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UConn and San Diego State are set for NCAA men's basketball final. What are the odds?

San Diego State guard Lamont Butler, center, celebrates with teammates after he hit the winning basket against Florida Atlantic during the second half of a Final Four game on Saturday.
Godofredo A. Vasquez
/
AP
San Diego State guard Lamont Butler, center, celebrates with teammates after he hit the winning basket against Florida Atlantic during the second half of a Final Four game on Saturday.

The men's NCAA basketball championship game is set: The San Diego State University Aztecs are up against the University of Connecticut Huskies for the national title.

The Huskies may be favored to win it all, but the big game caps a March Madness marked by upsets and unpredictability.

The opposing teams will meet in Houston at the NRG Stadium on Monday night, tipping off at 9:20 p.m. ET on CBS (streaming online and on TV).

UConn is the team to beat. But San Diego State's defense is on fire

Offensively, the odds are with the Huskies. UConn has averaged 78.6 points per game over San Diego's 71.5.

Yet San Diego State has a slight defensive edge over UConn, allowing about 63 points per game, more than a point under than the Huskies. And their win-loss record this season (32-6) outpaces UConn's (30-8), thanks to a solid defense. The Aztecs have flexed their scoring muscle too; take Lamont Butler's buzzer-beater in the Final Four upset against Florida Atlantic University.

Connecticut guard Andre Jackson Jr. dunks the ball over Miami forward Norchad Omier, right, during the second half of a Final Four college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.
David J. Phillip / AP
/
AP
Connecticut guard Andre Jackson Jr. dunks the ball over Miami forward Norchad Omier, right, during the second half of a Final Four college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.

Still, UConn is the higher-ranked team for a reason. The No. 4 seed had a rough patch earlier in their season — with a stretch of six losses in eight games — putting the Huskies at the middle of the pack in mid-season. Coach Dan Hurley, who admittedly lost his newfound zen over his row with referees, also attributed the drought to weak defense.

"We left that behind," Hurley told The Associated Press. "In November, December, February, March, we've been as good as anybody."

While its "Blue Blood" status remains up for debate, UConn is going for its fifth national title since its first victory in 1999, having won more championships than any other team during that span. In all four previous title game appearances, they have yet to forsake a win. A win on Monday would be coach Hurley's first title with the team.

Overall, UConn is a 7.5 point favorite over San Diego State to win, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

But look to San Diego State for the underdog story. It's the school's first national championship game. Before this year, they'd never made it to the Elite Eight.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.