The second half of the national championship game picture will be determined when Miami (29-7) and UConn (29-8) square off in the second game at NRG Stadium in Houston on Saturday.
UConn was a consensus 5.5-point favorite as of Friday afternoon, and the Huskies are also the heavy favorites to win it all among the Final Four teams.
The line has held steady at BetMGM, where UConn has drawn 63 percent of the spread-line bets but the money has been almost evenly split between the teams. Meanwhile, Miami’s +200 moneyline has been the second most Final Four bet at the sportsbook, garnering 63 percent of the bets and 57 percent of the money.
Bet Rivers reported 65 percent of the spread-line bets and 56 percent of the money on the Huskies, while UConn has been backed by 54 and 66 percent, respectively, at PointsBet.
Miami has been led by senior guard Isaiah Wong, third-year sophomore forward Norchad Omier and fifth-year senior transfer guard Jordan Miller. Miller produced 27 points on perfect shooting to lead the Hurricanes to the 88-81 victory over the Longhorns on Sunday.
It was a breakout performance for Miller, whose national emergence epitomized that of Miami.
“He’s underrated because he’s under the radar,” Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga said of Miller. “People haven’t seen just how good he is. I think he showed the country how darn good he is these past two weeks.”
While three of the four semifinalists are first-timers, UConn is in pursuit of its fifth national title. The Huskies have recaptured the momentum from their perfect non-conference run and 14-0 start before the rugged Big East schedule yielded six losses over an eight-game stretch.
The Huskies finished fourth in the Big East but have again reclaimed the form that made them surprise contenders prior to their midseason lull. Their average margin of victory in the NCAA Tournament is 22.5 points, and the Huskies have again emerged as the prohibitive favorites to win a championship.
“Harder,” said Huskies coach Dan Hurley, when asked if it was easier or harder to get the program back to the Final Four for the first time since it won the 2014 national championship.
“And probably because, like, the history and tradition doesn’t really — it helps you in recruiting. We sold to it these guys. We’ve done it here before; we can do it again.
“But I think it becomes a little bit of a mental hurdle, especially like early rounds of NCAA Tournament where you feel like maybe the burden of the history and tradition and first-round games, maybe even second-round games.”
UConn has come to embrace that burden. Led by junior forward Adama Sanogo and sophomore guard Jordan Hawkins, the Huskies are relishing this latest championship opportunity.
“Back!” UConn junior guard Andre Jackson Jr. said. “Back, but we never left.”
There is concern about the availability of Hawkins, who became sick Thursday night and missed Friday’s practice. He is averaging 17.3 points during the NCAA Tournament and was named Most Outstanding Player of the West Regional.
“We obviously isolated him,” Hurley said Friday. “Started to not feel well last night. For him to miss today obviously tells you he’s not in a great way.”
After winning the ACC regular-season title, Miami has ousted top-seeded Houston and No. 2 Texas en route to its final Four. The Hurricanes are legit, but they are also playing with a much finer margin for error. UConn has bullied its way to this point, with the Huskies demonstrating why many analysts pegged them a title threat despite being a No. 4 seed.
–UConn 83, Miami 78
–Field Level Media