Final Four features new faces from different places

While last year was a battle of household names, this year’s semis are full of the little guys.


Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Final Four will take place in Houston, Texas.

Carter Sims, Managing Editor

The phrase “Basketball is a game of runs” has been said by almost every coach, commentator, and fan to ever follow the game. This year’s NCAA tournament has embodied that phrase. 

While last year’s Final Four was full of juggernauts in the college basketball world, this year’s semifinals are a collection of underdogs that have carved their way to the spotlight. No room for Goliaths here, as Florida Atlantic, San Diego State, Miami and UConn will vie for spots in the national championship.

9 seed Florida Atlantic comes in as the team with the least amount of familiarity with the national audience, but shouldn’t be quite as surprising to fans that have been following the college basketball season. 

The Owls finished the regular season ranked 25th in the country and have only lost 3 games this season. Winning the Conference USA regular season and conference tournament titles has made this a season of dreams for FAU. 

Their tournament run has been just as impressive considering the road FAU took to get to this round. The Owls took down a solid Memphis team, a Fairleigh Dickinson squad with all the momentum in the world after upsetting 1-seed Purdue, a Tennessee squad in a low-scoring affair and tournament star Marquis Nowell’s Kansas State Wildcats. 

FAU’s run has been remarkable but well-deserved. The Owls shoot almost 47% from the field and are led by Johnell Davis, Alijah Martin and Vladislav Goldin who all score over 10 points a game. 

FAU may not have the biggest school, nicest facilities, largest fanbase, or historical success, but this Owls team has played solid basketball all year and fought to be on this stage.

Their opponent, 5-seed San Diego State has had a solid season as well, but this year has more of a revenge feel for the Aztecs.

SDSU won a lot of games in 2022, but the hardware was nowhere to be found, losing the Mountain West tournament final to Boise State, their third loss to the Broncos that season alone. The Aztecs then lost in the first round to the Creighton Blue Jays, leaving the year as just another team.

This year, the story has been different for SDSU, winning the Mountain West conference and taking out Charleston and Furman in the early rounds, teams that pulled off upsets in earlier rounds. They then beat championship favorite Alabama and finally Creighton last week.

The Aztecs have been led by a veteran core featuring Matt Bradley, Nathan Mensah, Lamont Butler and Adam Seiko. These players have experience in big games, something FAU is short of.

This matchup will be a battle of shot selection and rebounding, and since Final Four games have a tendency to slow down, each board will be huge for either side. Given San Diego State’s ability to force turnovers, FAU will have to be smart with the ball and not waste any possessions to continue their run.

On the other side of the bracket is another team with the experience to go all the way this year. For Miami, last year’s Elite Eight run may have seemed like a flash in the pan at the time, but this year has proved it was anything but.

Head Coach Jim Larenaga and star guards Isiah Wong and Jordan Miller have the Hurricanes back in the late rounds of the dance after winning the ACC regular season and appearing in the conferences tournament final, and then surviving top-class teams in the tournament, beating Drake, Indiana, Houston, and Texas along the way to the Final Four. 

The Canes thrived offensively with a small ball look in the final stretch of the Texas game once in foul trouble, a lineup that contributed to a career-high from Jordan Miller.

Miami will look to attack the rim and limit second-chance opportunities against their opponent, UConn.

The Huskies might be the best team here and yet the most surprising. The team finished 4th in the Big East and lost in the semifinal of the conference tournament. A look at this team and they look like just another squad with a decent season that might make it to the Sweet 16. 

What stands out about this team is the teams they’ve beaten to get here. The Huskies beat a Rick Pitino lead Iona squad, West Coast Conference darling St. Mary’s, a hot Arkansas Razorbacks crew, and championship favorite Gonzaga. All games that they were either supposed to lose in or faced popular upset picks. 

This UConn team just finds a way. Led by basketball royalty in head coach Dan Hurley and featuring stars Adama Sanogo and Jordan Hawkins, it’s879 not hard to see the similarity between them and the 2011 championship team: An undersized guard and star forwards that have turned the school known for dominance in the women’s tournament into the team to beat on the men’s side. Kemba Walker won’t be suiting up, but this team could grab a trophy of their own.

While none of these programs are necessarily household names, the absence of a blue blood shouldn’t deter fans from the Final Four. These teams deserve to be here and create a legacy of their own for their school.

The games can be viewed at 6:09 and 8:49 EST on CBS.