UConn Huskies vs. San Diego State Aztecs
Line: UConn -7.5
Where: NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
When: Monday, 4/3 at 8:20 p.m. ET
UConn might be a No. 4 seed, but it has looked more like a dominant No. 1 overall seed so far in the 2023 NCAA Tournament.
The Huskies punched their ticket to Monday’s national championship with a 72-59 win over No. 5 seed Miami during Saturday’s Final Four, marking their fifth straight double-digit win in the Big Dance. They will be aiming for a sixth when they face No. 5 seed San Diego State, which beat No. 9 seed Florida Atlantic on a buzzer beater in the other semifinal matchup.
Circa Sports opened UConn as a 6-point favorite on Saturday, a line that was quickly gobbled up. The Huskies had moved to 7.5-point favorites on Sunday afternoon, while the total had shifted from 131.5 to 132.5. San Diego State had gone ‘under’ the total in 12 straight games prior to its game against FAU.
The Aztecs overcame Florida Atlantic’s 9 of 22 (40.9%) shooting from 3-point range by an even more efficient 9 of 18 mark on the other end. They punched their ticket to the championship with a Lamont Butler buzzer beater that capped a huge second half.
“I didn’t really know how big it was,” Butler said. “We’re going to the national championship. That’s not things many people do.”
San Diego State senior guard Matt Bradley responded to a rough stretch of games by scoring 21 points on 5 of 12 shooting, including 4 of 8 from the perimeter. Senior forward Jaedon LeDee had 12 points and six rebounds, while Butler added nine points and three assists. The Aztecs have now covered the spread in six of their last seven games and are riding a nine-game winning streak.
“We’ve always been knocked down,” Bradley said. “But the biggest thing we always do is get back up and keep fighting.”
They have relied heavily on their defense under head coach Brian Dutcher this season, ranked fourth in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency ratings. This will be their biggest challenge of the season, as UConn ranks third in offensive efficiency and second in offensive rebounding percentage.
The Huskies have rattled off five straight double-digit wins in the NCAA Tournament, with their latest being a 72-59 win over Miami on Saturday to become the sixth team since the tournament expanded to 64 teams (1985) to reach the title game with five straight double-digit wins. They raced out to a 9-0 lead and never trailed, putting together multiple big runs anytime the Hurricanes closed the gap.
“Maybe it was a little bit delusional,” Huskies guard Andre Jackson Jr. said. “But we always knew we were the best team in our mind.”
Junior forward Adama Sanogo finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks, shooting 9 of 11 from the floor. The Huskies shot 49.1% from the floor while holding Miami’s elite offense to a 32.3% clip. UConn ranks eighth in adjusted defensive efficiency and is facing a San Diego State offense that is No. 218 in effective field goal percentage (49.6) and No. 68 in adjusted efficiency.
The Huskies have covered the spread in five straight games and are 14-1 in their last 15 games as favorites. They have gone ‘under’ in seven of their last nine games, opening an average halftime lead of 12.3 points in wins over Arkansas, Gonzaga and Miami.
The pick: San Diego State +7.5
Sharp money is keeping this spread from climbing even higher, because the public is going to be all over UConn in this matchup. Can you blame them? Not really. The Huskies have been dominant throughout the tournament, adding another brilliant performance against Miami. San Diego State has the defense to make this game ugly, though, and is also one of the most experienced teams in the country. Neither team likes to play at a fast pace, creating more value than normal on a spread of this size. I’ll side with the sharps following the early line movement, especially with the styles that will be featured on Monday night.