When: Saturday, April 1
Where: NRG Stadium — Houston, Texas
Radio: UConn Sports Network
Odds: UConn -5.5, over/under 149 - Odds presented by DraftKings
KenPom Predicted Score: No. 4 UConn 80, No. 5 Miami 73 | 75 percent win probability
UConn is currently in the driver’s seat in the program’s sixth-ever Final Four. The Huskies are the odds-on favorite to cut down the nets on Monday night in Houston at -125 and are the highest remaining seed in the field. To have a shot at winning a fifth national title, UConn will have to get by an incredibly tough Miami team that is ultra-efficient on offense and features a true ghost from the Huskies’ tournament past in head coach Jim Larrañaga.
Larrañaga, who became the 15th-ever coach to lead two different schools to a Final Four after the Canes beat Texas last weekend, has his best team yet at The U.
Miami ranks No. 22 currently overall in KenPom and closely resembles the Gonzaga squad UConn defeated to advance to Houston. The Canes are one of the best offenses in the country, ranking fifth in adjusted offensive efficiency, but struggle on the defensive end, where they rank 104th.
When UConn Has the Ball
With no starters over 6-foot-7, Dan Hurley and the Huskies will give big man Adama Sanogo as many chances as possible to get going early. The junior big has been magnificent this tournament, scoring 70 points and posting double-digit rebounds in two games. His ability to pass out of the double team that many smaller teams have thrown at him to slow him down has opened up cutting lanes for Andre Jackson, who has been wide open for easy dunks on the opposite block.
After a lackluster first weekend in which Jordan Hawkins failed to get going until the second half in both wins over Iona and Saint Mary’s, Hawkins was lights out in Las Vegas from start to finish. The sophomore shot 9-19 from three to help the Huskies get to Houston and scored 44 total points in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games even as the opposing defense’s number-one target. Hawkins has done an excellent job staying in motion and running off-ball screens, enabling him to get the split-second open look he needs to uncork one of the smoothest shots in college basketball.
Hawkins didn’t practice Friday according to UConn, as he is resting at the team hotel with a non-COVID illness. His minutes and performance may be affected, but the sophomore does still have nearly a full 24 hours to recover.
Even when Hawkins has missed, the likes of Sanogo, Jackson, and Donovan Clingan have continued to rip down offensive rebounds and extend possessions for extra buckets. The Huskies remain the best offensive rebounding team left in the tournament and will need to take advantage of their size in the front court for extra looks on offense to keep pace with the Hurricanes, who have one of the most efficient offenses in all of college basketball.
Jackson has been a revelation this tournament, as Hurley has refined some mid-season adjustments to fully unlock his athleticism and elite basketball IQ. The junior guard has 31 assists to just six turnovers this tournament and is shooting nearly 52 percent from the floor. He’s penalized defenses that have elected to sag off him and defend others — usually Sanogo — by cutting to the hoop for dunks or attacking the rim for high-percentage shots.
When Miami has the ball
The Hurricanes boast an elite offense that is led by a big three of Isaiah Wong, Nigel Pack, and Jordan Miller. Miller was the show-stealer against Texas in the Elite Eight, scoring 27 points without missing a shot from the field (7-7) or the free throw line (13-13). But the backcourt of Wong and Pack have each had their moments this tournament, and UConn will need to disrupt at least one of this trio to have a shot at playing on Monday.
Pack may be small at 6-foot-1, but is lightning-quick with the ball and an elite 3-point shooter, shooting over 40 percent from deep. Wong offers more size at 6-foot-4 and is a quality 3-point shooter in his own right, but also can do plenty of damage with his midrange game. Miller, 6-foot-7, will likely draw Jackson as a defender and is the Canes’ top offensive threat per EvanMiya’s Offensive Bayesian Performance Rating. All three are capable of getting by their defender off the dribble and scoring on their own, making them a nightmare to defend out on the perimeter.
“They stress your one-on-one defense,” Hurley said of Miami. “They’ve got multiple guys I think that are NBA players, like Miller is one of the most underrated players in the country. It’s hard to say Isaiah Wong — Player of the Year in the ACC… We’re excited to play against somebody that’s that good.”
Big man Norchad Omier, Miami’s starting center, stands at just 6-foot-7 but ranks as the Canes’ top player per overall BPR on EvanMiya due to his ability to crash the boards.
Omier is a solid scorer at 13.3 points per game but does his best damage as a rebounder, where he averages over 10 boards per game and is the best individual offensive rebounder left in the tournament field.
While UConn bigs Sanogo and Clingan will have a size advantage, keeping Omier off the glass will be crucial to give Miami’s backcourt trio less chances to do damage. Omier can be foul prone, so attacking on the offensive end could pay dividends for UConn on the other side if he has to sit for a while, much like he did against Texas.
Miami doesn’t rely much on the three-ball, with just 28 percent of their points coming beyond the arc, but the Canes make them when they take them, shooting nearly 37 percent as a team. As evidenced in our in-depth scout of the Hurricanes earlier this week, Miami is comfortable taking and making midrange shots and finishing around the room. They also excel at the free throw line, shooting 78 percent from the stripe. If the game gets close late, the Hurricanes have plenty of offensive firepower to claw back in or put the game away.
“It’s going to be the hardest game of the year,” Hurley said. “We know that.”