College Hoops

Final Four predictions: Keys for each team to win, players to watch, more

Final Four predictions: Keys for each team to win, players to watch, more

It seems like it was just the other day that we had 68 teams eager to dive into March Madness and show their championship mettle. Suddenly, there are only four left standing.

And the remaining field is composed of an interesting mix that will gather in Houston later this week — a traditional blue blood (UConn), two strong-but-unheralded 5-seeds (San Diego State, Miami) and a classic mid-major Cinderella (9-seed Florida Atlantic).

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What should we make of it all? What must each team do to win its semifinal matchup? Which players must shine brightest on the biggest stage? Who will ultimately bring home the hardware?

Our college basketball writers Andy Katz, John Fanta and Michael Cohen share their thoughts, analysis and picks below.

SAN DIEGO STATE VS. FLORIDA ATLANTIC

What San Diego State must do to win this game …

Andy Katz: Impose their will. The Aztecs aren’t going to wow anyone offensively. But they did a great job of holding Creighton in check with 23 second-half points and 2-for-17 on 3s. FAU did make nine 3s against Kansas State. Of course, San Diego State has to score and that means Matt Bradley must get out of his slump. He only had two points in the Elite Eight win over Creighton. Nathan Mensah was a quality rim protector but he also needs to make an impact on the offensive end. This team has some offensive challenges that need to be met if they are going to play for the national title Monday night.

John Fanta: The Aztecs need to impose their defensive toughness on the game and make FAU uncomfortable on the perimeter. The Owls have the ability to get hot from the outside, converting on at least eight 3s in each of their NCAA Tournament victories. When the Owls are in sync offensively, it’s imperative that Brian Dutcher’s team finds enough in the halfcourt to score. That’s been the ongoing question with this SDSU team, and while its defense has led the way, shot-making from Darrion Trammell and Lamont Butler will be key. 

Against a defense as strong as the Aztecs, you need some individual playmaking. FAU star Johnell Davis can be that guy for the Owls, although they have other options who can step up as well, with Alijah Martin and Bryan Greenlee combining for 33 points in the win over Kansas State. Entering Houston, Matt Bradley will be looking to snap out of a slump. In the last three games, SDSU’s leading scorer has shot 6-for-27. Yes, it’s a reflection of this team that they have more…

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