Even though the NCAA Tournament has seen upset followed by more upsets in 2023, you would have done well to listen to our expert picks. I dominated straight-up picks during March Madness, accurately predicting 47 of the 64 games leading up to the Final Four, which led our expert pool. Meanwhile, everyone else on staff had at least 39 correct picks with a hit rate well north of 60%.
Now's your second-chance to totally redeem yourself. With the Final Four set – San Diego State vs. FAU on one side of the bracket, Miami vs. UConn on the other – I've sent the bat signal to the team for picks leading into the final weekend. We've reset the bracket and made predictions for both Final Four games plus the national championship.
To no surprise, UConn, the betting favorite to open the week, was the overwhelming favorite by our experts to finish off its week in Houston with a championship. There are plenty of on-the-ledge picks as you'll see below – with David Cobb hooting his way into the hearts of Owls fans and several of us thinking the Aztecs face off against the Huskies with a title on the line.
2023 Final Four expert predictions
Any Final Four with zero top-three seeds is surprising by definition; nobody could've reasonably predicted this. But it is worth noting that one of the schools heading to Houston (UConn) is now ranked No. 1 at KenPom.com, while the other three are conference champions. At the very least, these teams have all been good this season relative to their leagues, and were always capable of deep runs through the bracket. As for Saturday, I'm taking FAU over SDSU and UConn over Miami. In the championship game, I have UConn beating Florida Atlantic to win what would be a fifth national championship in a 25-year span, giving the Huskies two more titles in that timeframe than any other school. Dan Hurley predicted and promised years ago that he'd get UConn back to the tip-top of the sport. Now, he's just two more wins away from delivering, and the smart money has him doing it.
I just watched FAU steel itself after trailing in the second half against Tennessee, then it followed that up with its best shooting performance of the tournament against Kansas State. The Owls are deep, and they've got a special thing going here. SDSU is a bowl of molasses to play against, but the good thing about FAU is that it can win games in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s; it's the most malleable team of the four. Owls will play on Monday night. when they'll face, and lose to, the No. 1 team in the sport, according to KenPom. The Huskies have trucked all four of the opponents by a combined 90 points, embarrassing would-be Final Four contenders Arkansas and Gonzaga in the process. This is a Final Four that any team can win, honestly, but I am taking the team with the highest ceiling, most talent and best player (Adama Sanogo). Huskies win their fifth national title, and do so with a third coach (Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie, Dan Hurley). Final Four MOP: Jordan Hawkins.
My picks are a bit chalky, I'll admit, but at this point in the NCAA Tournament it certainly feels like we have a pretty good pulse on teams still standing. Based on what we've seen thus far, it's hard to pick any outcome other than UConn winning it all. FAU, Miami and San Diego State are all worthy challengers, but the Huskies are on a run so dominant that it'd be foolish to try to talk myself into any other team. San Diego State or FAU will provide resistance in a potential championship game match with the way they play defense and their contrasting styles, but the inside-out length and athleticism UConn has made it a worthy betting favorite -- and I won't be the one betting against them.
UConn is the most complete team left standing. The Huskies have a dominant interior presence in Adama Sanogo, a 7-foot-2 rim protector in Donovan Clingan and a deep group of perimeter shooters led by Jordan Hawkins. The only reason this team is a No. 4 seed is because of the struggles it endured early during Big East play. Since that valley, the Huskies have clearly been among the nation's elite teams. After four victories of at least 15 points during the first two weeks of the NCAA Tournament, they are the clear favorite to win it all.
UConn might be a 4-seed in the bracket, seeded No. 13 overall by the selection committee, but multiple power ratings and predictive metrics have considered the Huskies to be a top-six team since January. Compared to the rest of this mid-bracket Final Four field, the Huskies are on a different tier, and their dominance against opponents in this tournament indicates something close to peak performance. Dan Hurley's team is better, on average, than the other teams in this Final Four, and UConn's current form is better than average. Anything other than another Huskies title would be a surprise.
I like San Diego State in the semifinal against FAU because of its defense; the Aztecs are better than any other team at making offenses uncomfortable. Their own offense also seems perpetually uncomfortable, but they have been winning with it all year. However, I'm picking UConn to win the whole thing. The Huskies have been the best team in this tournament, and it's not even close. They look a lot like the team that almost made it to the top of the polls in December. Their bigs are a load to handle. Miami's offense will be a challenge, sure, but UConn can score with them.
I've seen enough of San Diego State to know the Aztecs are the vampires of the Final Four. They bleed you, slowly. They are completely happy with a halftime score in the 20s. In back-to-back games, they have worn out Alabama and Creighton like Barry Switze wore down Nebraska with the wishbone in the fourth quarter. That being said, FAU might be the most complete team left in the tournament. It has jumpers, shooters and the big Russian, Aladislav Goldin, in the middle. I'd love to see that combo against UConn in the championship game, but alas, UConn is going to win the whole thing no matter who it plays.
Semifinal opponent Miami is sneaky good. Yeah, I said it. The ACC champion can surprise. Jim Larrañaga is the first coach I've seen who walks the sidelines with his hands in his pocket and hardly ever yelling. But he can scheme with the best of them. The Canes had several runouts against top-seeded Houston; then, it changed tactics -- and post players -- outscoring Texas 35-16 in the final 12 minutes to reach the Final Four.
UConn will go into the Final Four as the heavy favorite after beating its four opponents by a combined 90 points, and it has the best tournament pedigree of any team left. It has four national championships, tied with Kansas for sixth all-time. Coach Dan Hurley is part of basketball royalty. His dad is a Hall of Fame high school coach. Brother Bobby Hurley is the Arizona State coach who won two national championships as a player at Duke. It is a physically intimidating team on defense and ranks in the top 10 in offensive rebounding percentage. The team revolves around Sanogo -- and his 7-foot-2 wingspan -- and shooting guard Jordan Hawkins. That will be too much for everyone else.