On Saturday, the 2023 March Madness Final Four games were played and both San Diego State University and the University of Connecticut were victorious to secure their places in Monday’s national championship game.
The first matchup of the doubleheader was slated for 6 p.m., where the ninth-seeded Florida Atlantic University took on fifth-seeded SDSU.
Both teams were making their first Final Four appearances in program history, and each would also reach their first national championship game with a win.
This matchup of hungry underdogs did not disappoint, as a high-scoring and competitive basketball game ensued. Neither team was willing to give an inch until the very last moment, when San Diego State secured a dramatic one point win.
With 17.5 seconds to play and 11 seconds on the shot clock, FAU was set to inbound with a 71-70 lead. FAU guard Johnell Davis drove for a layup but was blocked at the rim by SDSU forward Aguek Arop.
With eight seconds to go after the rebound, the Aztecs quickly took the ball the other way. SDSU guard Lamont Butler handled the ball for a moment before pulling off a beautiful dribble move to lose his defender and sink the game-winning jump shot at the buzzer.
This game will forever be remembered not only for being a rare Final Four battle between two underdogs, but also for the spectacular buzzer-beater highlight to decide the outcome.
FAU guard Alijah Martin led all scorers with 26 points, and was also tied for the most rebounds, with seven. Matt Bradley led the way for the Aztecs with 21 points. This is SDSU’s second consecutive one-point win, as they edged out Creighton University 57-56 in the Elite Eight.
The nightcap tipped off close to 9 p.m., where five-seed University of Miami took on four-seed University of Connecticut, looking to extend their improbable tournament run.
To reach the Final Four the Hurricanes had to defeat two top teams out of the lone star state, as they successfully toppled No. 1 University of Houston and No. 2 University of Texas.
UConn was hoping to re-establish their dominance in men’s basketball after two straight first-round exits in 2021 and 2022, and five consecutive years without a tournament appearance before that. UConn is unaccustomed to this sort of struggle having made six previous Final Four appearances, including four championship victories.
The Huskies were considered betting favorites before this game, as they had thumped each of their opponents by at least 15 points through four previous rounds of action. This trend of dominance carried into Saturday, as the Huskies stepped out to a 37-24 lead at halftime and did not look back, as they ended the night with a 72-59 victory.
Miami’s offense was entirely smothered and snakebit, as they shot a frustrating 32.3% on the night. UConn also controlled the boards, picking up nine more rebounds than the Hurricanes.
Connecticut forward Adam Sanogo tallied 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Huskies to their dominant win.
UConn will advance to their first national championship game since they last won the tournament in 2014.
UConn and SDSU will compete for the national championship on Monday at 9:20 p.m.