The Florida Atlantic men’s basketball team is in the Final Four for the first time in school history.
The Owls’ next opponent in the national semifinals at Houston’s NRG Stadium will be able to say the same. No. 6 Creighton and No. 5 San Diego State play Sunday (2:20 p.m. ET, CBS) in the Elite Eight after advancing out of the Sweet 16 for the first time.
No. 5 Miami also will look for its first Final Four appearance after reaching the Elite Eight for just the second time. The Hurricanes will face No. 2 Texas (5:05 p.m. ET, CBS), which last reached the Final Four in 2003. The winner will face UConn, which routed Gonzaga 82-54 on Saturday night.
Follow along for Sunday’s NCAA men’s tournament action:
Finally, the Aztecs regain the lead
Follow the madness: Latest Men’s NCAA Tournament College Basketball Scores and Schedules
More than 30 minutes of game time elapsed before No. 5 San Diego State finally regained a lead three-quarters of the way through the second half. From then on, the Aztecs regained offensive efficiency, confidently converting pull-up jumpers off of pick-and-roll action.
What’s not helping No. 6 Creighton is the sheer volume of shots missed in the paint, as the Bluejays have four missed field goals in the paint in the second half.
The Aztecs hold a 52-50 lead with 3:30 to play, and a trip to the Final Four on the line.
Creighton goes cold, SDSU still can’t quite get over hump
No. 6 Creighton went more than four minutes without a point midway through the second half, but No. 5 San Diego State simply cannot find enough consistency on the offensive end to erase the Bluejay lead.
Every time the Aztecs pull closer, they seem to get cold until Creighton is able to string together a basket or two. While both teams are struggling from three-point range — the two have combined to 5-of-26 (19.2%) — San Diego State is not backing away from more attempts, even if they’re not dropping. The Aztecs though, are putting forth plus effort on the offensive glass, and now hold an 11-8 edge over Creighton in that space.
San Diego State has done a tremendous job on Creighton center Ryan Kalkbrenner, who only has three points after intermission, in the second half.
The Bluejays hold a 45-41 lead with 7:40 left in the game.
Creighton holding steady, SDSU starts slow
Both offenses struggled from the floor to open the second half, though No. 5 San Diego State’s 6-2 mini-run closed the deficit before No. 6 Creighton’s consecutive trips to the free throw line (including an and-one on the second possession) kept the Bluejays ahead.
The Aztecs have clogged the lane with a 2-3 zone that has made it more difficult for Creighton center Ryan Kalkbrenner to receive the ball in the post. And San Diego State is actually picking up the slack on the offensive glass in the second half, but is struggling from the field, converting just 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.
Halftime: Creighton 33, San Diego State 28
No. 5 San Diego State has settled a touch on offense, in large part to the play of guard Lamont Butler, who paces the Aztecs at the half with nine points on 4-of-5 shooting.
There are some warning signs, however, for San Diego State: it is being outrebounded by a margin of 16-14, though minutes earlier, it was 13-7. The Aztecs and have assisted on only two of their 13 field goals. Another concern? San Diego State has taken just one trip to the line and missed that free throw.
Despite all that, the Aztecs are taking a five-point deficit into the second half after Creighton went 3:20 without a field goal in the middle of the first half.
The Bluejays did bounce back from their cold spell and are riding the play of Ryan Kalkbrenner (10 points), Baylor Scheierman (seven points) and Ryan Nembhard (seven points) combining for 72.7% of Creighton’s points.
San Diego State’s bench is outscoring Creighton’s 8-0.
Creighton building modest lead
No. 5 San Diego State went nearly two-and-a-half minutes without a field goal early in the first half, allowing No. 6 Creighton to start to build a modest lead. The Bluejays are moving the ball fairly well and getting everyone involved; by the midway point of the first half, all five starters had scored. In fact, all starters have combined for 9-of-17 (52.9%) shooting from the floor.
One area where the Aztecs are performing well, however, is on perimeter defense. San Diego State has held Creighton to 1-of-6 shooting from three-point range. The Aztecs, though, need to play with more composure, having committed four turnovers and four player fouls.
The Bluejays are up 22-16, with 7:40 left to play in the first half.
Siblings face off for Final Four spot
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 once again.
Creighton sophomore forward Arthur Kaluma and San Diego State senior guard Adam Seiko are meeting against each other in the Elite Eight matchup, the second straight year they will do so in the tournament. Last year, Kaluma and Creighton won their first round matchup against the Aztecs in overtime, 72-69.
