The San Diego State Aztecs did it. They’re the first Mountain West team to make an Elite 8, then a Final Four, and now a chance for a national championship.
Their reward? A game against the most dominant team in recent memory. The UCONN Huskies have been destroying their opponents. The closest any opponent has gotten to winning was Saturday night, when Miami lost by only (!!!) 13 points.
The 2018 Villanova team that won a national title had an average margin of victory of 17.6 PPG in the NCAA Tournament.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 2, 2023
UConn is beating opponents by an average of 20.6 PPG in the 2023 NCAA Tournament. https://t.co/KKkzXWymSn
UCONN has size, skill, experience, depth, everything a team needs to be great. The Aztecs will have their hands full. The Aztecs have also shown that they’re never out of a fight. They beat number one overall seed Alabama after being down by 9 in the second half. They beat Creighton after being down 7 points in the second half. They beat FAU after being down by 14 in the second half. This Aztecs team believes they can beat anyone, and on Monday night they’ll get to put that to the ultimate test.
Keys to a Huskies Victory-
UCONN simply needs to keep doing what they’re doing. It sounds boring, but when you’re winning every game soundly why change anything? They’re a top-10 team both offensively and defensively. They’re the second best offensive rebounding team in the nation, and they have excellent ball movement.
Their team starts with Adams Sanogo, the bulky 6’9 center who is 9th in KenPom’s POY metric. He has been nearly averaging a double-double this tournament, as no one has been able to stop him.
When Sanogo comes off the floor he’s replaced by the even taller Donovan Clingan, who is a rim protecting and glass cleaning monster at 7’2.
UCONN has multiple guards that can shoot the ball, as Tristen Newton, Jordan Hawkins, and USD transfer Joey Calcaterra all shoot 36% or better from behind the arc. Newton and Hawkins each stand at 6’5, giving UCONN a serious size advantage over SDSU’s guards.
Rounding out UCONN’s rotation are the 6’6 Andre Jackson and the 6’8 Alex Karaban. Jackson’s job will be to create plays off the dribble, clean the glass, and maybe most importantly contain Matt Bradley. Karaban will be asked to spread out the Aztec defense and punish them when they help from one pass away.
UCONN has all the tools to win this game, which is why they’re heavily favored. As long as they continue to play great defense, keep the ball movement, and control the glass they’ll leave Houston as champions.
Keys to an Aztec’s victory-
The Aztecs have a steep hill to climb, but they’ve upset some really good teams this tournament, so why not do it one more time?
The Aztec’s offense starts with Matt Bradley. He’s coming off a 21 point, 6 rebound performance against FAU and seems to be in rhythm again after struggling against Alabama and Creighton. Any Aztec victory likely starts with him scoring efficiently despite the Huskies size.
Social Media Reaction To San Diego State Defeating Florida Atlantic
Two time Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year Nathan Mensah will anchor the defense and be tasked with defending Sanogo. The other Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, and hero of the FAU game Lamont Butler, will be asked to guard UCONN’s most dangerous perimeter threat at any given moment.
The Aztecs defense will need to return to pre-FAU form, where they held opponents to around 20 points less than their season averages, and held tournament teams to 14% shooting from behind the arc. As an extension of the defense, the Aztecs will need to limit the Huskies on the offensive glass. Getting a stop doesn’t mean much if UCONN keeps the ball.
I’m terms of attacking UCONN there are a few keys. The first is forcing turnovers. UCONN can become turnover prone at times, and the Aztecs know how to crank up the defensive pressure to knock balls loose.
The other flaw UCONN has is they can be foul prone. They’ve gotten it more under control as the season has gone on, but if the Aztecs can be aggressive and draw contact to get east trips to the line it would help a lot. They’ll need to make the free throws, which they struggled doing against FAU, but without drawing a lot of fouls putting up enough points will be hard to do.
The Aztecs don’t have any stars. It’s a true team. Any one of Adam Seiko, Darrion Trammell, Micah Parrish, or Jaedon LeDee could end up leading the team in scoring any given game. Keshad Johnson and Aguek Arop can also score, but add size and defensive versatility to the team.
X-Factor- 3 Point Shooting
The key to this Aztecs run has been its 3-point defense. FAU broke the trend, but the Aztecs still found a way to win due to breaking the other trend of Aztecs not shooting well in the tournament. The 3-point shot can be an equalizer. If, somehow, the Aztecs can maintain the 3-point shooting they showed against FAU, while regaining their 3-point defense, the Aztecs will have a chance.
Key trends for each team-
UCONN has started off every second half of the tournament with a run that essentially put the game away.
Meanwhile, SDSU is undefeated this season when playing teams that take 38% or more of their shots from behind the arc. UCONN fits that bill, as they take 41.9% of their shots from behind the arc.