UConn Joins Select Company With Fifth National Title
What a ride it was for the UConn men’s basketball team on the way to the program’s fifth national title.
The Huskies were not ranked in the national polls when the season started, although they were close to breaking into the top 25 in both polls. They moved all the way up to No. 2 after an impressive start to the season before some struggles in January had them on the verge of falling out of the top 25.
UConn was the last team standing as the Huskies topped San Diego State 76-59 in Monday’s NCAA Tournament championship game. The payout was +800 for UConn to win the national title game by 17 points, per the March Madness predictions. That was the largest margin of victory in the title game since Villanova topped Michigan 79-62 in 2018.
UConn was favored in every game in the tournament.
The NCAA Tournament began seeded starting in the 1978-79 season. Before this year, the lowest-seeded team to win every game by double digits was Indiana in 1981. Indiana was a No. 3 seed in the Mideast Region. UConn was seeded fourth in the West.
UConn joins Villanova (2017-18), North Carolina (2008-09), Duke (2000-01), Michigan State (1999-2000 and 1978-79) and that aforementioned Indiana team as the only ones to win the men’s Division I tournament with all double-digit point victories since the seeding process began.
The line went from 7½ to 7 according to the March Madness expert picks, but neither number was a problem for the Huskies.
Leading the Way
UConn has relied on dynamic inside-outside tandems before and throughout the tournament. Sophomore guard Jordan Hawkins and junior post player Adama Sanogo haven’t shied away from shouldering the offensive burden.
They combined to average 36 points in the four tournament games.
Sanogo, the Most Outstanding Player, averaged 19.7 points and 9.8 rebounds in the six tournament games. Hawkins put up 16.3 points. He was 21 of 43 from 3-point range and 23 of 25 at the foul line.
The March Madness picks listed Sanogo as the favorite in the odds to be named the Most Outstanding Player and he did not disappoint.
Newton Comes Up Big
What made this UConn team so dangerous is how any of the nine players in the main rotation could take over at any point.
Tristan Newton had 38 points in the first five NCAA Tournament games for the Huskies and he had scored in double figures just three times in the previous 12 games.
That is why the prop bet was set at 9½ points for him against San Diego State. Newton scored seven straight points at one point and finished with a game-high of 19 points. He also had 10 rebounds for his first double-double since recording a triple-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists in a Feb. 7 win over eventual Big East champion Marquette.
DIALED in from 3-point land 🤙@Showtyme_33 | @D1Tristen pic.twitter.com/qWIecZoYmT
— UConn Men’s Basketball (@UConnMBB) April 4, 2023
The line was set at 4½ rebounds so there wasn’t much drama among those who bet online for him topping that number.
It has been quite the ride for Newton, who is a member of a national championship team after playing the last three seasons at East Carolina. The Pirates finished 15-15 (6-11 in the American Athletic Conference) in his third and final season with the team.
Coming Up Short
It was a bit of a bumpy ride for San Diego State leading scorer Matt Bradley in the NCAA Tournament.
He opened the tournament with a 17-point effort against Charleston, one of the favorite picks to pull off a 5-12 upset. Then he managed a total of 18 points on 6-of-27 shooting before coming alive early and late in the national semifinals against Florida Atlantic.
The number was set at 12½ points for Bradley in the title game and he fell short of that mark with eight points on 2-of-9 shooting (0 of 4 from 3-point range). The price was set at -105 for Bradley to go under 12½ points.
Making The Way To the Line
Keshad Johnson was a bit of an afterthought going into the game for San Diego State as he was held under 10 points in each of the first five tournament games.
He shot reasonably well from the field during the tournament. However, Johnson was not a high-volume shooter. With the Aztecs struggling to score against the Huskies, Johnson found his way to the foul line nine times. He made seven of them as he was San Diego State’s top scorer with 14 points.
He paid out at -105 to go over 6½ points and he reached that just with his work from the foul line.
Ochai Agbaji was taken with the 14th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft after leading Kansas to the national title.
Don’t expect a repeat when it comes to those who took part in Monday’s title game.
Hawkins has been showing up as a late first-round selection. However, he still has eligibility remaining. Sanogo and Andre Jackson have been popping up as potential second-round picks so perhaps both will return. Following the championship game, Jackson told the media he would be back if UConn head coach Dan Hurley wants him to return.
The college players drawing the most interest from NBA scouts according to the sportsbook are Alabama’s Brandon Miller (+250 to be taken second overall, +125 to be the No. 3 overall selection), followed by Houston’s Jarace Walker (+1000 to be the No. 3 pick), the Arkansas duo of Nick Smith and Anthony Black, Villanova’s Cam Whitmore and Keyonte George of Baylor.
According to the Las Vegas odds, Duke (+1000) is the favorite to win the 2023-24 national title, followed by Kentucky at +1200. UConn, Kansas and Marquette all come in at +1400.