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No top-three seeds, two mid-majors, three-first time participants – you’ve never seen a Final Four like it, and this is shaping up to be one of the most memorable men’s basketball championships in NCAA history. You really know it’s a one-of-a-kind Final Four when UConn is the least surprising inclusion.
This March, the have-nots have had their way. Two No. 1 seeds survived until the Sweet 16, and two didn’t even get there. UCLA was the only blue blood in the second weekend, and it didn’t stay long.
You’d think there’s no way a team like FAU or San Diego State could win the national championship, but here we are, living in a reality where one of them will be in the ultimate contest, potentially against another program yearning for its first mountaintop in Miami. UConn is the undoubted favorite, but there are reasons for each of the other three candidates to become the bell of the ball.
Will it be the Huskies, Hurricanes, Aztecs, or Owls who cut down the nets on Monday? Let’s give them all their due process.
The Case for Each NCAA Basketball Championship Contender
San Diego State
Last Final Four: Never
How they got here: defeated 12 Charleston, 63-57 (first round); defeated 13 Furman, 75-52 (second round); defeated 1 Alabama, 71-64 (Sweet 16); defeated 6 Creighton, 57-56 (Elite Eight)
Title odds: +360
Why San Diego State will win the national championship: The Aztecs were one of the best defensive teams in college basketball during the season, and they’ve shown that in spades this NCAA Tournament to get one win away from the national championship game. This team held the high-flying Crimson Tide to just 64 points, Alabama’s third-lowest output in any game this campaign, then turned around and kept Creighton to 56, its second-smallest score on the season. Those are two of the best offenses in the country, both entirely taken out of their rhythms by San Diego State. In particular, Nathan Mensah has been an eraser inside, averaging three blocks per game this tournament.
San Diego State especially excels at restricting its opponents’ fortunes from three. This tournament, Aztecs opposition have shot just 17 percent from beyond the arc (16-of-94). That’s even better than the 27.9 percent rate San Diego State has compiled for the season as a whole, which ranks third in Division I. This team was already one of the stingiest perimeter defenses in the country, and now it’s clamping down even further.
Why San Diego State won’t win the national championship: San Diego State is not a high-scoring team, which is intentional. The Aztecs slow a tempo, limit the number of possessions, and beat you down with their defense and offensive play inside the arc. They don’t need a ton of points to beat you, but they also require the game to go at a certain speed. The Aztecs play the slowest adjusted tempo of any of the Final Four participants, according to KenPom, and any deviation from that could be a problem.
This team is not reliable from three or the free-throw line. Against Alabama was the only tournament outing in which the Aztecs connected better than 30 percent on their triples, and there have been a few poor days at the charity stripe in this event. That doesn’t mean San Diego State can’t convert from behind either line, but those aren’t its strong suits. Ideally, the Aztecs don’t have to rely on their deep shooting or free throws to put points on the board.
Last Final Four: Never
How they got here: defeated 8 Memphis, 66-65 (first round); defeated 16 Fairleigh Dickinson, 78-70 (second round); defeated 4 Tennessee, 62-55 (Sweet 16); defeated 3 Kansas State, 79-76 (Elite Eight)
Title odds: +600
Why FAU will win the national championship: This is a well-balanced team that is fit with athletic scorers and defenders. Outside of Vlad Goldin and his 7-foot-1 frame, there’s not a lot of height on this team, but it still rebounds very well. The Owls outpaced all four of their tournament opponents on the boards, but while Goldin is a big part of FAU’s rebounding attack (hauling in 8.3 of them per contest), their true strength lies in their rebounding guards. FAU’s perimeter players are excellent at boxing out, know where to be to grab those loose balls, and pounce with intent. Florida Atlantic is in the top-20 nationally in rebounds per game (39.08) and in the top-10 for defensive rebounds per night (28.11).
Johnell Davis has been on a special run this whole month, averaging 16.7 points per game on 54.3 percent shooting from the field in March. He lit Fairleigh Dickinson up with a 29-point, 12-board double-double, and he’s otherwise been the impetus for the FAU offense during the Dance. Davis can blow by his man and be at the rim so quickly that by the time the defense reacts, he’s already at the tin. The Owls can win it all if he keeps this up.
Why FAU won’t win the national championship: FAU has had some turnovers issues this season, including in this tournament. Against Kansas State, the Owls coughed it up 22 times, and they’ve lost the turnover battle in three of their four March Madness contests. This team’s backcourt can defend and score with the best of them, but it has a tendency to be loose with the ball. FAU escaped the Elite Eight with a gaudy number of giveaways, but to commit so many again would be tempting fate.
After Goldin, the next-tallest player in FAU’s rotation is Giancarlo Rosado at 6-foot-8. That might sound tall to you and me, but to big-time NCAA basketball teams vying for a championship, that’s meh. The Owls utilize their lack of size and wealth of speed to run circles around their opponents, but the small stature of most of its men could be a problem if an opposing team can exploit it in offensive and defensive mismatches. This hasn’t fatally bitten FAU yet in this tournament, but it’s something that could keep it from cutting down the nets.
