The March Toward March: Predicting an unprecedented March Madness

The ‘Maddest’ tournament on Earth’s grand finale will deliver an unforgettable end to an unforgettable tournament.

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“The March Toward March” is a column by Curran Rastogi about men’s college basketball teams and their journeys to March Madness.

And then there were four. After 64 games of non-stop college basketball, we are left with four teams hoping to bring their university a national championship. In what has been a particularly upset-filled tournament, with no one-seeds and three newcomers in the Final Four, the madness is truly alive. If the trend continues, the UConn Huskies, Miami Hurricanes, San Diego St. Aztecs and Florida Atlantic Owls will provide pure entertainment and a Final Four to remember. Here’s what I think we’re in store for this weekend.

One quick note: according to my March Madness bracket, I have no idea about college basketball. I had two teams left by the Elite Eight and will finish ranked 14th in the Annenberg Media bracket challenge! March Madness is the most unpredictable sporting event on the planet, so take my predictions with a grain of salt.

No. 5 San Diego State will beat No. 9 FAU

FAU is currently attempting to become the lowest-seeded school to ever win the NCAA tournament. However, it may be the end of the line for the Owls. When I wrote about San Diego State at the beginning of March, I said they were a “team tailor-made for March.” This remains true as behind a masterful defensive performance, they were able to eliminate the No. 1 overall seed in the entire tournament, Alabama. With their defense being as strong as it is, they are able to win games by tight margins and overcome offensive droughts.

The Owls have quickly entered the conversation as one of the best Cinderella teams ever in March Madness with their attractive style of basketball. They share the basketball and have a roster full of athletes that can go toe-to-toe with any team. Ultimately, I think that SDSU will be able to disrupt this offensive style, leading to broken-down possessions that favor the Aztecs. Unfortunately for FAU, I predict the clock will strike midnight, and Cinderella’s magic will wear off.

No. 5 Miami will beat No. 4 UConn

UConn is currently the betting favorite to win March Madness across every reputable sportsbook. However, they’ll face a Miami team with an offense that looks almost impossible to stop. Going into the tournament, there were legitimate questions about the health of Miami sophomore forward Norchad Omier after he sustained an ankle injury in the semifinals of the ACC tournament. The answer to those questions has been a resounding ‘I’m healthy’ from Omier, who has started every game for the Hurricanes during the NCAA tournament. Miami’s biggest strength is their guard play, which has brought them this far. Sophomore guards Wooga Poplar and Nijel Pack along with junior Jordan Miller and senior Isaiah Wong are all capable of taking over the game at a moment’s notice. Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga also has Final Four experience, previously taking George Mason there in 2006.

The issue for Miami will be their ability to guard UConn’s junior forward Adama Sanogo. Sanogo averages over 17 points per game, and his 6-foot-9, 240-pound frame is hard to contain. Along with Sanogo, projected NBA first-round pick and sophomore guard Jordan Hawkins can take over Saturday’s game. The Huskies will try to take advantage of Miami’s lackluster defense, which is ranked outside of KenPom’s top 100, but the Hurricanes will ultimately prevail.

No. 5 Miami wins the national championship

Congratulations to the Miami Hurricanes for winning my predicted national championship over San Diego State. Unlike FAU, Miami’s prolific offense can score from anywhere on the floor with both isolations and called plays. Still, both schools have something to celebrate, with it being their first Final Four appearance in program history.

A lot has been said about the failures of the NCAA tournament this year, with the lack of both elite teams and bonafide NBA talent. But, the NCAA tournament has been as entertaining as it has ever been this year with teams like Kansas State, Texas, Miami and FAU playing great basketball. If this parity combined with high-powered offenses is the future of college basketball, the sport will continue to be as healthy as ever.

“The March Toward March” runs every Thursday.