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Sweet Sixteen: UConn vs Arkansas

Steve Marcus

Connecticut Huskies forward Adama Sanogo (21) takes the ball past Arkansas Razorbacks forward Makhi Mitchell (15) during the second half of a NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen basketball game at T-Mobile Arena Thursday, March 23, 2023.

Adama Sanogo was the unofficial king of Las Vegas last week during the West Regional at T-Mobile Arena.

No one could slow the 6-foot-9, 245-pound Connecticut Huskies forward from Mali. First, Sanogo overpowered Arkansas in the Sweet 16 by scoring 18 points to go with eight rebounds and two blocks in an 88-65 UConn victory that felt over as few as 10 minutes into the game.

Gonzaga had a better, trap-heavy plan for Sanogo in the Elite Eight, but it didn’t matter. Sanogo showed off an overlooked part of his game — passing — en route to recording five of a career-high six assists in the first half of an 88-65 laugher.

Sanogo was ultimately surpassed by teammate/sharpshooter Jordan Hawkins, who had a total of 44 points and hit nine of 19 3-point attempts in the two games, for the West Regional Most Outstanding Player award. But there still may be hardware in the future of UConn’s best player.

Sanogo should be the runaway favorite to win the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player this weekend in Houston. The Huskies are -130 (i.e. risking $1.30 to win $1) to win the national championship but Sanogo is as high as 3-to-1 (at Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) to win the top individual award.

That’s too large of a gap between the two prices.

Sanogo is a virtual co-favorite with Hawkins to win the honor — the former is +220 to the latter’s +225 at Caesars/William Hill — despite having been the team’s best player all season. And these matchups particularly look promising for him.

Semifinal opponent Miami is easily the worst defensive team UConn has played in the tournament. Potential national championship opponents San Diego State and Florida Atlantic are both strong defensively but not so much in the halfcourt interior where Sanogo reigns.

Lock in Sanogo at +300 to win the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player award as the first bet of the weekend.

Local sports books are relatively lacking as far as proposition wagers for the early stages of the tournament compared to many other states with legalized betting, but that changes this weekend. Virtually every sports book in town posts full proposition menus for the Final Four, including odds to win Most Outstanding Player.

Click to enlarge photo

San Diego State guard Matt Bradley (20) walks down the court near San Jose State forward Trey Anderson (15) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Mountain West Conference tournament Friday, March 10, 2023, in Las Vegas.

Let’s not leave out the first semifinal game either so here’s a prop for it too — San Diego State’s Matt Bradley to go over 11.5 points at Circa Sports. Much has been made of Bradley’s slump in the last three games, and ensuing minutes decrease, but it’s all probably all overblown.

Bradley has been San Diego State’s most reliable offensive player all year, and was on a tear to win the regular season. It would have been inconceivable for San Diego State to make the Final Four with this low of a total attached to Bradley’s name a few weeks ago, so let’s buy low.

Props add to the Final Four fun, but point spreads remain the go-to so I’ll try to sweep the final three of the year in Talking Points.

Read below for handicaps of the two Final Four games. Lines are the best currently available in Las Vegas. Picks are listed in rough order of confidence and labeled in three separate confidence categories. The record picking every game of the tournament stands at 29-33-2 (10-7 on plays, 9-15-1 on leans and 10-11 on guesses after a disastrous 0-4 in the Elite Eight.

No. 4 seed Connecticut -5.5 vs. No. 5 seed Miami The one justification for a spread this low could be adjustment for recency. The Hurricanes rarely looked like a Final Four contender all year until the last three games where their high-flying offense has really kicked into gear. But let’s also not forget No. 12 seed Drake had them all but defeated in the final minutes of a round of 64 game. Oh, and they also snuck out an ACC Tournament win against Wake Forest before getting eliminated by Duke. The Hurricanes’ true level is neither as concerning as it looked in the final games before the NCAA Tournament nor as awe-inspiring as it’s looked lately. The truth is somewhere in the middle, and that middle would still result in a higher spread than this. UConn has far fewer blemishes. The Huskies haven’t failed to cover a spread against a non-conference opponent all season. They just really might be the type of freight-train team that traditionally rolls to a national championship. Play: UConn -5.5.

No. 5 seed San Diego State -2 vs. No. 9 seed Florida Atlantic A slow-paced, defensive-minded opponent had Florida Atlantic beaten down through the first half in the Sweet 16. Then Tennessee appeared flummoxed by adjustments, went cold offensively and faded out. A similarly-built San Diego State is unlikely do the same. Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher is the polar opposite of Tennessee coach Rick Barnes as in-game scheming might be his best strength. San Diego State has reached the Final Four without even really playing that well, at least offensively, with the aforementioned Bradley yet to get on track. If the Aztecs can find scoring just marginally easier, they should be too much for the Owls. Talent has usually tended to win out in the Final Four, and the Aztecs have an edge in that department. The number is about right in what should be a low-scoring affair but, from top to bottom, Florida Atlantic isn’t as strong of a team as San Diego State. Guess: San Diego State -2.

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or

Article written by #LasVegasSun

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