The Fantastic -Final- Four

Rohan M, Columnist

Every spring, one of the most exciting signs of change of season emerges. Budding flowers? No. Budding stars on one of the most competitive courts? Yes. From mid March to the start of April the NCAA tournament kicks off and offers some of the most exciting tournaments of the year. What starts with 64 teams shrinks to 32, and then 16, and then eight, and then four. Easily the most watched, and usually the most enjoyed part of the tournament is the fabled final four. While 2023’s gladiators were unexpected and somewhat lacking starpower, these teams still fought hard games nonetheless. Florida Atlantic University, San Diego State University, Miami University, and University of Connecticut were this year’s final four, and they offered high powered and eventful games.

 

Easily the most unexpected team in the final four was FAU. Some people argue that their nine placed seeding was criminally high, but they had an unexpected run regardless. While blazing through the first and second rounds to set up a sweet sixteen matchup with the Tennessee Volunteers, they had a toiling first half. Missed shots from both teams throughout the game resulted in a low tally. FAU scraped out a 62-55 win and was hopeful to get back on track against a menacing Kansas State team. A getback they received as a gritty second half comeback resulted in a 79-76 win. 

 

San Diego State University was a heavyweight. While being a five seed, which seems low given the strength of their team, they came up big under the shining lights. After a less than impressive opening win against Charleston, they pounded underdog team Furman 75-52. Next came a decisive sweet sixteen matchup against Alabama, as SDSU was smelling their first real tournament success in almost seven years. This would be no easy task though. Alabama was more than a formidable force and was a tournament favorite throughout the tournament. SDSU held firm in the first half, jumping to a 28-23 lead at half. On paper, this looked like a bad first half of basketball considering the collective fifty one points scored. When looking deeper though, SDSU held one of the best offenses in the tournament to a slow start. The second half held much more scoring though, as a 43-41 SDSU second half led to a 71-64 win for the Aztecs. This win was followed by a shocking free throw winner against Creighton, setting up an SDSU-FAU final four. 

 

The other two teams, UConn and Miami, both seemed to have scorching hot runs. The UConn Huskies beat almost every team they played by at least twenty, and it was much of the same for Miami. The only close game either team played was a miraculous Miami comeback against Texas in the Elite Eight. These teams would tussle in the final four, and it would become apparent who had the more charged team.

 

The two final four matchups were very contrasting. The FAU-SDSU game was a tooth and nail battle, clashing every single minute down the line. It seemed like no team could pull away as the game came closer to the buzzer, and SDSU found themselves down 70-71 with half a possession left. Fast forward through some desperate ball movement, and Lamont Butler, an SDSU guard, found himself pulling up for a mid-range jumpshot. The ball fell through the hoop, and SDSU was granted a 72-71 game. The other game was less romantic as UConn easily bested Miami 72-59.

 

Two clashing storylines collided in the National Championship, as UConn and SDSU met for the bragging rights to the 2023 title. While the game was thought of as less interesting and both teams missed shots, UConn won 76-59. While the Championship was lackluster at best, the bigger picture was not as lowly. The tough games every final four team played to the dance was a great accomplishment, and every team in the tournament had a tough road to get to the tournament in the first place. When the calendar turns into 2024, every team in the nation hopes to qualify for the Big Dance.

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