Just when you think March Madness can’t get any crazier, we have a tournament without any one, two, or three seeds in the Final Four. The best remaining team in terms of seeding is the four-seed UCONN Huskies, who just dismantled Gonzaga in the Elite 8, and will now take on the five-seed Miami Hurricanes. We’ll preview the game before going over which side I’ll be backing in this one.
Outside of the opening-round matchup against Drake, the Miami Hurricanes have been underdogs in every round since then. The three games the Canes have won as underdogs have been against some highly impressive teams, including the one-seed Houston Cougars, who the Canes beat by 14 points.
After more of a defensive battle in the Round of 64, Miami has scored 85 or more points in every round since then, with two of those games coming against teams that rank within the top 15 in defensive efficiency on KenPom. The Hurricanes now sit in 5th in offensive efficiency on KenPom and will go into Saturday night off a 59% shooting performance from the field against Texas.
The trio of Nijel Pack, Jordan Miller, and Isaiah Wong has proven to be too much for opposing defenses to handle. All three guys have scored in double figures in the past three rounds, which sets up an exciting matchup against a UCONN Huskies defense that is 11th in the country in defensive efficiency on KenPom.
This Huskies defense has held three straight strong opponents under 65 points and just recently held Gonzaga to 54 points. Over the past three rounds, the Huskies' length has bothered opponents both inside and when trying to get clean three-point looks. The best three-point percentage the Huskies have allowed in the past three rounds is 31%.
Offensively, Jordan Hawkins and his smooth jump shot have led the UCONN, as he is averaging 17.2 points per game in the tournament and just recently knocked down six threes against Gonzaga. Adama Sonogo has provided a solid interior presence for the Huskies. Still, he will have a tough matchup tomorrow with Norchad Omier, who is averaging a double-double over his past ten games.
The Miami Hurricanes are currently listed as +5.5 point underdogs in this one, and I’ll be backing them for my play. Not only are the Canes 4-0 ATS in the tournament so far, but they are also 23-9-1 ATS in their last 33 games against a team with a winning record. In the past three games, we’ve seen the Canes go into a game as underdogs and with questions about their defensive numbers, and each time they have come out on top.
Miami is not afraid to play physically and get to the free-throw line, which is an area where opponents have been able to exploit the Huskies this season. Opponents are averaging 21 free throw attempts per game against UCONN, ranking them 311th in the country. This Miami team got to the line 32 times last game and shot 88% on those attempts.
Both sides clearly have a lot of momentum coming into this one, and I think it will be an offensive battle. Miami has shown that despite their defensive numbers, they can get the job done on defense, especially in the second half. If Miami can force the Huskies to play at their tempo, which ranks 90th in the country, I think they will knock down enough shots and come away with enough defensive rebounds to stay in this game.
Miami Hurricanes (+5.5)