Last Final Four: Never
How they got here: defeated 12 Drake, 63-56 (first round); defeated 4 Indiana, 85-69 (second round); defeated 1 Houston, 89-75 (Sweet 16); defeated 2 Texas, 88-81 (Elite Eight)
Title odds: +490
Why Miami will win the national championship: This backcourt was one of the best in the country in the regular season, and it has fully lived up to its reputation in the NCAA Tournament. Jim Larranaga’s guard-heavy lineup has poured the points on most of its tournament opponents, scoring from all over the floor to bring the Hurricanes to their first-ever Final Four. All of Miami’s starting guard quartet are averaging at least 12 points per game this March Madness – it’s a virtual guarantee that some combination of Nijel Pack, Isaiah Wong, Jordan Miller, and Wooga Poplar will go off in any given contest.
The Hurricanes are one of the best free-throw shooting teams in Division I, hitting on 78 percent of their tries for the season. In the tournament, Miami has shot 80.6 percent from the charity stripe as a team. This came in handy to stay with Drake, build the lead against Houston, and come back on Texas – in those three games, the Canes attempted 80 free throws and scored nearly 28 percent of their total points at the line. Defend Miami straight up, or it’s death by one thousand free throws for you.
Why Miami won’t win the national championship: The Hurricanes are No. 5 in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric, which is fantastic. They’re also No. 104 in the site’s adjusted defensive efficiency stat, which is not fantastic. In this tournament, Miami has defended much better than it did for much of the regular season, and that will have to continue for it to win the national championship. Among the four national semifinalists, though, Miami ranks by far the worst in nearly every defensive category.
This isn’t the deepest team left in the tournament. Almost all of Miami’s scoring comes from its four starting guards and Norchad Omier. If two or more of them have an off-night offensively, especially the biggest guns, it can be a real problem. Against Drake, Wong and Miller combined for an abysmal 3-of-17 from the field – if not for Tucker DeVries having the worst game of his college career, the Bulldogs probably eliminate the Hurricanes four games ago. Pack, Wong, and Miller are each yet to play fewer than 32 minutes in a game this tournament. If an opponent can limit their effectiveness from the field, it can make putting points on the board dicer for the Canes.
Last Final Four: 2014
How they got here: defeated 13 Iona, 87-63 (first round); defeated 5 Saint Mary’s, 70-55 (second round); defeated 8 Arkansas, 88-65 (Sweet 16); defeated 3 Gonzaga, 82-54 (Elite Eight)
Title odds: -125
Why UConn will win the national championship: UConn is the favorite to win its fifth national championship, which would tie the program for fourth all-time for most titles in NCAA men’s basketball history along with Duke and Indiana, and for good reason. The Huskies have unequivocally eviscerated every opponent that has stood in their way thus far. Their average margin of victory this March Madness is 22.5 points, and no team has managed to break 65 in a single game against them. Offensively, defensively, on the glass – UConn has smashed its opposition in every way. For example: the Huskies are shooting almost 42 percent from deep this tournament while holding their opponents to 27.3 percent from beyond the arc. See what I mean?
Connecticut is loaded with talented players who are hot at the right time, but none have impressed more this tournament than Adama Sanogo. He’s posted double-doubles twice in four games and shot 75 percent (33-of-44) from the field in the first three rounds combined. His finishing touch was off against Gonzaga in the Elite Eight, but instead of filling it up that way, the junior forward chipped in 10 rebounds, six assists, a 4-of-4 mark from the free-throw line, and massively disruptive play on the defensive end. Even when his shots don’t fall, Sanogo is still impacting the game in every other way. If the Huskies are to snatch their fifth crown, the Malian will be at the epicenter.
Why UConn won’t win the national championship:
Turnovers. They have been UConn’s main weakness all season, and it’s one that can do serious damage on the wrong night. The team’s season turnover rate of 18.8 is within the bottom-third of Division I, according to T-Rank, and three members of its rotation have a turnover percentage of 20 or higher (Tristen Newton, Andre Jackson, and Hassan Diarra). In this tournament, the Huskies have coughed it up 12 times per game, which is about in line with their season average. They handed it over to Saint Mary’s 14 times, then another 17 to Arkansas. UConn did enough in other areas to win both games convincingly, but this is something an opponent can latch onto and exploit to turn a contest.
We have seen some truly ridiculous stuff in this tournament with unforgettable upsets and top teams dropping like flies. Connecticut has been a constant source of domination, but in a Big Dance riddled with shock results, we cannot anoint a champion two games early. The stats and what we’ve seen in this event so far tell us that UConn should get one for the thumb, but this is March – anyone can steal the spotlight in one game.
When are brackets due for March Madness?
For March Madness Bracket pools, brackets typically are due before the start of the First Four games on March 15. However, on RunYourPool, commissioners have the ability to select their own due date for when brackets need to be submitted. Commissioners can access this setting by viewing their Commissioner Console and clicking on the Pool Settings.
How do I run a March Madness bracket for my office?
