Two weeks ago 68 teams stood with hopes of cutting down the nets in Houston. The weekend saw 16 teams enter, and now only four remain. It is time to continue our March Madness odds series with Final Four predictions and picks.
Here are the latest March Madness odds, courtesy of FanDuel.
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No. 9 FAU vs. No. 5 San Diego State (-1.5)
Cinderella marches on, as FAU makes its first-ever Final Four appearance. For a team that had never even won a tournament game, this is truly an amazing run. Over the weekend, FAU stopped a powerful Tennessee team, holding them to 55 points and coming away with the upset. They were not done making waves though, as FAU took the lead over Kansas States with 6:12 left to go, and held off the Wildcats' comeback. The two games had some different feelings to them. In the Tennessee game, they dominated defensively, holding the Volunteers to 33.3% shooting. In the Kansas State game, it was the offense that took charge, shooting 48.1% en route to the victory.
Both games saw FAU dominate the glass, with 40-plus rebounds in each affair, and an advantage on the board differential. That will have to continue to be a huge part of their game against a San Diego State squad that was 81st in total rebounds on the season.
San Diego State's defense will have its hands full in this game. FAU has a quality offense. They ranked 32nd in the NCAA this year in scoring offense, with 78.4 points per game. They did this with efficiency, ranking 23rd in effective field goal percentage on the year. This team also fires from deep. They are top twenty in three-points attempted, and top fifty in three-point percentage on the year. Furthermore, the Aztecs are 24th in the nation on the year in points per game allowed, at 63.1 points per outing. Subsequently, they smothered teams from three-point range all year as well. They were 6th in defensive three-point percentage, only allowing 28.8% shooting from three.
The Aztecs showed they were up for the challenge of a good offense over the weekend. They took down the number three and 14 teams in terms of offensive efficiency according to KenPom. San Diego State held Alabama to 64 points in their game, and won an all-time classic, holding Creighton to 56 points in their 57-56 win. In the process, they smothered the Crieghton three-point attack, holding them to 11.8% three-point shooting. The Aztecs have the talent and skill to repeat that performance, as long as they do not take the FAU offense lightly. Ultimately, the run comes to an end here for the Owls, but this team will still be celebrated
Final Four Prediction: San Diego State 65 – FAU 62
No. 5 Miami vs No. 4 UConn (-5.5)
Miami is the third of four teams making their first-ever Final Four appearance. This is not the first time for Miami head coach Jim Laranaga though. Seventeen years to the day since Jim Laranaga led the George Mason University Patriots to an elite eight win over UConn, he lead the Hurricanes to an elite eight win over Texas to set up a date with UConn. This year's run is a little different though. They did both take out a number one seed, as Miami dominated Houston. Similarly, both of his teams took out one-seeds, but Miami did not need overtime to secure their win. Similarly, both of Laranga's teams made big comebacks to win their elite eight games, but Miami shut the door on Texas completely, not allowing a comeback of their own.
Miami did show something special in their win against Texas. When Texas shut down the Miami three-point game the Hurricanes adjusted and still were able to shoot 59.2% from the floor. Consequently, that may be why they are ranked fifth according to KenPom in offensive efficiency. This effort was led by Jordan Miller. Miller went 7/7 from the field, but also 13/13 from the free-throw line. Interestingly enough, Jordan Miller went to Loudoun Valley High School, just an hour away from his original school, George Mason Univesity.
UConn is hoping Laranaga's history does not repeat itself. Of the eight teams that ranked top 25 in adjusted offensive efficiency, and top 50 in adjusted defensive efficiency, UConn is the only one left standing. The offense is ranked third overall and they are averaging 81.75 points per game in the tournament so far. Conversely, the defense has been just as good, giving up only 59.25 points per game so far. That may be why the closest game they have played in the 15-point win over Saint Mary's in the second round.
UConn is not just winning games, they are destroying teams. They are winning by an average of 22.5 points per game this tournament. The Huskies have held every team they have faced under 39% shooting this tournament and won the rebound battle in each game. This is a train that Laranaga and the Hurricanes cannot stop. UConn will win this one with ease.
Final Four Prediction: UConn 83 – Miami 70