The Florida Atlantic men’s basketball team is playing in the Final Four for the first time in school history.
The Owls’ next opponent in the semifinals at NRG Stadium in Houston will be able to say the same. No. 6, Creighton and No. 1 play. 5 San Diego State on Sunday (2:20 p.m. ET, CBS) in the Elite Eight after advancing from the Sweet 16 for the first time.
No. 5 Miami will also be looking for its first Final Four appearance after reaching the Elite Eight for only the second time. The Hurricanes will face No. 2 Texas (5:05 p.m. ET, CBS), which reached the Final Four in 2003. The winner will face UConn, who defeated Gonzaga 82-54 Saturday night.
Catch up with us on Sunday at the NCAA Men’s Tournament:
For the first time in program history, SDSU has reached the Final Four
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Fifth-ranked San Diego State held a two-point lead with 34.2 seconds left. All the Aztecs had to do was successfully field the ball and convert free throws. Instead, No. 6 Creighton gave an errant pass and easily threw the ball under the basket to tie the game.
However, the Aztecs recovered, and goaltender Darion Tramell on his game-winning float attempt was fouled on the left side of the fairway as time ran out. The false call immediately set social media ablaze, debating the merits of a call like that at such a tense moment in the game, but Creighton guard Ryan Nimbard put his left hand on Trammell’s back as he slammed the ball.
With a trip to the Final Four on the goal line, Tramell missed the first free throw but exhausted the second. Creighton’s desperation drove inward from a group of players leaving not enough time on the clock for the Bluejays to get one last shot.
San Diego State won, 57-56, and will face Florida Atlantic in the semifinals on Saturday.
Finally, the Aztecs regain the lead
More than 30 minutes of game time elapsed before fifth seed San Diego State eventually regained its lead by three quarters of the second period. Since then, the Aztecs have regained their offensive efficiency, confidently converting pull players from the catching move.
What doesn’t help No. 6 Creighton is the sheer volume of missed shots in the paint, as the Blue Jays missed four field goals in the paint in the second half.
The Aztecs have a 52-50 lead with 3:30 to play, and a trip to the Final Four is on the line.
Creighton is getting cold, and SDSU still can’t quite get over the hump
No. 6 Creighton went more than four minutes without a point midway through the second half, but No. 5 ranked San Diego State simply couldn’t find enough consistency on the offensive end to erase the Bluejays’ lead.
Every time the Aztecs approached, they seemed to get cold so Creighton could tie a basket or two together. While both teams struggle from three-point range — both combined to 5-of-26 (19.2%) — San Diego State doesn’t hold back more tries, even if they don’t. The Aztecs, though, are making extra effort on the offensive glass, and now hold an 11-8 advantage over Creighton in that space.
San Diego State did a great job of Creighton center Ryan Kalkbrenner, who only had three points after the break, in the second half.
The Bluejays lead 45-41 with 7:40 left in the game.
Creighton steady, SDSU starts slow
The two offenses struggled from the ground to open the second half, though a 6-2 mini-run of No. 5 San Diego State closed the deficit before No. 6 Creighton’s back-to-back trips to the free throw line (including one and one on the second possession) kept the Bluejays ahead .
The Aztecs blocked the pass at a 2-3 zone which made it even more difficult for Creighton Ryan Kalkbrenner to get the ball at the post. Indeed, San Diego State picks up the slack in the offensive glass in the second half, but struggles from the field, converting only 5 of 18 (27.8%) shots after halftime.
Creighton leads 43-39 with 11:30 to play in the game.
Aztec guard Lamont Butler leads all players with 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
First half: Creighton 33, San Diego State 28
No. 5 San Diego State has a touch on offense, in large part to play guard Lamont Butler, who walks the Aztecs into the half with nine points on 4-of-5.
However, there are some warning signs for San Diego State: They are outpaced by a 16-14 lead, even though they were 13-7 minutes earlier. He assisted the Aztecs on only 2 of 13 field goals. Another concern? San Diego State only made one trip to the line and missed that free throw.
Despite it all, the Aztecs trail by five points in the second half after Creighton went 3:20 without a field goal midway through the first half.
The Bluejays bounced back from the cold spell, fielding Ryan Kalkbrenner (10 points), Baylor Sherman (seven points) and Ryan Nimbard (seven points) to accumulate 72.7% of Creighton’s points.
The San Diego State bench edged Creighton, 8-0.
Creighton building modest lead
No. 5 San Diego State went nearly two and a half minutes without scoring a field goal early in the first half, allowing No. 6 ranked Creighton to begin building a modest lead. The Bluejays move the ball around fairly well and get everyone involved; By the middle of the first half, all five players had scored. In fact, all of the starters combined to shoot 9-of-17 (52.9%) from the ground.
However, one area where the Aztecs perform well is perimeter defense. San Diego State held Creighton shooting 1-of-6 from three-point range. Despite this, the Aztecs need to play with more composure, having committed four turnovers and four player fouls.
The Bluejays led 22-16, with 7:40 left to play in the first half.
The siblings compete for fourth place in the final
Not only are San Diego State and Creighton playing for a spot in the Final Four, but a pair of brothers are playing for bragging rights against another again.
