National Championship Game Preview: San Diego State vs. Connecticut

Apr 3, 2023

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Game: San Diego State Aztecs vs.  Connecticut Huskies  

Time: 9:20 p.m.

Odds: Aztecs +7, Huskies -7

Total: 132.5

In their first-ever attempt to win a national championship, the San Diego State Aztecs (32-6 SU, 19-17-1 ATS) will take on the Connecticut Huskies (30-8, 26-12) on Monday night in the NCAA final. With a thrilling 72-71 buzzer-beater victory over Florida Atlantic in Saturday’s Final Four action, the Aztecs advanced to the March Madness title game. They are now riding a nine-game winning streak heading into Monday night’s game at NRG Stadium.

With a decisive 72-59 victory over the Miami Hurricanes in Saturday’s late game, the Huskies earned the chance to win their first national championship since 2014. UConn has now won all five of its games in this season’s NCAA tournament by double-digit margins.

On their way to their first-ever appearance in the national championship game, the Aztecs have kept their supporters on the edge of their seats. SDSU came back from a 14-point deficit to secure a victory over the Cinderella Owls on Saturday. The Aztecs needed a buzzer-beating shot from Lamont Butler. That comes after their tense 57-56 victory over Creighton in the Elite Eight, which was decided by a controversial foul call and a last-second free throw.

FAU’s 71 points against San Diego State were their highest point total allowed by the Aztecs in 10 games. That is a cause for concern as they prepare to play a Huskies offense that is firing on all cylinders.

After the half, the Aztecs’ defense tightened up, allowing just 11 points over the course of the final 10 minutes as SDSU reduced FAU’s lead. Matt Bradley led the way up front with his best performance of 2023, scoring 21 points while pulling down six rebounds. After shooting just 3-for-9 from the field in his previous two games, the senior made a significant turnaround with that performance.

In their win over the Hurricanes on Saturday night, the Huskies put on yet another entertaining show. In their 72-59 victory over Miami, UConn demonstrated their aerial superiority by making nine threes overall on the night, including four while jumping out to a 14-0 lead to start the game. For the fourth-seeded Huskies in this tournament, quick starts are starting to become a trend. In their victories over Arkansas, Gonzaga, and Miami, the Huskies wasted no time establishing leads at the half by an average of 12.3 points after being forced to overturn deficits in the first two rounds.

On Saturday, Adama Sanogo once again was the key. The junior big man from Mali set the tone for the game by scoring eight of the team’s first eleven points, including two three-pointers, and grabbing 10 rebounds for the second time in as many games. Despite suffering from food poisoning, Jordan Hawkins led the Huskies with three three-pointers, bringing his tournament total to 19 through the first five games.

Although the Aztecs’ defense struggled in the early going in their victory over the Owls on Saturday, it still stands as this team’s strongest suit and is essential to their chances of taking down the nets tonight. SDSU must regain that form against a Huskies team that is averaging over nine three-pointers per game. UConn is also limiting opponents to 40% or under from the field and just 17% from beyond the arc in their first four tournament games.

In order to score against a team that committed 15 turnovers and was the victim of eight steals on Saturday, it will be important to seize opportunities. Darion Trammell, who averaged 15.3 points over his previous three games, will be attempting to recover from his 2-for-8 performance on Saturday.

The entertaining, fast-paced offense of the Huskies has averaged 10 three-pointers per game so far in the tournament. The Huskies cannot afford to neglect rebounding. The Aztecs average more than 40 rebounds per game. A strong three-point shooting effort from Hawkins, Sanogo, and Tristen Newton could make all the difference for UConn.

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