Final Four NCAA: Florida Atlantic-San Diego State and Connecticut-Miami

The university finals (from tonight in Houston) do not see the presence of the top 12 seeds. The absolute surprise are the Owls, who will challenge San Diego State. The other semifinal is Connecticut-Miami

Riccardo Pratesi


April 1st
– Milan

Here we are. Four teams, representing four universities, three games scheduled in Final Four format, one national title on the line. And the eyes of all America on you. The NCAA tournament, the college one, is currently the highlight: in Houston from tonight, Connecticut, Miami, Florida Atlantic and San Diego State will compete for eternal glory. Two victories would mean cutting the last retina, winning the university championship and for 18 to 21 year olds obtaining sports immortality, a place in the history of Big Dance.

final 4 unthinkable

It was crazy March Madness even by her unpredictable standards. 4 outsiders arrived in Texas from the 68 teams featured in the tournament. There is none of the number 1 seeds. None among the top 3 seeds, therefore among the top 12 teams for the initial hierarchies of the quadrants of the draw. The best by rank is UConn, number 4. Then Miami and San Diego 5, then Florida Atlantic a 9. Even for three universities it is the first time: Hurricanes, Aztecs and Owls taste the taste of the Final Four: never happened since 1970. The schedule of matches: from midnight and nine minutes Italian on the night between Saturday and Sunday two-handed match between Florida Atlantic-San Diego State, followed, from 2.49, by UConn-Miami, the huge game. Whoever wins will play the final on Monday, whoever loses goes home. The knockout formula, fascinating and cruel, which makes the NCAA Tournament unique and special.

hurley in the shadows

UConn is the favorite. Not only because – blue-blooded program – he has already won three titles in Texas, in 2004, 2011 and 2014 or because he triumphed in 2011, the only year in which the sum of seeds protagonists at the Final Four was higher than those of 2023. There are not only numbers and cabal on the side of the Huskies. But also the bookmakers, who imagine them closing the Big Dance among the confetti at the Nrg Stadium. And then because Connecticut has dominated the tournament so far. Overflowing in the second half of each of the 4 games won: 174-107 the combined partial. The titles at home Huskies deserves the coach, Dan Hurley. Eternal underrated. His father Bob is a high school legend, driving from 1972 to 2017 at St Anthony’s basketball high school in New Jersey. His brother is Bobby Hurley, Duke University legend, with whom he won the title twice, as playmaker, in 1991 and 1992, now Arizona State coach with an NBA past at the Sacramento Kings before a car accident derailed his career. UConn has had a legend like Calhoun on the bench and Hurley doesn’t get along with Auriemma, the historic coach of the university’s extraordinary women’s basketball program. In short, for the first time coach Hurley, very good, has the opportunity to shine in his own light.

dog money

Miami University has a wonderful campus in Coral Gables just outside the city. And excellent tradition in football. But he’s not a basketball superpower. Things have changed with coach Larranaga. Last year he pulled the Hurricanes to the Elite 8, now he’s done even better. Thanks to a superb attack, but also to funding from university benefactors. That from wealthy alumni they pulled out the dollars to convince Nijel Pack to move from Kansas State to Florida, in fact. $800,000 for a two-year deal that would exploit his image, an outline now legitimized by the NCAA’s amateur rules. You understand that in this way they skip the bank, other than student-athletes, it becomes a market for those who offer the most to these kids. Teammate Isaiah Wong didn’t take it well, he asked for his share of his image to be retouched. Promptly granted to avoid him packing his bags. So locker room broken by children and stepchildren? In no way. Larranaga, 73, knows how to handle it like few others. Watch out for the Canes, they may not have finished surprising.

the treasure of the aztecs

San Diego State eliminated Tournament favorites Alabama. Play a basketball, physics, choral. Defends strong. Unspectacular, very difficult to contrast. The Aztecs look like men among the boys, they made their way through their muscles. And also to a controversial referee call, at the last second against Xavier. The story here goes back 30 years. To the Fab 5: Best freshman class ever recruited: Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard plus Jimmy King and Ray Jackson. To when the current head coach of San Diego State, Brian Dutcher, coached in the 1993 Final Four, then an assistant at Michigan University, after having helped coach Fisher, the head coach, to bring those phenomena to Ann Arbour. Then Fisher became the coach of the Aztecs and Dutcher followed him to California. Since 2017, since his mentor’s retirement, he has inherited the baton. Now try to do what not even the legendary Fab 5, twice at the Final Four, yet never champions, were able to do: win!

another dance for cinderella

During March Madness this expression is often abused. Not this time. The tale of an unimaginable protagonist, capable of defeating all predictions, going beyond her own limits is truly authentic now. Florida Atlantic is a “boundary” college among those in Florida. It is not Miami, in fact, nor Florida, the state university of Gainesville, NCAA champion with Horford, Noah and Brewer, or Florida State, that of Tallahassee. Recently at the Tournament Florida International had amazed, South Florida (Tampa) and Central Florida (Orlando) for geographical location must still be considered. No, the Owls have a campus in Boca Raton, outlying. No one was running away, despite a 35-3 record on the season. But they play in the mediocre US Conference, there was reason to doubt. Instead they eliminated Memphis, Fairleigh Dickinson, Tennessee and Kansas State, one after the other. And since every self-respecting fairy tale has a happy ending…