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NCAAB Championship: Men's National Championship preview

Connecticut, seeking its fifth title since 1999, faces off against San Diego State in the men's national title game on Monday night.

It's the first men's championship game to be played between two teams seeded four or higher since 2014, when #7 UConn beat #8 Kentucky to win its fourth title since 1999.

Nine years later, Connecticut has a chance to become the most dominant men's program in the last 25 years.

Dan Hurley's group are the favorites going into Monday night's championship game, having been the best team in the NCAAB Championship up to this point. UConn's five tournament wins so far have come by an average of 20.6 PPG. Just three other teams have achieved that mark of dominance in men's tournament history (1996 Kentucky, 2009 North Carolina, 2016 Villanova).

San Diego State, the more surprising of the two title game participants, is no pushover. Brian Dutcher's team is after their first championship in school history.

SDSU have been underdogs all tournament, including as recently as the second half against Florida Atlantic in Saturday's national semifinal. Lamont Butler's game-winning buzzer beater capped off a 14-point comeback to send the 5-seeds to Monday night's title game.

What#4 Connecticut vs. #5 San Diego St.
WhereNRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
When9:20 PM ET, Monday, April 3rd 2023
How to watchCBS
Odds Connecticut -7.5, San Diego State +300 ML

UConn chase fifth title

Recent years have seen the NCAAB Championship dominated by the top seeds, with each of the last five winners seeded first in their regions. No team seeded below second has won the title since 2014 - when UConn claimed their fourth title.

Since 2000, only six teams have won a national title without being the 1-seed, and half of those were won by Connecticut. They made their first championship game in 1999 and haven’t looked back since, winning every time they’ve made it this far.

After a dominant run through the tournament, UConn are -360 to add to that perfect run with another title.

The 7.5-point favourites have won a season-high 19 games by a 15-point margin or greater this season. However, their opponents have just shown that they’ll fight to the end.

Late shocker makes SDSU history

Lamont Butler's buzzer-beating jump shot on Saturday night will go down as the greatest shot in school history, but also one of the greatest in men's tournament history. It was the first buzzer beater to go to the championship game in men's history when the shooter's team was trailing at the time of the shot.

The game-winner is even sweeter when you consider SDSU trailed by 14 points with less than 15 minutes remaining in the game.

The worry for SDSU on Monday night could be their slow start. In the semifinal, they allowed FAU to score six of their first 12 three-point attempts. They eventually got a handle on things at the perimeter, restricting their opponents to just three made threes from their final 10 shots.

That’s more in line with what we expect to see from San Diego State. They went into the last four having held their opponents to making just 17% of their three-point attempts.

Keeping the favorites quiet in that department could be crucial, with UConn shooting at 35% for the season.

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UConn are expert closers

SDSU can’t afford another slow start in the title decider. Connecticut had basically wrapped up their win over 5-seed Miami by the break in the national semifinal.

They were up by 13 at the half in what turned out to be a 72-59 victory.

Even though they came out firing vs. Miami, UConn have typically played their best stuff in the second half this March. They have a +67 point differential across five second halves in the tournament.

If SDSU starts slow or allows itself to get punished from three early on, then this one could be a 20-point gap by halftime. That's how explosive UConn can be, as evidenced in the national semifinal.

Dutcher's team could benefit from the fact that UConn have allowed at least 29 points in four of their five first halves in the tourney. SDSU is -115 to score over 28.5 points in the first half on Monday night. Connecticut is -125 to score over 32.5 points in the first half.

If SDSU is to keep this one close or win, they need to find an answer for Adama Sanogo, the 6-foot-9 junior that has been the best player in the tournament. Nobody has been able to stop him during UConn's run.

Sanogo hit two early threes in the clash with Miami, a stunning sight as the junior was 0-for-1 from three up to that point in the tourney. When the Mali native is hitting shots like that, he is virtually unstoppable.

Connecticut have a perfect 20-0 record in games where Sanogo has scored at least 20 points. That continued in the last round, where he recorded a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Given his early influence in the last round, UConn will surely look to him, especially given how adept SDSU should be at stopping Connecticut’s three-point specialist Jordan Hawkins.

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