The Final Four.
It may be the most recognizable American sports event, certainly right up there with the Super Bowl and the World Series.
And it all begins Saturday.
We love our basketball, especially the college game. And the tournament that takes place to determine the champion is probably the best of all. It’s a big tournament with one of, if not the largest, fields in sports. It’s a bracketologist’s dream.
And what an interesting final quartet to battle for a national championship this year for the men’s NCAA title.
This will be a coastal Final Four. With two teams located on the Florida coast, one on the West Coast and one in Connecticut, there are no representatives from the Midwest or the heartland.
This will not be your usual Final Four field. There are two first-time participants in San Diego State and Florida Atlantic. And there are no North Carolinas, Dukes, UCLAs or Michigan States.
This Final Four field is made up of a quartet of underdogs. There is one No. 4 seed (UConn), two No. 5 seeds (Miami and San Diego State) and a ninth seed (Florida Atlantic).
All four teams have registered upset victories on their way to the Final Four.
The Aztecs surprised Alabama, the No. 1 seed and top-ranked team in the country. The Owls beat Kansas State, a No. 3 seed, last Saturday to make the Final Four. Florida Atlantic also beat fourth-seeded Tennessee in the Sweet 16. Miami defeated Houston, a No. 1 seed, in the Sweet 16 and Indiana (a fourth seed) in the Round of 32. And UConn took care of Gonzaga, a No. 3 seed, last Saturday to reach the Final Four.
The first game Saturday will pit the San Diego State Aztecs against the Florida Atlantic Owls. This is the first Cinderella game of the day, with two first-time Final Four participants.
San Diego State brings a very impressive defense into the game and a win over Creighton in its last game. The Owls got a three-point win over Kansas State in their Elite Eight game to get here.
The second semifinal has UConn playing Miami, two teams with 29 wins and high-powered offenses.
UConn dropped 82 points on Gonzaga last Saturday and scored 88 on Arkansas in the Sweet 16. Miami scored 89 points in its Elite Eight win over Houston and 85 points against Indiana in the round of 32.
So, which two teams will advance to Monday night’s Championship game?
I guess this is where I make my picks, so here are a couple of Dave’s Wild Flyers.
My second-favorite team in college basketball will play in that first game. San Diego State is second only to Wyoming on my list. The Aztecs were my favorites for many years. Of course, that has a lot to do with being a San Diego native and a San Diego State alum.
Wyoming basketball became a big part of my life back in 1984. That’s when my 36-year run as “Voice of the Cowboys” began. I became a fan right away.
Wyoming Cowboy basketball was special then and it always has been since. Of course, when you broadcast every game, home and away, you can’t help but become a fan. And I admit to showing that Wyoming preference on all of those broadcasts. I freely confess to being one of the great on-the-air “homers” ever.
But the Aztecs have been my No. 2 for the last four decades.
How can I not root for San Diego State? It’s more than just pulling for a Mountain West team here. It’s a lot more.
Consequently, how can I not pick the Aztecs to win?
First of all, Florida Atlantic has established itself as just maybe the most prominent of all of the Cinderellas. It has just gotten used to winning games. FAU brings a 35-3 record into the game, the best overall mark in the Final Four field. The Owls love an up-tempo style. The Aztecs are 31-6 going into the game.
This is a great match-up of two teams with different methods and contrasting wills. The Aztecs are slight favorites, a 1.5-point pick, in what should be a low-scoring game.
I’ll take San Diego State, 63-61.
The UConn-Miami game will have two 29-game winners playing for a spot in the title game.
The Huskies have blasted tournament opponents, beating Gonzaga 82-54 in the Elite 8. The Huskies defeated Arkansas 88-65 in the Sweet 16.
Miami upset Texas 88-81 to reach the Final Four. The ’Canes knocked off top-seeded Houston 89-75 in the Sweet 16.
I think UConn takes down Miami in this one, 82-80.
And as much as I would love to see the Aztecs win a national championship, I think UConn has a bit too much for that San Diego State defense.
So, of course, I’ve got the Aztecs beating the Huskies, 78-77.
Gee, imagine that!
The homer strikes again.