 split, while FanDuel has listings of -106/-120.
Photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images