Creighton forward Arthur Kaluma and San Diego State point guard Adam Seko are pitted against each other in the Elite Eight game, the second straight year they’ve done so in the tournament. Last year, Kaluma and Creighton won their first round game against the Aztecs in overtime, 72-69.
Before The Sweet 16, Seiko said It would be a “surreal feeling” if the two teams met a Final Four berth on the line.
“Something I can’t even put into words, really,” said Seiko.
The brothers’ mother, Saira Eva Arico, is present at the match, which is being held in Louisville.
– Jordan Mendoza
Crimes are found early on at Creighton-SDSU
Shooting from both teams slowed to start the game between No. 6 Creighton and No. 5 San Diego State, as both teams put up volleys on three-point attempts on consecutive possessions. But the importance of the subsequent play and the rebound already showed its weight, as Creighton striker Arthur Kaluma’s attacking board two minutes into the game led Ryan Kalkbrenner into a shot from goalkeeper Trey Alexander.
Both teams combined to go 1 of 5 from beyond the arc. Kalkbrenner leads the way early with six points on 3-of-5 shooting. Creighton leads 8-7 with 14:05 left to play in the first half.
Elite eight menu for sunday
No. 5 San Diego State vs. No. 6 Creighton: San Diego State’s defense is off the charts – just ask Alabama. The Aztecs held the top seed in shooting at 32.4% and bottled future lottery Brandon Miller, who finished with just 9 points on 3 out of 19 shooting, including only 1 in 10 depth attempts. But Creighton could put that defense to the test. The Bluejays have scored at least 80 points in five of the past seven games and are shooting 50.6% from the field in championship play.
No. 2 Texas vs. No. 5 Miami: After some early struggles, the Miami backcourt took the games to help the Hurricanes earn a second straight trip to the Regional Finals. Nijel Pack has been on high since the start of tournament play, averaging a team best 19.7 points per game and dropping a season-high 26 points to lead Miami into the Elite Eight. Texas has gone 22-7 since Rodney Terry replaced Chris Byrd in December and is in the elite for the first time since 2008 and only the second time since the tournament was expanded from eight teams in 1951. Under Terry, the Longhorns have put up the fight. Drama and injuries on the field come to a head just in time.
– Paul Mayerberg
Bluejays, the Aztecs have knowledge
While in different parts of the country, Creighton and San Diego State were not unfamiliar with each other.
Months ago, the Bluejays and Aztecs took part in a chartered trip to the Maui Invitational. Creighton coach Greg McDermott said he sat down with San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher and talked about wanting a championship showdown “because we’re going to be okay with one of us winning and one of us losing.”
Little did they know that their meeting this season would be on a bigger stage.
– Paul Mayerberg
Dylan DeSeau of Texas deals with injury
Texans’ MVP this postseason, Dylan DeSeau, played less than two minutes in the Longhorns Sweet 16’s win against Xavier with what team officials described as a bone bruise in his left foot. It’s officially day by day.
He spent most of the match with the walking boot on his left foot. Team officials said he sustained a bone bruise in Saturday’s second-round win over Penn State. He did some exercises, but the injury worsened late in the week.
– Thomas Jones, Austin American-Statesman
Florida Atlantic’s Most Surprising Final Four Team?
It’s become more and more common in recent years for an overlooked, nowhere to go tournament team to get hot at the right time and make it all the way to the Final Four. Of the nine teams that have reached the national semifinals as the No. 9 seed or higher, six have occurred since 2013.
The Owls’ run to Houston is among the most unexpected in the Final Four since the tournament expanded that same season. There are eight teams that shocked the nation the most by advancing off the radar to the national semifinals.
– Paul Mayerberg
UConn is now the team to beat – and the Huskies know it
Parity in college basketball, huh? O’Conn didn’t get the memo.
All those close calls, all those mean years in the wilderness of the American Athletic Conference suddenly seem far away in the rearview mirror. In his fifth season at UConn, Dan Hurley not only got the Huskies into the Final Four, he got them to play in a way that would earn them the school’s fifth national title.
Kansas State coach Jerome Tang shares a message with the NFL after the game
Florida Atlantic may have wiped out its Kansas State team, but Wildcats coach Jerome Tang had nothing but praise for the Owls — and He delivered his classy message in person in the FAU ceremonial locker room.
“Your toughness, your connectedness, your ability to make plays for each other, the way you communicate with each other—no one can beat ya’ll,” said the Owls’ first-year K-State coach. “Just stay together, don’t get distracted between now and (last four). Stay locked in, keep doing what you’re doing.”
“Oh I’m going to tough the son of guns we’ve played all year,” Tang added. “Just proud of you and rooting for you.”
Tang’s first year in Manhattan, Kansas, was a huge success after little was expected of the Wildcats in the preseason. They nearly made their first Final Four since 1964, falling to Florida Atlantic 79-76. The Owls are making their Final Four debut and will play the winner in Sunday’s game between Creighton and San Diego State.
– Jess Evans
Parity creates the ultimate March Madness mayhem
In the span of just minutes on Friday night, two programs that have had plenty of good seasons but rarely seem up to anything significant have knocked out the last two remaining No. 1 seeds out of the NCAA Men’s Tournament.
And with that winning streak, this is officially the Crazy march for them all.
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