It has been a very interesting college basketball season that some may even call crazy but it’ll all come to an end this weekend in Houston. Home of the Texans, NRG stadium will be hosting the 2023 NCAAM Final Four and it’s been a wild ride for each team representing.
A full season of a lot of unpredictable moments where none of the preseason top 10 teams will be a Final Four team for the first time in a long while. It has been a very fun NCAA tournament filled with lots of surprises including seeing the second 16 seed, Fairleigh Dickinson, to beat a 1 seed, Purdue. There weren’t as many buzzer beaters as there usually are but the tournament was still filled with a lot of excitement.
It all comes down to four though.
Miami, UConn, San Diego St., and Florida Atlantic are the teams in Houston trying to win the 2023 National Championship and it should be a very interesting Final Four weekend. These aren’t the “sexy” teams that everyone was expecting to be here. Only one of them, SDSU, was picked to win their conference and not many thought SDSU would be here considering they only play in the Mountain West.
There aren’t many “star” players either. Only one guy, UConn’s Jordan Hawkins, is even projected to be drafted in the first round of the 2023 NBA Draft. None of this means it will be a boring Final Four.
There are plenty of reasons to watch and here are the things you need to know before the games start Saturday evening.
1) First Final Four Ever Without A Top 3 Seed
This is the first Final Four in history of the tournament. The highest seeded team in Houston will be UConn with Miami and SDSU both being 5 seeds while FAU is the lowest seeded team at 9. FAU will look to be the lowest seeded team to ever win a National Championship replacing Villanova who was an 8 seed and won in 1985. If UConn wins it all they’d be only the second 4 seed to win it all while Miami and SDSU would both be the first 5 seeds to win a National Championship.
2) Only UConn Has Final Four Experience
The UConn Huskies are the only team featured in this year’s Final Four that has been here before. This is their sixth Final Four and first since 2014 when they won the National Championship. They have won a National Championship in 4 of their previous 5 appearances so the statistics say they’re likely to win since they pretty much win it all every time they’re here.
This is the first Final Four appearances for Miami, FAU, and SDSU and all will look to add their first National Championship in school history. Although UConn is the only school that has been here before, Miami’s Jim Laranega is the only head coach with head coaching experience in the Final Four. He led George Mason to their only Final Four appearance in 2006. Coincidentally, the last time he was in the Final Four he beat UConn to get there and now he’s going to have to beat UConn to get to a National Championship.
3) Best Player Observing Ramadan
Perhaps the best player in the Final Four, Adama Sanogo, who is averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds, is currently observing Ramadan during the Final Four. That means, he and teammates Hassan Diarra and Samson Johnson will be fasting all day until sundown. The sun is set to set at 7:40 local time which favors the Huskies because tip off for their Saturday night game is at 7:49 pm.
Sanogo, Diarra, and Johnson will have 9 minutes before tip to get enough nutrients in their body but luckily, this is something they have been doing for a long time.
4) UConn Balancing Act
UConn is a very balanced team with Sanogo and Jordan Hawkins leading the way. Sanogo is a force inside while Hawkins playmaking on the wing makes them a very dangerous team. They are a great offensive rebounding team, move the ball really well, very good defensive team, and just an all around complete team.
They aren’t the best transition defensive team so if a team is able to get stops and get out on the break they will likely find success. Ball pressure has been an issue for them also. The Husky guards can get a little rattled at times when trying to navigate in the half court.
5) Miami Starting 5
Miami might have the best starting 5 of the four teams left. Isaiah Wong is the ACC POY but he probably hasn’t been the Hurricanes best player in their journey to the Final Four. That could be Jordan Miller who has been putting on a show in the tournament. Each player in the starting 5 could easily go off for 20+ and lead the way which makes them a very dangerous team.
They are an upper classmen led team with a lot experience and that could benefit them greatly.
6) Good Offense But Bad D
Miami might have the most high powered offense of the four teams left but they will need to show up defensively if they want to win. They have way too many lapses on that end of the floor and they aren’t the most athletic team. Some times is looks like the effort isn’t there for them. They rank 104th in adjusted defense efficiency which is by far the worst of any of the four team in Houston who all rank in the top 30.
7) Longest Winning Streak
The FAU Owls have the longest winning streak of the four team at 15 straight and also sport the best record at 35-3. The Owls have the longest offset of winning a National Championship but being the hottest team in the field could definitely help. Their Saturday night opponent doesn’t have the experience just like they don’t so it could very well just come down to who the hottest team is and that favors them.
8) Owls Are DEEP
FAU is the deepest team in the field and this could definitely be in their favor. They aren’t just deep though, they are athletic, bring a lot of energy, and experienced. It goes beyond stats. Every player that steps onto the floor contributes in some way. Whether it’s scoring, diving on the floor, going for an offensive rebound, or taking a charge, every Owl knows they have to contribute in some way.
They do tend to rely on the 3 point shot a little too much and if they don’t have it going they stay with it. They got worse in the tournament shooting wise also shooting 31.2% from deep in their 4 games. To make things more difficult for them, they’ll be playing one of the best 3 point defenses in the country so they’ll need to either be on or figure out other ways to score.
9) SDSU Looking To Avenge 2020
The Aztecs had possibly their best team in school history in 2020 and were thought to be a legit threat to win a National Championship. They were 30-2 and 6th in the final AP Poll but their hopes got derailed due to their being no NCAA Tournament because of Covid. They will look to avenge the 2020 season just as Kansas did last season.
They are very good on the defensive end which ranks 4th and have held opponents to only 56.6 points since the start of the Mountain West tournament. Only 2 opponents have even hit 60. They have the 2nd best 3 point defense holding opponents to only 17% and that is sure to come in handy. No other team may be hungrier for a National Championship than the Aztecs.
10) Will SDSU Be Able To Hit Shots
For as good as they are on the defensive end, they might be equally as bad shooting the ball. They shoot 44.1% from the floor and 34.7% from 3 which isn’t terrible but it’s a little misleading because of how well they offensive rebound. During the 22-23 season, they shot 49.1% from 2 which was 261st in the country.
If FAU and UConn/Miami can keep the Aztecs off the offensive glass plus pushing the pace and not letting their defense set up they’ll have a good chance to beat them.