Storylines to Watch in the Final Four
The historic season for the Alabama Crimson Tide Men’s Basketball team came to an earlier end than anyone wanted, with the Tide falling in last Friday’s Sweet Sixteen matchup to the San Diego State Aztecs. The Aztecs would go on to defeat Creighton in the Elite Eight and advance to this weekend’s Final Four to take on Cinderella Florida Atlantic of the Conference USA. The other matchup features the wagon of the tournament thus far, the Connecticut Huskies, taking on the 5th seeded Miami Hurricanes. Here are some storylines to watch for in Houston this weekend:
Can UCONN ride dominant tournament run all the way to a title?
UCONN was a tough team to get a read on for a lot of the regular season. The Huskies looked the part for a lot of the regular season, starting out 14-0 including a statement 15-point win over Alabama in the Phil Knight Invitational. They swooned in the middle of conference play in a brutal Big East, dropping 6 out of 8 games at one point in January. But Dan Hurley has his team well beyond back on track at the right time, with the Huskies smallest margin of victory in the tournament thus far coming via a 15-point drubbing of St. Mary’s in the second round.
UCONN is fresh off a near 30-point beatdown of Gonzaga in the Elite Eight and arrives in Houston as the heavy favorite to win it all. To most, it would be a surprise if the Huskies aren’t cutting down the nets after all is said and done. The question at that point becomes how will they look doing it and can they continue treating the NCAA Tournament like a walk in the park? I certainly wouldn’t bet against it, although Miami has already taken down some very good teams this March.
Can Miami take down another Titan?
Jim Larranaga’s 5th seeded Hurricanes have had an unlikely path to the Final Four. They beat 12th seeded Drake in the first round in what was a popular upset pick, and from there it has been three surprising wins in a row. They completely destroyed Indiana, who was once seen as a championship contender, in the second round and followed that up with a Sweet Sixteen victory over the fav0rites to win the entire thing, the Houston Cougars. As their final act in the Midwest region, they once again pulled an upset in the Elite Eight, this time against Texas, who was also seen as a threat to win it all throughout the year. UCONN will be their toughest challenge yet, but the Canes are absolutely battle tested at this point.
This has without a doubt been one of the most unpredictable NCAA Tournaments in recent memory, and the Final Four reflects that. A mid-major matchup between FAU and San Diego State guaranteeing the fact that a mid-major team will be playing for a national championship is not something I had on my bingo card this March. While people were concerned that NIL and the portal would only make the rich get richer, it has ironically done the opposite and created more parity than ever in college basketball. Moving forward, it truly is anyone’s tournament, and it’s a great thing for the sport.