You can pick apart Monday night's national championship game between No. 4 seed UConn and No. 5 seed San Diego State from myriad angles -- ! -- but no singular piece of analysis is more revealing and helpful than the comparison we do every year below. It cuts right to the chase and gets down to the nitty gritty. Who matches up with who? Which team has the edge at each spot? How does the bench production compare between UConn and SDSU? The answers to those will go a long way toward determining Monday's winner.
Position group by position group we'll get to that breakdown below. One fair warning, though: You'll notice there's an obvious theme. As you continue reading UConn over and over againalmost across the board from this angle. The Aztecs will provide resistance in a way no other team has provided resistance to the Huskies this postseason with their physical style and defensive-first mindset, but on paper UConn's depth and ability to play inside and out make it a fair frontrunner in the final fight of the season.
Will SDSU's defense be enough to help it pull off the upset here? Maybe, maybe not. But don't read too much into UConn having multiple advantages in this breakdown. UConn is the favorite, and rightfully so, but this is an SDSU team that has out-schemed opponents repeatedly this postseason with lesser talent. All it takes is one more well-executed game to finish its season at the top.
So as tipoff approaches Monday night, let's take a look at the UConn vs. SDSU matchup and see who might have an edge -- and where -- in the 2023 national title game.
The balance of San Diego State has benefited it most this postseason with four different leading scorers in five games. But in this particular matchup against UConn's backcourt, the star power and steady production of the Huskies win the battle. Hawkins is a lottery pick talent and one of several playmakers who can create among this bunch as well as, if not better than, this trio of SDSU standouts. Add in Hawkins and Jackson, two bona fide glue guys who do the dirty work on both ends, and UConn has the slight advantage here. Bradley, when he's on top of his game, can hang with this bunch, though, and Butler's a baller in big moments having hit the biggest shot in San Diego State history on Saturday. Edge: UConn
No team during the NCAA Tournament has been able to slow down Sanogo -- he's averaging north of 20 points and just shy of 10 rebounds per game -- so the matchup on Monday in the frontcourt figures to be the specific one that will make or break someone's title hopes. Mensah rates out as one of the most valuable defenders for SDSU and his big 6-foot-10, 230-pound frame should provide some resistance down low to combat Sanogo's advantage, but to what extent, if at all, remains a question mark. Advantage Sanogo on paper. Karaban and Johnson are probably close to a draw impact-wise, with a slight lean towards SDSU, but the gap in value Sanogo brings to UConn vs. what Mensah brings to SDSU is too wide. Edge: UConn
Both Parrish and LeDee have had big moments this postseason for San Diego State with LeDee's length and Parrish's scoring both benefiting the Aztecs in big ways. But the additive value Alleyne alone brings to UConn off the bench is the trump card here that tilts this matchup towards the Huskies. UConn is 14-1 on the season in games where he scores at least eight points, which he has done in four of five NCAA Tournament games during this run. Edge: UConn
UConn: Danny Hurley
San Diego State: Brian Dutcher
UConn has the better team on paper and has had the better season, but that doesn't necessarily mean it has the best coach in this game. Dutcher has the better career coaching win percentage (albeit in an easier league) with two 30+ win seasons in the last four years. Hurley is on the precipice of becoming one of the best coaches in college, but Dutcher's sustained success in a tougher job makes this one a draw. Edge: Even
In terms of confidence and total team swagger, UConn gets the edge by a mile. There's a quiet confidence bordering on cockiness with this team that overflows from within and spills onto the court. They've embodied the attitude and demeanor of their sometimes-fiery head coach and are out to not only win -- but to step on people's necks.
SDSU has some good karma on its side and some momentum, though. Three years after the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled with FAU at the final buzzer on Saturday, it feels like they're right where they want to be and where they've shined all season: as an overlooked underdog out to prove doubters wrong. Edge: San Diego State, the Aztecs are being smiled upon by the basketball gods with a dream run in 2023 almost no one saw coming. and . After taking down