Final Four Preview: UConn vs. Miami

Final Four Preview: UConn vs. Miami

UConn Huskies vs. Miami Hurricanes

Line: UConn -5.5

Total: 149

Where: NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas

When: Saturday, 4/1 at 8:49 p.m. ET

TV: CBS

No. 4 seed UConn is finally showcasing a ceiling that the metrics suggested was possible throughout the season.

The Huskies have rolled to the Final Four with four blowout wins in the NCAA Tournament, setting up a showdown with No. 5 seed Miami in Saturday’s nightcap at NRG Stadium. They beat No. 8 seed Arkansas by 23 points in the Sweet 16 before dominating Gonzaga in the Elite Eight.

Miami entered the ACC Tournament as the top seed for just the second time in program history, and its regular-season success has translated to the postseason. The Hurricanes beat Houston by 14 points in the Sweet 16 and punched their ticket to the Final Four with an 88-81 win over second-seeded Texas last Sunday.

Offshore sportsbook BetOnline opened UConn as a 5-point favorite, but the early betting action moved that line to -5.5. Saturday night’s total opened at 149.5 before getting pushed down to 149, as of Friday afternoon.

While upsets have been the prevailing theme of March Madness this year, UConn has quietly put together one of the most dominant tournament runs in recent years. The Huskies, who remained one of KenPom’s top teams even when they struggled early in Big East play, have now covered the spread in nine of their last 10 games.

They have covered with at least 11 points to spare in all four games during the Big Dance, cruising to an 82-54 win over Gonzaga as 2.5-point favorites. Their average margin of victory has been 22.5 points, which is why DraftKings has them as -125 favorites to win the title.

“We’ve got a lot to prove,” UConn junior guard Andre Jackson Jr. said. “We still have a chip on our shoulder.”

The Huskies rank third in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency ratings, entering the Final Four with the second-best offensive rebounding percentage in the country. They are inside the top 60 in 2-point, 3-point and free-throw percentage, helping them offset a turnover rate that is No. 232 nationally.

Junior forward Adama Sanogo leads UConn with 17.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, while sophomore guard Jordan Hawkins is averaging 16.3 points and 3.8 rebounds. Hawkins scored a team-high 20 points in the blowout win over Gonzaga, shooting 6 of 10 from 3-point range.

Miami will rely on its experienced guards as it has done throughout the tournament, taking down top-seeded Houston and second-seeded Texas in consecutive games. The Hurricanes rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit against the Longhorns, clinching their first trip to the national semifinals after coming up one game short last year.

“How hard we fought to come back in this game, especially on a stage like this, it’s an amazing feeling,” Nijel Pack said. “I know how much these guys wanted to win this game, especially being here last year and losing the Elite Eight, and now being able to take it to the Final Four is something special.”

ACC Player of the Year Isaiah Wong scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half against Texas, while Jordan Miller finished with 27 points on a perfect shooting night from the floor (7 of 7) and the charity stripe (13 of 13). Miami ranks fifth in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency ratings, but it will be tested by a UConn defense that is No. 8 in effective field goal percentage.

The Hurricanes have gone ‘over’ the total in four of their last five games, while UConn has gone ‘under’ in six of its last eight. The Huskies rolled to an 80-55 win over Miami as 1.5-point favorites when these teams met in 2019.

The pick: UConn -5.5

Stepping in front of this UConn train seems like a bad idea, especially with how the Huskies match up on Saturday night. They not only have the size to disrupt Miami on both ends of the court, but they also have elite shooting to match the Hurricanes in that department. UConn has been a cash cow since the end of the regular season, covering the spread in nine of its last 10 games. There is less variance with UConn than Miami in this game, as the Huskies have multiple ways to win whereas the Hurricanes need shots to fall at a high rate. They rank outside the top 100 in defensive efficiency, which makes them a team to stay away from in a game of this magnitude.

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