Final Four Preview: FAU vs. San Diego St.

Final Four Preview: FAU vs. San Diego St.

San Diego State Aztecs vs. Florida Atlantic

Line: San Diego State -3

Total: 131.5

Where: NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas

When: Saturday, 4/1 at 6:09 p.m. ET

TV: CBS

One of the most shocking Final Four matchups in college basketball history will take place on Saturday evening when No. 5 seed San Diego State faces No. 9 seed Florida Atlantic in Houston.

The Owls added to their nation-leading win total with a Sweet 16 win over No. 4 seed Tennessee and an Elite Eight victory over No. 3 seed Kansas State. San Diego State took down top overall seed Alabama in the Sweet 16 before beating No. 6 seed Creighton in the Elite Eight.

Oddsmakers opened San Diego State as a 2-point favorite before the early betting action moved the Aztecs to -3. The total opened at 132.5 and has dropped to 131.5—San Diego State has gone ‘under’ the total in a remarkable 12 consecutive games, while Florida Atlantic has cashed the ‘under’ in five of its last seven contests.

San Diego State’s latest defensive masterclass came against Creighton in a 57-56 final last Sunday, which came two days after the Aztecs held Alabama to 64 points. Senior guard Darrion Trammell knocked down a free throw with 1.2 seconds remaining to power his team to its first Final Four and the first of any team from the Mountain West.

“Here we are,” San Diego State head coach Brian Dutcher said. “We’re making the next step and it’s something we’ve always talked about. I’m sure there were people that doubted we could do it, but we never doubted for a minute. Not to say it’s easy to get there or that we would ever get there. But we’re there now, and we’re going to go and try to win the thing.”

The Aztecs rank No. 21 in the country in KenPom’s experience ratings, led by a trio of veterans who were part of a 30-2 team that was devastated by the cancelation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament. They rank fourth nationally in defensive adjusted efficiency, bringing the second-best defensive 3-point percentage (27.8) into this matchup.

Senior guard Matt Bradley leads San Diego State with 12.5 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, while Trammell is adding 9.9 points, 3.1 assists and 2.4 rebounds. The Aztecs have been able to overcome an effective field goal percentage that is No. 223 with their elite defense.

Florida Atlantic has been a more balanced team, ranked inside the top 30 in adjusted efficiency on both ends of the court. The Owls rattled off a 20-game winning streak during the regular season and are currently on an 11-game hot streak after making their way through the NCAA Tournament.

“You know, they’re going to label us whatever, but we’re some pit bulls and rottweilers,” Florida Atlantic guard Alijah Martin said. “We go out there and show it every night. Just label, just call us beast boys, you know, because we’re going to come out and show you how it’s done.”

Martin is one of three players scoring in double figures for an offense that is No. 25 in effective field goal percentage. Johnell Davis (13.9) and Vladislav Goldin (10.3) have been key contributors as well, with Goldin pulling down a team-high 6.6 rebounds. Their defense has quietly been outstanding, ranked No. 15 in effective field goal percentage.

Florida Atlantic has covered the spread in six of its last seven games as an underdog and has won 15 consecutive games on a Saturday. San Diego State has covered in six straight games during its eight-game winning streak.

The pick: Florida Atlantic +3

I can’t justify laying three points with San Diego State in a game that is a complete toss-up in my mind. Florida Atlantic already took down a Tennessee team that resembles this San Diego State squad, as the Owls solved the Vols defense in the second half. The Aztecs continue to shoot poorly from the floor, finishing below 40% in their win over Creighton. This should wind up being a defensive grind at NRG Stadium, which has a completely different backdrop than the arenas these teams are used to playing in. Florida Atlantic is playing with extreme confidence right now, so it’s tough to envision the Owls not being in the game in the final minute against a bad offensive team. KenPom has this being a 1-point game, which is exactly the type of contest that I am expecting.

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