#9 Florida Atlantic Owls vs #5 San Diego State Aztecs (4/1 @ 6:09 EST)
Spread: SDSU -2.5
Moneyline: FAU +125 | SDSU -150
Overview and Betting Info
The #9 Florida Atlantic Owls (35-3) will take on the #5 San Diego State Aztecs (31-6) in the first Final Four matchup of Saturday. FAU stunned the nation by winning the East Region, while the Aztecs were able to unseat the overall top seed Alabama to win the South. These teams did not meet in the regular season.
The Owls are 24-11-1 against the spread this season and have covered three of their four March Madness games. They’ve gone over the total 18 times, including twice during their tournament run.
The Aztecs are 19-15-2 versus the spread and have covered all four of their NCAA tournament games. They have gone over the total 14 times but have been under in their last ten games.
#9 Florida Atlantic Owls
While nobody expected the Owls to make the March Madness run that they have, they suddenly appear to be a real threat to hoist the NCAA Tournament Championship trophy on Monday night. After a close win over #8 Memphis to open the tournament, they beat #16 Fairleigh Dickinson, #4 Tennessee, and #3 Kansas State. FAU’s ability to stay with teams even during scoring droughts has been most impressive during those games. Several times against KSU, the Owls looked like they were about to be blown out. Each time they were able to keep the game close enough and then mount a comeback.
Their win against Tennessee is the best comp for SDSU, as the Vols were third in the country in opponent scoring. SDSU finished the season twenty-fourth in the category and, like Tennessee, struggled to find consistent play on offense. The Owls created enough open shots while limiting Tennessee to a 33.3% field goal percentage. What’s most impressive is they got the win despite turning the ball over 12 times while generating just six of their own. They overcame this by taking smart shots and hitting their free throws. Free Throws are a vital stat this time of year, and they’ll have that advantage over SDSU on Saturday.
The Owls have a ton of depth, but they have been led by Johnell Davis (13.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 49.3 FG%), Alijah Martin (13.1 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 37.0 3P%), and Vladislav Goldin (10.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.2 BPG). Davis is their leader and top star, dominating both ends of the floor. He is averaging 17.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.5 steals. He isn’t the most efficient shooter, but he does an excellent job of creating good looks from all over the floor. Davis is also a reliable free throw shooter, making 22 of his 25 attempts in the tournament. Martin has been their top shooter from the field and from three during this Cinderella run. He was especially great against KSU, finishing with 17 points, two blocks, two steals, and making 54.5% of his shots. Martin is making 38% of his three-point attempts in the tournament, making him critical to this offense. Goldin is coming off a career game where he scored 14 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, and blocked two shots. The center is 7’1”, making him a large presence on defense. The Aztecs struggled against Creighton’s 7-foot center, so Goldin may be in for another big night.
San Diego State Aztecs
The Aztecs got the most impressive tournament win when they cruised to a 71-64 victory over #1 Alabama after beating #13 Furman and #12 Charleston. Things were more difficult against #6 Creighton as they struggled to get much going on offense. Still, SDSU did what they needed to do down the stretch and snagged a one-point win after a controversial foul call with one second left. Creighton had been ranked in the top ten to begin the season and was playing as well as anyone in the country, making this a very impressive win.
While the Aztecs struggled to score against Creighton, they did better in their first three games. SDSU is averaging 66.5 points per game during their run while only giving up 57.3 points. That’s an impressive point differential. However, their win against Creighton does raise some concerns. While it was a great game, their defensive play down the stretch was an issue. They allowed several key layups for easy baskets, which is the same way FAU was able to fend off Kansas State. If they want to earn their first trip to the Championship Game, they must figure out how to protect the basket down the stretch.
The Aztecs are led by Matt Bradley (12.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 35.8 3P%), Darrion Trammell (9.9 PPG, 1.3 SPG), and Lamont Butler (8.7 PPG, 1.5 SPG). Bradley started the tournament hot but combined to score only eight points and go 3-17 from the field against Alabama and Creighton. The Aztecs were able to get enough players hot to overcome Alabama, but this issue was exposed against Creighton. Bradley doesn’t add much on defense or any other categories, so he’ll need to figure out his shot on Saturday. Trammell has been a big reason for this tournament run, highlighted by his 21 points against Alabama. Like Bradley, his shot is unreliable, but he contributes rebounds and steals. Butler was a big reason for their win against Creighton, making 72.7% of his shots for 18 points. He is also a solid defender and a good distributor who can help run this offense.
Free Pick: FAU ML +125
At this point, no one should be underestimating this FAU team. While they lack the flashy stats that SDSU has, they are a team that plays smart and doesn’t cave into the pressure of the big moment. There was no reason for them to win that Kansas State game as they were going against the crowd and the hottest player in the tournament. The Wildcats thought they had put the Owls away a few times, but they kept forcing their way back until they went up eight with just 39 seconds left. They did that by making their free throws and feeding Goldin down low. The Owls team knows how to read the floor and find the open man, which will test this Aztec defense.
SDSU was third in the country in three-point defense this season and has done great during the tournament, but FAU doesn’t need to rely on the three. Their impressive ball movement sets up a lot of good looks from the field that the Aztecs will struggle to control. The Owls are averaging 71.3 points during their tournament run, and we think they’ll be able to come close to that against this tough Aztec defense.
We’re taking the Owls to win on Saturday.