Busting Brackets

San Diego State vs UConn: 2023-24 NCAA Tournament game preview, TV schedule

Apr 3, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; San Diego State Aztecs guard Darrion Trammell (12) shoots the ball
Apr 3, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; San Diego State Aztecs guard Darrion Trammell (12) shoots the ball / Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

An incredible rematch of last year’s national title game comes in the Sweet Sixteen with San Diego State facing UConn; will the Huskies keep rolling or do the Aztecs get revenge?

TV schedule: Thursday, March 28, 7:39 pm ET. TBS/TruTV

Arena: TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts

There’s been a lot of anticipation around San Diego State (26-10) this season following last year’s trip to the national title game. The road was harder this year for the Aztecs, as a much improved Mountain West got six teams into the NCAA Tournament, as San Diego State was just 11-7 in conference play. However, the Aztecs are the only MWC team still alive, taking care of business against UAB and Yale to reach a second consecutive Sweet Sixteen.

Any story on this roster starts with Jaedon LeDee (21.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg), a talented bench piece last season turned All-American this year, fresh off two more dynamic efforts in the Big Dance. Fellow senior Lamont Butler (9.4 ppg, 2.9 apg) hit the big shot in last year’s Final Four and was the MWC’s top defensive player. Micah Parrish (9.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg), who transferred two years ago from Oakland, has become another important piece of the puzzle, while talented point guard Darrion Trammell (7.9 ppg, 3.3 apg) is always a threat on both sides of the ball.

San Diego State sits 17th in KenPom’s ratings and are 9th in defensive efficiency; a testament to their defensive pressure. The Aztecs aren’t exactly a team that typically shoots the cover off the ball, but they play smart team basketball. LeDee’s emergence has been an unexpected treat for San Diego State and they’ll lean heavily on his production to answer further in the Big Dance.

A familiar opponent stands across the court in Connecticut (33-3), last year’s national champions who beat the Aztecs in that title game. If anything, these Huskes have been even better this season, with just a few losses across a season that includes regular season and tournament titles in the Big East. There’s a plethora of talent for Connecticut this season and it was on display in big wins over Stetson and Northwestern in this Tournament already.

There’s no starting five better in the nation and it starts with Tristen Newton (15.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 6.2 apg), a former East Carolina point guard who plays that role masterfully in this offense. The Huskes have two major frontcourt weapons, including 7’2 center Donovan Clingan (12.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg) and Alex Karaban (13.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg), a more crafty scorer and impact piece. Former Rutgers guard Cam Spencer (14.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.6 apg) has also fit very nicely into Dan Hurley’s scheme and been a welcome addition for the Huskies.

Connecticut sits atop the KenPom ratings and it’s no surprise after the season they’ve had. This unit can be deadly on offense, ranking 2nd in the nation, but are just as relentless on the other end. Newton is masterful at the point, Clinghan just had an 8-block game, and this is one of the best interior teams in the nation. Any opponent will have a hard time dealing with this talent.

Getting a rematch of the national championship game in the Sweet Sixteen is certainly one of the unexpected gifts this Tournament has provided. UConn had control for nearly all of last season’s matchup, though the Aztecs went on a run late that wasn’t quite enough. They again look very overmatched on paper, especially with all the talent in this Huskies’ lineup. Will this year be any different?

Ranking Sweet 16 teams in NCAAT. dark. Next. Ranking Sweet 16 teams in NCAAT

Consider that the Huskies shot poorly from outside and still blew out Northwestern in the second round. Consider also that LeDee is an All-American but there aren’t players making that same type of impact on the rest of this Aztecs roster. Everything says that the Huskies should keep rolling in their quest to repeat as national champions, though we’re still expecting Brian Dutcher and this defense to do what they can to slow them down.

Prediction: Connecticut 70, San Diego State 64