The Final Four is set to tip-off, but since UConn, Miami, San Diego State and Florida Atlantic clinched their spots in Houston, one question has been on the minds of every college hoops fan: Can anyone actually beat the Huskies?
Today, Aaron Torres and AT Media college hoops writers Zac Krull and Jake Faigus answer that question in a roundtable discussion.
If you had to, are you taking UConn or the field?
Can any of the other teams in Houston win? The short answer is yes, but still I’m going to take UConn to win the whole thing, but not as easy as some people think.
First, UConn’s matchup against Miami is a lot tougher than some might think. UConn has a clear size advantage in this matchup with Adama Sanogo and Donovan Clingan manning down low, as compared to Miami who has no player taller than 6’7” on their roster, but they beat you with speed. Norchad Omier is the big man that the Hurricanes rely on the most and he can compete and get it done down low, but he’s in for a long night in this matchup against the Huskies. Where Miami might have a slight edge is on the perimeter and in the backcourt. Isaiah Wong, Nijel Pack, and Jordan Miller are a huge trio in the backcourt and have carried the Hurricanes at times this season. However, the Huskies can matchup with them there too with Jordan Hawkins, Tristen Newton, Andre Jackson Jr. and even Alex Karaban.
UConn is also the most well-rounded team remaining. They’re the #1 rated team in KenPom, they have a top-30 scoring offense and a top-40 scoring defense. They’re top-15 in rebounding, top-20 in blocks, and top-10 in assists per game. Finally, they’re also second in point differential at +14.4. The other teams all have big flaws that stand out. Miami’s defense is not that good, but they have the second ranked offense remaining behind UConn. San Diego State has the worst remaining offense, but the best remaining defense in the Final Four and might be even more physical than UConn and Florida Atlantic are the “Cinderella” in this Final Four, where they have good players, but this stage is different. This all to say that UConn’s the best team remaining and they should win the whole thing against San Diego State in a very close game.
The UConn Huskies are just two victories away from their fifth National Championship in program history, and all of them have come since 1999. The Huskies can cement themselves into an exclusive category, with more National Championships than the likes of Kansas and the same amount as programs like Duke and Indiana. Dan Hurley’s team is a perfect 15-0 against teams outside of the Big East Conference and the Huskies have taken things into a different gear since the start of the NCAA Tournament.
One of the craziest parts about UConn’s run, is the fact that they’ve barely had to sweat in tournament play. Before blowing out the likes of Saint Mary’s, Arkansas and Gonzaga, the Huskies did face a 1 point halftime deficit in their opening round NCAA Tournament against Iona. While that does show just how great of a coach Rick Pitino is, UConn did ultimately separate from Iona in the second half in a comfortable victory.
One of the biggest narratives for this college basketball season, has been that there is no dominant team and anyone had a chance to cut down the nets. There is definitely some truth in that statement, however if anyone has a chance to debunk it, UConn is it. The Huskies climbed all the way to the #2 teams in the country in late December, following their 14-0 start. During this red hot start to the season, UConn picked up victories over the likes of Alabama, Oregon, Florida, Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Villanova, dominating some of the best competition that College Basketball had to offer.
UConn did hit a fork in the road in the middle of Big East play, losing six out of their next eight games, but it cannot be understated just how dominant UConn has been in this tournament and the coaches that they’ve done it against have made it even more impressive. The Huskies have beaten the likes of Pitino, Randy Bennett, Eric Mussleman and Mark Few, all comfortably, winning each NCAA Tournament game by an average margin of 22.5 points. UConn ranks third in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency, 11th on defense, and second in the country in offensive rebounding percentage. The scary thing about this team is the Huskies are at minus-14 in turnover differential in this tournament and minus-12 in free throw attempts. However, it hasn’t had a major impact on their opponents staying in the game. That is not a great sign for the other three teams that will be in Houston this weekend.
In the end, I just think this team is too good.
As Jake said - can another one of these teams win? Absolutely.
Will they? I'm taking UConn.
As I said in my gambling preview, it feels like this week the narrative has shifted to "This is the UConn Invitational" to "Miami might actually have a shot here" and to be blunt, I agree with that narrative.
I won't beat around the bush: I am not picking Miami to beat UConn, but the scenario is absolutely there.
One, Miami is really good, the ACC regular season champs, who at one point beat Duke by 30, before beating both Houston and Texas - two teams that are legit good enough to win it all - last weekend in Kansas City.
Two, they have the spacing and ball movement that did cause UConn problems in some of their losses. I'd argue that Miami's guards are probably on par, if not slightly better, than Marquette's = a club that beat UConn twice. They're probably better than Xavier's as well, another team that beat the Huskies twice in the regular season.
Now to be fair, that was also a different UConn team, one that has grown since then and re-found itself in the last few weeks. And while Miami could create problems for UConn, it's worth noting that yes, the Huskies will create problems for Miami too with their size and physicality.
So in the end, I'm going to be boring and agree with you two: Miami can beat UConn, and I believe San Diego State is big and tough enough to do the same.
But if I was in Vegas betting on "UConn" or "the field" - I'd take the Huskies.
Follow Jake on Twitter - @Jake_Faigus
Follow Zac on Twitter - @ZacKrull_