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Miami and UConn will meet in the Final Four, representing the Midwest and West regions. The Hurricanes used a late second-half surge to knock off Texas while the Huskies dismantled Gonzaga, winning by 23. I would imagine this game will be much more competitive, but the Huskies did open as a fairly heavy 5.5-point favorite. The total opened at 149.5 and at the time of writing this, neither line has moved. Let’s take a look at how these teams match up with one another to find out which team gives us an advantage in the betting market.
A year removed from its Elite Eight loss last season, Miami is now set to make its first Final Four appearance in school history. At 73 years old, head coach Jim Larrañaga is the oldest of the four coaches still left and is looking to become the oldest coach to ever win a national championship. In order to do so, he’ll first have to get his team past UConn who is the favorite to win it all.
The Hurricanes' path to this point was arguably the toughest of the remaining teams, yet they made it look easy. Despite being underdogs in each of these games, Miami beat Indiana by 16, No. 1 seed Houston by 14, and erased a 13-point deficit to beat Texas by seven on Sunday. All season, the Cains have relied on the play of their dynamic guard trio of Isaiah Wong, Jordan Miller, and Nijel Pack.
Defending Miami is extremely difficult because of its speed and quickness. With three players that can get to the basket and knock down outside shots, guarding the Hurricanes in the pick-and-roll will need to be a point of emphasis for the Huskies. Miami also has big man Norchad Omier who can finish at the rim and rebound with the best of them. However, he’ll have his work cut out for him because he’ll be guarded by Adama Sanogo who is arguably the best center in college basketball. For Miami to win this game, they're going to have to continue shooting over 50% from the field, limit Jordan Hawkins on the perimeter, and keep Sanogo off the offensive boards.
UConn has cruised through the tournament, winning each of its four games by double digits. The Huskies own the second-best offense in the country and the 11th-best defense. They’ve shot over 57% from the field in three of their four games and have dominated each team on the boards. Part of what makes UConn so difficult is the fact that they have not one, but two dominant big men.
Adama Sanogo has been a difference-maker all season. He leads the Huskies in scoring with 17.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game on the season and is the reason UConn ranks second in the country in offensive rebounding. When Sanogo comes out of the game, Dan Hurley has the luxury of replacing him with freshman Donovan Clingan. Clingan is a backup center that would likely start on any other team. Between the two of them, getting anything at the rim is going to be extremely difficult for Miami.
If that isn’t enough, the Huskies perimeter play also has what it takes to match up against the Hurricanes guards. Alex Karaban and Joey Calcaterra are each shooting over 40% from deep while Jordan Hawkins is the team's floor general averaging 17.2 points in the tournament. UConn is the odds-on favorite to win the national championship at -127 at DraftKings and, as of now, I can’t find a reason to argue against that.
Miami has had a great run thus far, but I think it ends on Saturday at the hands of the Huskies. I’ll lay the -5.5 with UConn because I don’t see the Hurricanes having an answer for Sanogo and Clingan. For as good as Omier has been this year, I don’t see him being able to stop Sanogo inside. If that’s the case, UConn will run away with this one just like they did against Gonzaga in the Sweet Sixteen.
If for whatever reason Omier is able to slow down Sanogo, the Huskies can turn to Hawkins who has the ability to light it up from deep. Overall, UConn is more of a multidimensional team that can beat Miami in multiple ways, whereas the Hurricanes need to have success knocking down outside shots in order to win.
My Pick: UConn -5.5