9 Florida Atlantic 71
5 San Diego State 72
Florida Atlantic and San Diego State made their first Final Four appearances this weekend in what will go down as an all-time classic matchup. Both teams have contributed captivating storylines and jaw-dropping highlights that make the NCAA tournament what it is. The lack of top seeds or blue blood programs didn't take away from the weekend drama in a year that has truly lived up to the March Madness name. In fact, it enhanced it. Florida Atlantic is looking to become the first nine-seed in tournament history to win the National Championship. San Diego State is looking to become the first team from the Mountain West Conference to win the National Championship. Unfortunately, only one team will get their chance to make history, and after a back-and-forth game with a storybook ending, that team is the San Diego State Aztecs.
The two teams had nearly identical statistical outputs when it was all said and done. Nine three-pointers each, around 44% shooting from the field each, and 35 total rebounds each; the teams even had the same number of personal fouls with 17. The Owls had firm control of the game for most of the first half, taking a seven-point lead into the break. But after adjustments were made by San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher and clutch shooting from Matt Bradley, that lead evaporated. It took a last-second buzzer-beater from Lamont Butler to give the Aztecs the win and a chance at the title. San Diego State has shown an uncanny ability to keep games close and ultimately win throughout the tournament, but UCONN has blown out every team it has faced. Something has to give, and someone has to win. We'll see who on Monday.
5 Miami 59
4 UCONN 72
UCONN just can't be stopped. They are only the sixth team in tournament history to win every game leading up to the National Championships by double digits, and they look to win their fifth title in 20 years on Monday. Any fan who doesn't include UCONN in the blue blood category is kidding themselves. They've been the most dominant program of the modern era. The Huskies are 16-0 against non-conference opponents this season, and that includes Miami in the Final Four, who never had the lead in the game. Adama Sanogo continued his dominance with 21 points and ten rebounds, cementing himself as an odds-on favorite to win Player of the Tournament. He is only the 4th player in 60 years to average both 20 points and 60 percent shooting from the field in the tournament. We are witnessing history. There isn't much else to say about this game. If I were San Diego State, I would pray to whatever God I believe in because the Huskies seem inevitable.
National Championship Game
5 San Diego State 59
4 UCONN 76
San Diego State came out very strong to start the first half and held onto that lead for about six minutes. But once the Huskies took over, there was no looking back. UCONN steamrolled the entire tournament, and the only way to express the extent of their domination is just to list some statistics. The Huskies averaged a 20-point lead in all their games, the fourth-largest win margin in tournament history. They are only the 6th team in tournament history to win every game by double digits en route to a title. They trailed for only 31 total minutes throughout the six games, meaning they had the lead for 87% of their tournament play. Of the minutes they trailed, only 55 seconds of those were in the second half, meaning that once they got the lead, they held it. Coach Dan Hurley said before the tournament that his Huskies were a different team outside of the Big East, and he was proven right. They went 17-0 in non-Conference games and won all of those games by more than 10 points. Adama Sanogo was awarded the Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament, an award he might have won regardless of the result of this game. Sanogo is also a practicing Muslim and was fasting for Ramadan in four of the six games he played, making his performances even more spectacular. He had 17 points and ten rebounds in the title game, and when interviewed after, all he had to say was, "Thanks for watching."
It can no longer be denied that the Connecticut Huskies are back and that Dan Hurley seems poised to add even more hardware to the 5 National Championships they've won in the last 20 years. The Hurley Family now hold a unique position in basketball history, as Dan has now won an NCAA National Championship as a coach, his brother Bobby Hurley won 2 National Championships with Duke as a player in the 1990's and their father Bob Hurley Sr won four National Championships and 26 State Championships as the coach of St Anthony High School in New Jersey, where he is considered one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. Andrew Hurley, son of Dan Hurley, also became the first walk-on in tournament history to play in all six games on the way to a title, a testament to their dominance. Congratulations to the UCONN Huskies for winning the 2023 NCAA Tournament. This March truly was madness.
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