Before the Sweet 16, Seiko said it would be a “surreal feeling” if the two teams met with a Final Four berth on the line.
“Something I can’t even put into words, really,” Seiko said.
The siblings’ mother, Saira Eva Ariko, is in attendance for the game in Louisville.
— Jordan Mendoza
Offenses finding footing early on in Creighton-SDSU
The perimeter shooting from both teams slagged to start the game between No. 6 Creighton and No. 5 San Diego State, with both teams putting up an airball on three-point attempts on consecutive possessions. But the importance of post play and rebounding already showed its weight, as Creighton forward Arthur Kaluma’s offensive board two minutes into the game led to center Ryan Kalkbrenner’s flush on an alley-oop feed from guard Trey Alexander.
Both squads have combined to go 1-of-5 from beyond the arc. Kalkbrenner leads the way early with six points on 3-of-5 shooting. Creighton holds an 8-7 lead with 14:05 left to play in the first half.
Sunday’s Elite Eight slate
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 overall seed to 32.4% shooting and completely bottled up future lottery pick Brandon Miller, who finished with just nine points on 3 of 19 shooting, including just one make in 10 attempts from deep. But Creighton could put this 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 tournament play.
No. 2 Texas vs. No. 5 Miami: After some early struggles, Miami’s backcourt has taken over games to help the Hurricanes earn a second trip in a row to the regional finals. Nijel Pack has been on point 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 Beard in December and is in the Elite Eight for the first time since 2008 and just the second time since the tournament expanded from eight teams in 1951. Under Terry, the Longhorns have fought through off-court drama and injuries to peak at the right time.
— Paul Myerberg
Bluejays, Aztecs have familiarity
While in different regions of the country, Creighton and San Diego State are not unfamiliar with each other.
Months ago, the Bluejays and Aztecs shared a chartered flight to the Maui Invitational. Creighton coach Greg McDermott said he sat across from San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher and talked about wanting to face off in the championship because “we would be OK with one of us winning and one of us losing.”
Little did they know their meeting this season would be on a bigger stage.
— Paul Myerberg
Texas’ Dylan Disu dealing with injury
Dylan Disu, Texas’ best player this postseason, played less than two minutes in the Longhorns’ Sweet 16 win against Xavier with what team officials called a bone bruise in his left foot. He’s officially day-to-day.
He spent most of the game with a walking boot on his left foot. Team officials said he suffered the bone bruise in the win over Penn State in the second round last Saturday. He practiced some but aggravated the injury late in the week.
— Thomas Jones, Austin American-Statesman
Florida Atlantic most-surprising Final Four team ever?
It has become more and more common in recent years for an overlooked, out-of-nowhere tournament team to get hot at the right time and march all the way to the Final Four. Of the nine teams to reach the national semifinals as a No. 9 seed or higher, six have occurred since 2013.
The Owls’ run to Houston is among the most unexpected Final Four teams since the tournament expanded that same season. There are eight teams that have shocked the nation most by advancing from off the radar to the national semifinals.
— Paul Myerberg
UConn is now the team to beat — and Huskies know it
Parity in college basketball, huh? UConn didn’t get the memo.
All those close calls, all those middling years in the wilderness of the American Athletic Conference suddenly seem far away in the rear-view mirror. In his fifth season at UConn, Dan Hurley doesn’t just have the Huskies back in the Final Four, he has them playing in a way that should earn them the school’s fifth national title.
— Dan Wolken
Kansas State coach Jerome Tang shares message with FAU after game
Florida Atlantic may have eliminated his Kansas State team, but Wildcats coach Jerome Tang had nothing but praise for the Owls – and delivered his classy message in person in the celebratory FAU locker room.
“Your toughness, your togetherness, your ability to make plays for each other, the way you communicate with each other – nobody can beat ya’ll,” the first-year K-State coach told the Owls. “Just stay together, don’t get distracted between now and (the Final Four). Stay locked in, keep doing what you’re doing.”
“Ya’ll the toughest son-of-a-guns we’ve played all year long,” Tang added. “Just proud of ya and rooting for ya.”
Tang’s first year in Manhattan, Kansas, was a tremendous 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 first Final Four appearance and will play the winner of Sunday’s game between Creighton and San Diego State.
— Jace Evans
Parity creating ultimate March Madness chaos
In a span of mere minutes Friday night, two programs that have had lots of good seasons but rarely seemed like they’re on the cusp of anything significant, evicted the last two No. 1 seeds left, from this NCAA men’s tournament.
And with those back-to-back results, this is officially the maddest March of them all.
— Dan Wolken