To run a March Madness Bracket Pool for your office, head over to RunYourPool.com! RunYourPool offers a plethora of different pool options to ensure the fun and competition amongst participants. Additionally, RunYourPool allows pool commissioners to customize and modify pools the way they see fit. It should take less than five minutes to set up your pool and start inviting colleagues!
How do you win your NCAA bracket?
To win a traditional March Madness Bracket pool, you will need to correctly select the winners of as many of the tournament's games as possible. In most March Madness contests, the point total of each correct selection increases with each ensuing round, culminating in the most important pick of all: the national championship game winner!
How do I fill out an NCAA bracket?
To fill out a March Madness Bracket, you will try to select the winner of every game of the tournament. The bracket begins with 68 teams and culminates in a championship between the final two remaining teams. You can fill out your bracket using RunYourPool and compete against friends, colleagues, family and more!
What is a March Madness Head-to-Head Pool?
A March Madness Head-to-Head Pool is a type of pool in which participants are randomly assigned one of the tournament's 64 teams. Participants advance if their team covers the spread, which allows every entry and team to have a chance of winning. If a team loses outright but covers the spread, the participant who's team covered will advance to the next round with the winning team.
What is the best way to play a March Madness Head-to-Head Pool?
The best way to play a March Madness Head-to-Head Pool is to set it up using RunYourPool and invite all of your friends! Setting up the pool and inviting participants is easy and should take less than five minutes. Next, you can randomize or assign the teams that participants will have.
Are March Madness brackets legal?
March Madness Brackets are completely legal to fill out and compete against fellow pool entries and users. Multiple softwares, including RunYourPool, will run sweepstakes and public contests for users to vie for a grand prize. Bracket pools must be in compliance with RunYourPools’s Terms and Conditions and must be for entertainment purposes only.
What is a March Madness Squares Pool?
A March Madness Squares Pools contains a 10x10 grid with each row and column being numbered 0-9. Prior to the tournament's start, pool members can login and select their squares. Next, when the tournament begins, the grid numbers are revealed. Members keep the same squares for each game and RunYourPool keeps track of the winners and other helpful statistics.
How does the NCAA select its teams?
32 of the 68 basketball teams that are selected for the NCAA tournament receive automatic entry into the competition as a result of winning their conference championship. The remaining teams get what's know as an "at-large bid," which extended by the NCAA selection committee based on the team's performance throughout the season.
What is a March Madness bracket pool?
A March Madness Bracket is a competition where players attempt to select the winning teams of each round of the NCAA Men's Division 1 Basketball Tournament in March. Traditionally, players would fill out a paper bracket and hand it into a pool commissioner. In recent years, software like RunYourPool.com has digitized and streamlined the process for speed and ease.
How many teams are in March Madness?
March Madness begins with 68 teams that are announced on Selection Sunday, March 13, 2022. The First Four consists of four games and the winners advance to the Round of 64. The following rounds are the Round of 32, Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four, and finally, the National Championship game.
What is a March Madness Surivor Pool?
A March Madness Survivor Pool is a type of pool where participants select one team to win their game for every day of the tournament. Typically, entries are only allowed to select each team once and the last entry standing wins! Survivor pools are a really fun way for entries to compete and test their knowledge
What is the best way to play a March Madness Survivor Pool?
The best way to play a March Madness Survivor Pool is to make a pool or join one using RunYourPool. Participants find it helpful to try to map out their picks ahead of the start of the tournament, and save the higher seeded teams for the later round picks of the survivor pool.
How long is March Madness?
March Madness takes place over three weeks, starting the First Four, First Round and Second Round in one week. The Sweet 16 and Elite Eight take place during the second week, while the Final Four and National Championship are played on Saturday and Monday the following week.
What are the odds of a perfect March Madness bracket?
Experts say that the odds of you crafting a perfect bracket in March Madness run from 1 in 120 billion to 1 in 9.2 quintillion, depending on how much you know about the teams, and about basketball. To put that in perspective, your odds of winning the lottery are significantly better, at 1 in 292 million.
What is a March Madness Pick-X Pool?
March Madness Pick X is a pool format in which the pool commissioner specifies a specific amount of teams that every participant will select. For each win of a team selected, participants will be awarded the amount of points of that team's seed, generally encouraging entrants to pick upsets. At the end of the tournament, the entry with the most points is the champion.
What are Mid-Major teams?
Mid-Major Teams are universities and colleges that play Division I basketball, are not part of a major conference such as the SEC or Big Ten. Mid-Major Teams are a substantial part of March Madness, as they regularly win lots games from mid-tiered conferences. Some examples of Mid-Major conferences are the WCC, Atlantic 10, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, and Conference USA. Upsets usually occur from Mid-Major schools.
What is the lowest seed to win the NCAA Tournament?
In the March Madness Tournament, one of the higher seeds usually ends up winning it all. However, there have been a few occurrences where a lower seed fought their way to eternal glory. In 1985, Villanova won the Championship as a No. 8 seed and is the lowest seed to win in the tournament’s history.