It’s West Coast vs. East Coast in the NCAA Tournament national championship game from Houston as No 5 San Diego State of the Mountain West faces No. 4 UConn of the Big East with a 9:20 p.m. ET tipoff from NRG Stadium and televised by CBS. The Huskies, looking for their fifth national title, are 7.5-point favorites on the NCAAB odds.
Last-Minute Preview Of The NCAA Championship Game: San Diego State vs. UConn
When: Saturday, April 3, at 9:20 PM ET
Where: NRG Stadium, Houston, TX
TV / Streaming: CBS, Paramount+
San Diego State (32-6) is the first-ever team from the Mountain West in the NCAA Tournament title game. The Aztecs beat No. 9 Florida Atlantic 72-71 in the Final Four on a Lamont Butler 17-foot buzzer-beater. SDSU trailed by as many as 14 in the second half and the only time it led in the second half was when the game was finished.
Butler’s shot came after San Diego State elected not to foul or use its final timeout after pulling within a point with 36 seconds to go. The Aztecs and coach Brian Dutcher were content to let Florida Atlantic play out the shot clock on its final possession and not foul to extend the game. After FAU took two timeouts of its own, Johnell Davis missed a runner in the lane and SDSU got the rebound. The Aztecs could have called timeout after getting the ball across halfcourt and drawn up a final play. But they wanted to play it out.
“I ran out of plays, so I decided not to take the timeout,” Dutcher said. “I said if we get the rebound, let’s get downhill, send all three bigs to the rim. Lamont got downhill, he made the play. I’m proud of him.”
SDSU star Matt Bradley made only 3 of 17 attempts in wins against Alabama and Creighton but came alive against FAU with a team-leading 21 points. It was Bradley’s first 20-point game since scoring 23 points against UNLV on New Year’s Eve.
San Diego State is giving up an even 60 points per game heading into Monday night while holding opponents to 35.9% shooting from the field and 21.6% from deep. The Aztecs will look to join UNLV in 1990 as the only current mid-major programs to win the national championship. SDSU has won 15 of its last 16 games (15-1) and 19 of its last 21 (19-2) with the two losses coming on the road against NCAA Tournament teams Nevada (14-2 at home) and Boise State (14-1 at home). The Aztecs are 7-0 this season in games decided by three or less points.
UConn (30-8), which won its last national title in 2014, had little trouble beating No. 5 Miami on Saturday, 72-59. Starting with three straight 3s — one jumper from Jordan Hawkins and two set shots from Adama Sanogo — UConn took a quick 9-0 lead and never trailed.
The semifinal victory was UConn’s closest win in five tournament games, and it became only the sixth team since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 to reach the title game after winning its first five in the tournament by double digits. Four of the previous five teams won the championship (Michigan State in 2000, Duke in 2001, North Carolina in 2009, Villanova in 2018).
Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams, only 1996 Kentucky, 2009 North Carolina and 2016 Villanova have ever captured the national title with an average margin of victory of at least 20 points. UConn’s average NCAA tournament margin of victory thus far has been 20.6.
“When we’re playing harder than the other team, which is our calling card — going like plus-nine on the glass, playing elite defense and having a lot of answers on offense — there’s nowhere where we’re weak as a team,” coach Dan Hurley said after beating Miami. “We’re able to kind of body blow our opponent.”
UConn is 16-0 against non-Big East teams this season and has won all of those games by double digits, averaging a 24.7 margin in its favor. The Huskies are a perfect 4-0 in national championship games, winning in 1999, 2004, 2011 and 2014 and have won the most national title games without losing one. The Huskies beat the Aztecs in the Sweet 16 on their path to a national championship in 2011.
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