Florida Atlantic (35-3) at San Diego State (31-6)
When: Saturday, April 1st 2023
Where: NRG Stadium,
Time: 6:09 ET | TV: CBS
Opening Odds: San Diego State -2.5/131.5
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The Final Four is set and all four teams are a surprise including the first matchup on Saturday evening between the Florida Atlantic Owls and San Diego State Aztecs. Both schools are in the Final Four for the first time and have a combined record of 66-9 on the season. The Owls are on an 11-game winning streak including the Conference-USA tournament championship. They won every home game and even had a 20-game winning streak earlier in the season.
Florida Atlantic beat Memphis by just a single point in the first round before taking out 16th-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson 78-70 in the second round to make the Sweet 16. As a 4.5-point underdog, the Owls took out Tennessee 62-55 and then Kansas State 79-76 in the Elite Eight. Florida Atlantic is a 2-point underdog in Saturday’s contest with a total set at 132 as of Wednesday night.
San Diego State is 2-0 all-time vs. FAU, but the last game came way back in the 2002-03 season. The winner will play either Miami FL or Connecticut on Monday night. The Aztecs have had a terrific season and are on a roll as well. They have won eight in a row and are a sizzling 15-5-2 ATS in their last 22 games overall.
The Aztecs have only had one easy win this tournament, a 72-52 win over Furman in Round 2. They took out overall No. 1 seed Alabama 71-64 in the Sweet 16, then Creighton 57-56 in the Elite Eight.
Owls star Johnell Davis had 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the Elite Eight win over Kansas State. Michael Forrest had 17 points, including two clutch free throws late in the contest, while center Vlad Goldin had 14 points and 13 rebounds. Florida Atlantic is the ninth No. 9 seed or lower all-time to reach the Final Four since seeding began in 1979. None of the previous eight made it to the title game.
The program didn’t even compete in Division I until 1993, but led all schools with 35 wins this season. The Owls are averaging 77.4 points per game this season while allowing just 65.4 points per contest and are 4-1 against the spread in their last five overall.
The Aztecs ran through the Mountain West by winning the regular season and tournament championship. Senior guard Darrion Trammell nailed the winning free throw with 1.2 seconds remaining to defeat Creighton on Sunday. Lamont Butler scored 18 points, and Trammell had 12 as San Diego State became the first Mountain West team to reach the Final Four. Remember, UNLV was not part of the conference when they had their run in the early 90s.
The Aztecs play terrific defense, allowing just 62.9 points a game and ranking third in the country in 3-point field-goal percentage defense (27.9%). Creighton shot just 2-for-17 from deep and a season-low 23 points in the second half against San Diego State’s defense. The Aztecs are 6-0 against the spread in their last six games after a win.
Most of the games in this year’s tournament have been terrific and this one should be no different. Both teams are way better than their seeds suggest. The Aztecs have the edge on defense, and if they can avoid those scoring droughts, should win this game and advance to Monday’s championship game.
Pick: San Diego State -2