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NY Post
New York Post
1 Apr 2023


NextImg:March Madness 2023 Final Four: UConn vs. Miami odds, prediction

For four rounds, UConn has hardly been tested along its path to the sixth Final Four in program history.

Standing in its way now is Miami, which has shocked some of the top teams in college basketball en route to its first-ever Final Four.

The Huskies opened as sizable favorites and have seen most of the action in their favor in the lead-up to Saturday’s game.

Still, we’ve seen this script before with the Hurricanes, who have been doubted every step along the way of their historic run.

Here’s how we’re betting Saturday’s contest, which tips off at 8:49 p.m. ET on CBS.

Entering Saturday’s semifinal, Connecticut has dominated every opponent it’s faced to this point in the NCAA Tournament. Why would that change on Saturday?

It’s not like this came out of nowhere for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games of the season and peaked as high as No. 2 in the polls.

That’s when a 2-6 slump that spanned most of January threw bettors off the scent of Dan Hurley’s team, even as the advanced metrics continued to hail this group as one of the nation’s best.

We saw that play out over the last month of the season: from Feb. 7 through Selection Sunday, UConn ranked as the No. 1 team in the country with top-10 efficiency on both ends and the best offensive rebound rate (45.6%).

And we’ve seen that dominance continue into this tournament, too.

The Huskies’ 28-point win over Gonzaga to clinch this weekend’s semifinal berth was the largest win by any team in the Elite Eight in over 30 years.

It was also UConn’s fourth win by at least 15 points through the first four rounds – something just nine teams have done in NCAA Tournament history.

Five of those nine teams won the national title, and seven of them won their Final Four matchup by an average of 10.3 points.

The lone two outliers? Arizona (1988) and Kentucky (1993), both of which lost to fellow No. 1 seeds.

Adama Sanogo

UConn Huskies center Adama Sanogo has been a force in the NCAA Tournament.
Getty Images

Fifth-seeded Miami deserves a lot of credit for its impressive run to this point, which has flown in the face of market expectations.

The Hurricanes were dealing as -130 favorites over No. 12 seed Drake in the first round and trailed in the final minutes before closing the game on a 16-1 run to keep their season alive.

That set the tone for Jim Larranaga’s group, which has since ripped off dominant second-half runs in each of its subsequent three tournament wins to set up Saturday’s clash with UConn. Miami did it the hard way, too, facing the highest possible seed (No. 5 Indiana, No. 1 Houston, No. 2 Texas) on its way to the school’s first-ever appearance on this stage.

It’s easy to wonder when this team’s defense, which ranks outside of the top 100 in adjusted efficiency, will eventually rear its ugly head.

It hasn’t been an issue thus far, as Miami has posted an offensive efficiency of 122.0 or better in each of its last three wins.

Miami Hurricanes forward Norchad Omier celebrates a play against the Texas Longhorns

Miami Hurricanes forward Norchad Omier celebrates a play against the Texas Longhorns
NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Still, the ‘Canes haven’t seen size like what they’ll see on Saturday against star center Adama Sanogo (6-9, 245), who’s averaging 20 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks on 65.5% shooting through the first four rounds.

When he hits the bench, he’s replaced by freshman Donovan Clingan (7-2, 265), whose 14.6% block rate would rank second nationally if he’d played enough minutes to qualify.

If Miami can’t generate offense near the hoop, it’ll have to rely on the elite perimeter shot-making that’s carried this group in each of the last three rounds.

We’ve already seen exceptional shooting displays from Nigel Pack (44.8%) and Isaiah Wong (41.7%), both of whom are knocking down more than 40% of their 3-pointers in this tournament.

Still, can those two sustain that again on Saturday?

It would be foolish to write that off entirely, but UConn’s defense ranks in the top 15 in 3-point percentage (29.7%) and 3-point rate (30.1%) and has allowed just 18 made triples on 27.3% efficiency through the first four rounds.

The X-factor in this game will be UConn guard Jordan Hawkins, who’s averaging 17.3 PPG in this tournament but could be limited by illness in this one.

If he can suit up and play as well as he did against Gonzaga – when he hit six of his 10 attempts from deep – he’d be the ultimate second-half antidote for any potential Miami run.

Ultimately, the gap between these two teams feels cavernous with the way that the Huskies have played to this point and the relative volatility of the Hurricanes’ 3-point heavy approach, which feels doomed for a sharp and unexpected drop – especially at NRG Stadium, which is notoriously a tough place to shoot.