March 27 (UPI) — San Diego State and Miami clinched the final two victories of the Elite Eight to round out an unlikely Final Four field at the 2023 NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament in Houston.
“I told the team: either sing, dance or get out of the way, the Aztecs are going to the Final Four,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher told reporters Sunday in Louisville, Ky.
No. 9 Florida Atlantic clinched the first spot in the Final Four with a 79-76 upset of No. 3 Kansas State on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
No. 4 UConn followed with an 82-54 thrashing of No. 3 Gonzaga on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The Aztecs and Hurricanes joined the Final Four on Sunday with respective wins over Creighton and Texas.
Just six entries in the NCAA.com bracket challenge included accurate Final Four predictions. The website previously reported that no users predicted a perfect Sweet 16, but three brackets included 15 accurate selections for the round.
ESPN reported that most perfect brackets were busted in its tournament challenge contest when No. 9 West Virginia and No. 4 Virginia sustained respective first-round upset loss to No. 8 Maryland and No. 13 Furman.
San Diego State and Miami were responsible for knocking out No. 1 seeds Alabama and Houston, respectively, en route to Houston. Florida Atlantic beat No. 8 Memphis, No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson and No. 4 Tennessee before they took out Kansas State.
UConn edged No. 13 Iona, No. 5 Saint Mary’s and No. 8 Arkansas before they eliminated Gonzaga. Sophomore guard Jordan Hawkins scored a game-high 20 points in the Huskies win Saturday over the Bulldogs. Hawkins was named Most Outstanding Player of the West Region.
Forwards Alex Karaban and Adam Sanogo scored 12 and 10 points, respectively, for the Huskies. Bulldogs star Drew Timme logged 12 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in the loss.
Sophomore guard Alijah Martin scored a team-high 17 points Saturday in Florida Atlantic’s victory. Sophomore center Vladislav Goldin totaled 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Owls.
Star senior guard Markquis Nowell totaled a game-high 30 points, 12 assists and three rebounds for the Wildcats. Nowell was named the Most Outstanding Player of the East Region.
The No. 5 San Diego State Aztecs joined that field with a 57-56 win over the No. 6 Creighton Bluejays on Sunday at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville.
Junior guard Lamont Butler scored a game-high 18 points for the Aztecs. Senior guard Darrion Trammell, the Most Outstanding Player of the South Region, chipped in 12 points and five rebounds in the victory.
The No. 5 Miami Hurricanes snagged the last ticket to Houston with an 88-81 triumph over the No. 2 Texas Longhorns on Sunday at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Senior guard Jordan Miller scored a game-high 27 points for the Hurricanes. Miller went 7 for 7 from the floor and made all 13 of his free throw attempts in the victory.
“None of us wanted to go home,” Miller said. “Another big factor I would say is, we know we are pretty good offensively. What’s going to decide the game for us comes down to how many stops we can get. … We had to dig deep and find a way to get stops.”
All five Hurricanes starters reached double figures in points. Sophomore guard Wooga Poplar totaled 16 points, six rebounds and four assists for the Hurricanes.
Sophomore guard Nijel Pack, who scored 15 points, was named Most Outstanding Player of the Midwest Region.
Seniors Marcus Carr and Timmy Allen scored 17 and 16 points, respectively, for the Longhorns.
The Huskies ranked inside the Top 10 among teams oddsmakers expected to contend for the national title. The Hurricanes ranked inside the Top 25. The Aztecs ranked inside the Top 30, while the Owls were outside that range.
Florida Atlantic will battle San Diego State 6:09 p.m. Saturday at NRG Stadium. Miami will meet UConn later that night at the same facility. Those games will air on CBS.
The winners of the national semifinals will meet in the title game April 3 in Houston. The final will tip off at 9:20 p.m. EDT on CBS.
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