Who’s playing and how to watch : NPR
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The men’s Final Four of the NCAA Tournament marks several historic firsts, adding a layer of anticipation and excitement to a March Madness that has taken one unlikely turn after another.
In the 44 years since the NCAA began seeding every team, this is the first time none of the top-3 seedlings have made it to the Final Four. But that’s just one of the superlatives of this year’s tournament.
The teams decide who plays in the championship finals on Monday.
Here’s how to watch the last 3 games
6:09 p.m. ET Saturday: San Diego State University Aztecs play Florida Atlantic University Owls on CBS (stream online and on TV).
8:49 p.m. ET Saturday: In the late game, the University of Connecticut Huskies will take on the University of Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes, also on CBS.
Monday: Winners play in the title game at 9:20pm ET.
3 teams hope 1 is a spell
This is the first Final Four appearance for three teams: Miami, San Diego State and Florida Atlantic.
These low-ranking teams have stared down giants and gone about their business: No. 5 Miami beat No. 1 Houston and No. 2 Texas; No. 5 San Diego State knocked off No. 1 seed Alabama overall and then pressured Creighton (#6); and No. 9 FAU beat No. 3 Kansas State and No. 4 Tennessee.
All have shown that they are up to the moment. Now they will play the biggest games of their programs ever at Houston’s massive NRG Stadium.
Will UConn do UConn stuff?
The signs are yes – the most emphatic sign is UConn’s 82-54 pasting imposed on Gonzaga, which widened their defense to limit the normally prolific Bulldogs to 2-for-20 shots from beyond the three-point arc.
With the highest-ranked team remaining, it’s up to No. 4 seeded UConn to restore order in a tournament riddled with wild surprises.
The Huskies have the pedigree to thrive in turbulent tournaments. UConn was seventh when it won the championship in 2014 and it was No. 3 when it clinched the title in 2011 — the last year that none of the No. 1 seeds made the Final Four.
Adding to the swag factor: UConn flown to Texas in the New England Patriots jet.
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Can Miami’s defense stand?
Miami is the only Final Four team whose goal defenses are not in the top 50 nationally. The Hurricanes are actually a long way off, with almost 72 points allowed per game, which puts them in 231st place. Now they will be tested by UConn and their star striker Adama Sanogo.
But Miami has the best offense of the four teams, and their assist-to-turnover ratio is solid. That’s largely thanks to stellar guards who are experts at making quick breakthroughs: junior Isaiah Wong was recently named the ACC’s Player of the Year, and senior Jordan Miller never missed a shot — from the ground or a free-kick. Throwing line – when he scored 27 points on Miami’s takedown of Texas.
The Hurricanes also have coach Jim Larrañaga, who guided George Mason to a surprise win over UConn in the 2006 Elite Eight.
Will Cinderella be allowed to dance in these glass slippers?
As No. 9, Florida Atlantic has the best claim to be this year’s Cinderella team – but they have repeatedly declined to accept that title.
Finally, the Owls delivered the best record of any Division I team in the country at 35-3. They were nationally ranked and didn’t lose a single game on their home court that season. FAU also won the Conference USA title – which saw two teams advance to the finals of the National Invitational Tournament.
FAU also has depth: their bench contributed an average of 33 points per game, the second-highest in the country.
At home, the Owls usually play in front of around 2,200 fans. Speaking of adapting to the NCAA’s massive stage, head coach Dusty May said: “I still don’t think our boys will be impressed by the 70+ thousands [fans], the lights, the attention because they love ball. They love to compete. And they have a lot of faith in their teammates.”
The state of San Diego represents the entire west
The Aztecs are the only team from western Mississippi, and they bring the highest-scoring defense of any team into the Final Four, allowing just under 63 points per contest.
Not only is this the first Final Four for San Diego State — it’s the first time a team from its conference, Mountain West, has reached this point.
After a win over Creighton, Aztec guard Darrion Trammell described what he was thinking for the last few seconds: “That the moment wasn’t too big for me. Through everything I’ve been through, I feel like the opportunity was right there for me.”
Now his team will try to turn the same attitude into another win. Like FAU, San Diego State has role players who can score. Both teams are in the top 25 nationally when it comes to picking points off their bench.
Either FAU or San Diego State are guaranteed a place in the Finals, which is another first in a postseason that was full of them. Whatever the outcome, it will keep hopes alive for an underdog story with the happiest of endings.