March Madness: Men’s Final Four set with Miami, San Diego State, FAU, UConn

So, you wanted March Madness? You got it.

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One of the most topsy-turvy NCAA men’s basketball tournaments was whittled down to four teams after Sunday’s Elite Eight games, and there was drama in both contests.

Miami and San Diego State completed the Final Four field on Sunday, winning a pair of nail-biters to join the University of Connecticut and Florida Atlantic University.

In the Midwest Region final, Miami rallied from a 12-point deficit with just over 10 minutes left in the second half to stun No. 2 seed Texas 88-81, sending the Hurricanes (29-7) to their first Final Four.

Miami will face Connecticut (29-4), which advanced to its first Final Four since 2014 with an 82-54 victory on Saturday against No. 3 Gonzaga (31-6).

It is the first time the state of Florida has sent two men’s teams to the Final Four, and if the Hurricanes and Owls win their semifinal games it would set up an all-Florida final on April 3.

In Sunday’s first game, San Diego State became the first team from the Mountain West Conference team to reach the national semifinals, as the Aztecs (31-6) converted a go-ahead free throw with 1.2 seconds left to defeat Creighton 57-56 in the South Region final.

San Diego State will face ninth-seeded Owls of FAU in the semifinals on April 1 at NRG Stadium in Houston. FAU (35-3) advanced with a 79-76 victory against third-seeded Kansas State (26-10) on Saturday.

The Aztecs had never reached the Elite Eight. They got to the Final Four by beating No. 12 Charleston, No. 13 Furman and No. 1 Alabama before edging the Bluejays to win the South Regional, The Athletic reported.

“March is for players, and we got really good players,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said after the victory.

Lamon Butler led San Diego State with 18 points.

Second-seeded Texas (29-9) was the highest seed remaining in the 64-field team but could not hold off the Hurricanes.

On Sunday, Texas grabbed an eight-point lead at the half and led 67-55 with 10:14 remaining in the game. However, Miami made a 13-5 run to cut the Longhorns’ lead to 72-68 with 6:58 to play and went ahead 73-72 with 5:28 to go.

Texas nailed a 3-pointer to regain the lead, but Miami tied the score again as the game wound under four minutes.

The game went back and forth and was tied at 79 with a minute to play, but Norchard Omier made a pair of free throws to give Miami an 81-79 lead.

Jordan Miller led Miami with 27 points, while Marcus Carr led the Longhorns with 15 points.

When George Mason was the Cinderella to make the Final Four in 2006, it was coached by Jim Larranaga.

He is making a return to the Final Four after leading the Hurricanes past the Longhorns.

The winners from the April 1 games will meet two nights later with the national championship on the line..

The quartet of games this weekend continued what has been a wild men’s tournament, with no No. 1 seed advancing to the Elite Eight.

UConn finished fourth in its conference during the regular season and lost in the semifinals of the Big East tournament. But the Huskies steamrolled all three of its opponents in the Big Show to reach the Final Four. UConn lost in the first round of the 2021 and 2022 tournaments and did not make the 64-field team for three years before those appearances, according to NCAA.com.

UConn went to the Final Four in 2014 as the No. 7 seed in the tournament, defeating No. 1 overall seed Florida in the semifinals before beating No. 8 Kentucky in the final to lift the school’s fourth national title.

FAU won the Conference USA regular season and tournament titles, finishing at 31-3. They entered the tournament on a hot streak, winning their final seven regular-season games.

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