This Saturday, the San Diego State Aztecs and the Florida Atlantic Owls will play their first Final Four game in their respective school’s history. San Diego State basketball opened as slight favorites to win this matchup which many think will be an exciting back-and-forth affair. With that said, let’s move on to our San Diego State 2023 Final Four predictions against Florida Atlantic.
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4. Matt Bradley explodes for 20+ points
All things considered, Matt Bradley is the best player on the roster of San Diego State basketball. That was also why he was extremely missed by the Aztecs in their Elite Eight tango with the Creighton Bluejays. Sure, the Aztecs got away with a win by the skin of their teeth, but they would have had an easier ride to the Final Four if only he fared even just a little bit better on offense. Bradley is leading the Aztecs in the 2022-23 college basketball season with 12.5 points per game, but against Creighton, he threw one brick after another, going 1-for-8 from the field for just two points in 20 minutes.
Fortunately, one of the many strengths of this Aztecs squad showed up in that game, with San Diego State basketball flashing its depth by getting great contributions from Lamont Butler and Darrion Trammell. Yes, the Aztecs are deep and yes they are 30th in the nation in bench minutes rate, per KenPom, but in high-pressure games, it’s always the best player who will have to show up before anyone else does. It’s about time for Bradley to come up with a great offensive performance after scoring just eight points on 3-for-17 shooting over the last two San Diego State games, dating back to the Sweet 16 round upset against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
3. San Diego State holds the Owls to worst shooting performance in the Big Dance
If there’s one department where San Diego State basketball truly excels, it’s the Department of Crippling Opponents With Suffocating Defense. The Aztecs arguably have the best defense in the entire nation this season. Per KenPom, San Diego State is fourth in Division I basketball with an adjusted defensive efficiency of 89.9, which means teams are putting up fewer than 90 points per 100 possessions adjusted. You don’t have to look at a dizzying table of numbers to realize just how legitimately good San Diego State’s defense is.
You can just look at the struggles of No. 1 seed Alabama in shooting the ball against the Aztecs in the Sweet 16 round. In that game, Alabama was held to only 32.4 percent shooting from the field and 3-for-27 from behind the arc.
Moreover, the Crimson Tide managed just a 34.5 effective field goal percentage. Just to further demonstrate San Diego State basketball’s incredible defense has been this season, especially since the start of the Big Dance, not one of four teams the Aztecs had faced so far in the tournament had posted an effective field goal percentage higher than 42%. The Bluejays and the Crimson Tide are both top 25 in the nation this season in terms of offensive efficiency, but both of them ended up getting hammered by San Diego State’s D.
2. San Diego State basketball makes it rain — from inside the arc
As you might already by the time you get to this part, San Diego State’s defense is the team’s most important weapon this season. But the Aztecs aren’t too shabby either offensively, as they even finished the conference play in the MWC third in the league in adjusted offensive efficiency (110.6). That being said, San Diego State just doesn’t shoot well. The Aztecs are a sub-200 team nationally with a 49.6 eFG% . They’re also just 240th with a 49% success rate on their 2-pointers. In other words, their accuracy from the field isn’t at all ideal, but will also make sure that the other team would fare much worse.
But against Florida Atlantic, there’s hope for San Diego basketball to come up huge in the paint and anywhere inside the arc. San Diego State went shot just 41.5 2FG% against Creighton, but the Bluejays had 7-1 Ryan Kalkbrenner. Florida Atlantic’s frontcourt features a 7-1 in Vladislav Goldin, but as a team, the Owls are nearly ranked 300th in Division I basketball with just a 6.9 block rate. That sounds like an opportunity to shine for the likes of Bradley, Trammell, and Butler by attacking the rim as well. Watch out for San Diego State center Jaedon LeDee as well, as he is an ultra-efficient shot-maker around the rim.
1. The Aztecs win by at least 15 points
There is no denying that Florida Atlantic is a very good team. Jerome Tang called the Owls the toughest team his Kansas State Wildcats had faced this season. That means a lot. But San Diego is also one hell of a team who will get it together on both ends of the floor to stun college basketball fans with a landslide victory in a game many thought would be close from start to finish.