The 2023 Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament comes to a close on Monday night when the San Diego Aztecs face off against the Connecticut Huskies in Houston. We’ll dig into the game with betting analysis and a pick for the National Champion.
After crushing their five previous March Madness opponents, UConn is looking to win their fifth National Championship in the last 25 years. SDSU is hoping to keep their magical run going, but do they have another miracle left?
Connecticut certainly has done everything right over the last month to get here. The Huskies are extremely efficient on both ends of the floor and have won by 24, 15, 23, 28 and 13 points in their NCAA Tournament run. The only other team to have a run like this in the Big Dance in recent memory was the 2021 Gonazaga Bulldogs team that eventually lost to Baylor in the Final. In 2004, UConn also entered the Final Four with four straight 15+ point victories, squeaking by a great Duke squad to advance. They won the National Championship that year beating Georgia Tech 82-73 in San Antonio Texas.
UConn has the best player in the tournament going tonight in Mali big man Adama Sanogo. He’s put up more than 20 points in three games and had double/doubles three times in the tourney. The perfect compliment to the Connecticut superstar is guard Jordan Hawkins. The projected NBA first-round pick has combined with Sanogo to average 26.6 points-per-game. When Sanaogo isn’t filling it up, Hawkins is. If that’s not enough, forward Alex Karaban is shooting at a 40.4 percent clip from beyond the arc. And, though this team wins with offense, they have a stout D.
San Diego State (32-6)
Seemingly out of nowhere, the Aztecs are getting their first shot at a National Championship, but it may not be the best SDSU team ever. In 2020, they were headed towards a #2 Seed in the NCAA Tournament after going on a 26-0 run to start the season. But that disappointment was a foundation on which the No. 5 seed Aztecs continued to build. Five players from the 2019-20 team are still on the roster, with four playing significant minutes, including Nathan Mensah, who leads the team in rebounds per game and blocked shots.
SDSU beat the 12-5 curse and rolled into the Sweet 16, but bettors took notice of the Aztecs after the Sweet 16 drubbing of top ranked Alabama 71-64. However, the team barely squeaked by Creighton in the Elite 8, before needing Lamont Butler‘s last second heroics to defeat Miami at the buzzer, completing the fifth-biggest comeback in Final Four history.
The secret sauce for the Aztecs has been their defense. The are the #4 team in the nation for Adjusted Defense Efficiency, according to Ken Pom and Nathan Mensah is the two-time Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year. He will have the task of defending UConn’s Sanogo. Winning NCAA Tourney teams take their strengths to a new level in March and SDSU has done that. They allow roughly 63 points per game and were able to hold their first three tournament opponents well under their season averages of 80+ ppg.
UConn Huskies vs. SDSU Aztecs National Championship prediction
The current line at FanDuel is UConn -7.5 points with the total at 132.5. I was able to still find UConn -7 at Caesars, but that may be gone before gametime. For the National Championship game, 7.5 points does seem like a huge number to give. But considering you have to go back to February 11th to find a Huskies regular season loss (to Creighton) and that UConn has won by more than 7 points in every game since then, except for the loss in the Big East final to Marquette by a bucket, this game looks like another UConn steam-roll job. They have the size and the grit to handle SDSU inside and have easily been the most dominant team in the entire tourney. They have proven over and over that they have too many weapons and ways to win games. If SDSU is able to hold Sanogo in check, look for Hawkins to have a big night.
San Diego State is out of miracles, so lay the points with UConn and cash in on the National Championship game. The total of 132.5 is also something to watch. It’s gone up a bit since the opening line and if it continues to rise, an under play may be something to fire on.