And then there were four more.
Don’t lie and say you predicted this. This Elite Eight made history by missing all the #1 seeds. Alabama, Kansas, Houston And Purdue All looked like potential champions two weeks ago when they were all top seeded on Selection Sunday. They didn’t even get a chance to play for a shot at the Final Four.
But this chaos has spawned a variety of storylines. Florida Atlantic had no NCAA tournament Victory before his Final Four run. And although they are never mentioned among the blue bleeders, the UConn Huskies will pursue their fifth national championship since 1999 — more than duke And North Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas. Miami has a shot at winning his first national championship after winning the ACC regular-season title. And State of San Diego could shorten the nets for the first time in school history.
But how do these teams stack up against each other? We’re here to tell you.
Here is our ranking of the Final Four teams.
1. UConn Huskies (4 seeds)
Road to the Final Four: 87-63 vs. 13 seeds Iona (first round); 70-55 vs. 5 seeds Saint Mary (second round); 88-65 vs. 8 seeds Arkansas (sweet 16); 82-54 against 3 seeds gonzaga (Elite Eight)
UConn entered the NCAA tournament with one of the highest ceilings in the field. Back in November, the Huskies beat at the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Oregon Alabama, the NCAA tournament’s top overall seed, by 15 points. Sure, it was early in the second round of the jousting tournament. But they have proven they can compete against a team with NBA talent and ability. They hit too State of Iowawhich was victorious at the time – No. 1 North Carolinain the same event by 18 points.
In the first two months of 2022-23, UConn won 12 of their first 14 games by a margin of at least 14 points. It had a more difficult time in the Big East, where it finished behind the league champions Marquette, xavier And Creighton. But you could see the potential. Now the Huskies are like the kings of the Final Four, seeking their fifth national title since 1999 after winning their first four games by a 22.5 PPG margin. They are the 10th NCAA tournament team to win their first four tournament games by 15 points or more, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.
Against Gonzaga, who had the most efficient offense in America, UConn won by 28 points, their biggest win in the Elite Eight since 1992. The Huskies also have 44% of their 3-pointers in the NCAA tournament. Adama Sanogo (20.0 PPG, 9.75 RPG in NCAA tournament) was unstoppable. The dominance could continue for Dan Hurley’s team.
Next: vs. Miami (Saturday, 8:49 p.m. ET, CBS)
2. Miami hurricanes (5 seeds)
Road to the Final Four: 63-56 vs. 12 seeds drake (first round); 85-69 vs. 4 seeds Indiana (second round); 89-75 vs 1 seed Houston (sweet 16); 88-81 against 2 seeds Texas (Elite Eight)
Jim Larrañaga is not against Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) deals for his players. How could he be? It’s one of the reasons his team is in the Final Four. Last summer, Nijel package decided he wanted to go State of Kansas. He knew he had to become a point guard at the next level, and that seat in Manhattan, Kansas was filled Markquis Nowell, the 2023 NCAA tournament hero who led the Wildcats to the Elite Eight. So Pack decided to make a change, and he reportedly landed a two-year, $800,000 contract as a result. Isaiah Wong, the 2023 ACC Player of the Year, was reportedly unhappy with his NIL situation and was threatened with departure last summer. All of that was resolved and he stayed.
“Television makes money, right? The shoe companies make money,” Larrañaga said on Saturday. “The universities make money. The athletic directors run the program and benefit from their relationship with the shoe companies. And the coaches make a hell of a living. Now what’s wrong with filtering down? It’s a natural progression for our players.”
Even with the NIL assist – which has been common in collegiate sports for the past two seasons – players will need to find a way to learn how to play together. Chemistry remains an important key to any program. Per Larrañaga, Wong and Pack struck up a friendship when they first arrived at the gym in Coral Gables last summer. Add key role players like Norchad Omier, Jordan Muller And Wooga poplarand you have a versatile team that has upped its defensive intensity in the NCAA tournament while continuing to play a frantic, free-flowing offensive style that helped it come from a double-digit deficit against Texas in the Elite Eight.
This season began with reports of NIL deals. It will end with the Hurricanes, the ACC’s co-regular season champions, using their potential as a serious threat to win the national title.
Next: vs. UConn (Saturday, 8:49 p.m. ET, CBS)
3. Aztecs of the state of San Diego (5 seeds)
Road to the Final Four: 63-57 vs. 12 seeds Charleston (first round); 75-52 vs. 13 seeds Furman (second round); 71-64 vs 1 seed Alabama (sweet 16); 57-56 vs. 6 seeds Creighton (Elite Eight)
“Defense wins championships.” That’s the mantra of college basketball, but it’s not always true. Villanova (2016, 2018) and Virginia (2019) are the only teams since 2015 to make the top 10 in adjusted defensive efficiency at KenPom and win a national title — actually two. Kansas was 17 last season. Two years ago, memphis finished first in adjusted defense efficiency and didn’t even make the NCAA tournament. However, most of the national champions of the last 20 years could play elite defense.
That quality fueled San Diego State’s run — Brian Dutcher’s roster has ranked first in adjusted defensive efficiency since Feb. 1 according to barttorvik.com — to its first Final Four. Charleston had the Colonial Athletic Association’s best offense this season, but recorded just 83 points per 100 possessions against SDSU in the first round. Furman had the best offense in the Southern Conference. Then it faced SDSU in the second round, scoring just 52 points. Alabama was the top overall seed and Brandon Miller is a prospective top-five pick in the NBA draft. He finished 3-for-19 and SDSU knocked off a 1-seed to make the Elite Eight.
Creighton — ranked 22nd in adjusted offensive efficiency — had size and shooters in several places. The Bluejays had offensive versatility. But the SDSU’s run continued. No team in the NCAA tournament has scored more than 90 points per 100 possessions against this roster. The Aztecs lack the offensive juice that has been pushed past NCAA champions despite three different players (Matt Bradley, Lamont Butler, Darrion Trammel) were their top scorers in the tournament. But this defense is real. Could SDSU become the first modern team to win a title on elite defense alone? We’ll find out.
Next: vs. FAU (Saturday, 6:09 p.m. ET, CBS)
4. Florida Atlantic Owls (9 seeds)
Road to the Final Four: 66-65 vs. 8 seeds memphis (first round); 78-70 vs. 16 seeds Fairleigh Dickinson (second round); 62-55 vs. 4 seeds Tennessee (sweet 16); 79-76 vs. 3 seeds State of Kansas (Elite Eight)
Sometimes it’s difficult to know what’s really going on in the NCAA tournament. And if a field doesn’t produce a great team or two, it is due to parity among the survivors. There’s certainly a tale that FAU had a lucky run – aided by multiple upsets and the elimination of every 1-seed ahead of the Elite Eight – after earning their first NCAA tournament win in school history in a Final Four performance. But that’s not the whole story. A team that has won 35 games so far has reached this stage because they know how to win in clutch moments.
With 10-01 left against Memphis in the first round, FAU was seven points behind before coming back to win. The Owls lost their momentum – and a seven-point lead at halftime – to Fairleigh Dickinson in the second round, but took it back in a thrilling eight-minute run before eventually winning by eight. Lost six points to Tennessee, who had the best defense in America midway through the second half – FAU won that game by seven points. And the Owls were again seven behind Kansas State with 12 minutes remaining in the Elite Eight. But they fought again – and won again.
This is a team that has been rehearsing for victory all season and has not lost its composure in those critical moments. And therefore Johnell Davis (17.2 PPG in the NCAA tournament) & Co. are here.
Next: vs. San Diego State (Saturday, 6:09 p.m. ET, CBS)