Upsets have led to an unpredictable Final Four round
The Santa Clara
April 4, 2019
A suffocating defense, an offense that likes to run, a super-star driven attack and a slow-moving, grind-itout in the half-court offense whose pace might belong on a baseball diamond instead of the basketball court.
Four completely different and oppositional approaches, each with their own point of pride and emphasis, with one thing in common: March has come to an end and they are still playing basketball.
The Texas Tech Red Raiders, Auburn Tigers, Michigan State Spartans and Virginia Cavaliers punched their tickets to the Final Four this past weekend. As they begin making travel plans for Minneapolis— where this year’s Final Four will be held—each team realizes only one will emerge victorious.
Whether your bracket is busted, or you somehow predicted Texas Tech and Auburn in the Final Four, this Saturday promises to host two exciting matchups. Let’s take a look at both of them.
In the first game of the day, tipping off at 3:09 p.m. PST, the fifth-seeded Auburn Tigers face off against the only remaining one seed, the Virginia Cavaliers.
Auburn has been red hot as of late, proving themselves too fast and too strong for even the best blue bloods in the country. After barely escaping an upset from 12-seeded New Mexico State in the first round, they have since run through Kansas, jumped over one-seeded North Carolina and slid past two-seeded Kentucky in overtime to reach the Final Four.
On the other hand, Virginia avenged their loss to a 16-seed last year by overcoming a halftime deficit to beat Gardner-Webb in the first round. They then overtook Oklahoma and Oregon before beating Purdue in an overtime March Madness instant classic.
With both teams coming off of dramatic overtime wins, their paths and competing styles of play will cross in the Final Four.
This game will be a battle of pacing.
Both teams are near the complete opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to pace of play. Auburn likes to push the pace, run the floor and get shots off quickly while Virginia is a half-court team that likes to play slow, work the shot clock down and pass the ball around like a game of Catch Phrase that’s about to expire.
The winner of this matchup will be the team that can force the other to play at their preferred speed. If Auburn is able to get Virginia running the floor, expect the Tigers to outlast the Cavaliers. Yet, if Virginia is patient and sticks to the half court, expect them to wear down Auburn and upset their rhythm.
Following that game, U.S. Bank Stadium will host the third-seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders and the second-seeded Michigan State Spartans at 5:49 p.m. PST.
The Red Raiders weren’t talked about much before the tournament started, but people are having a hard time leaving them out of conversation now.
They rolled through Northern Kentucky and Buffalo in the first two rounds before beating Michigan 63-44 in the Sweet 16—holding them to only 16 points in the first half, the record for fewest points in the opening half of an NCAA Tournament game. Finally, they upset one-seeded Gonzaga to reach Saturday’s game.
The Spartans have looked strong throughout the tournament, beating Bradley, Minnesota and LSU fairly comfortably before edging out a hard-fought, one-point win over Duke in the Elite Eight.
Based on both teams’ approaches, this matchup looks to be a strong defensive battle highlighted by stardriven offenses.
The cornerstone of Texas Tech’s success has been their lock-down defense, which is the most effective in the country throughout the season. Conversely, Michigan State has a more traditional, balanced game, but has seen their largest success come from the havoc their best player—Cassius Winston—has wreaked on their opponents.
However, while Texas Tech’s defense has become a well-known unit to be feared over the last few weeks, they must not forget Michigan State’s strong interior defense as well.
The Spartans make it a nightmare for opposing teams to get points in the paint, but struggle with their weak point in the amount of offensive rebounds they allow.
At the same time, as the country has become more and more impressed with Winston this season, Texas Tech has a couple star players to look out for themselves.
The biggest threat on offense for Tech is Jarrett Culver, who plays a similar role for their offense as Winston does on Michigan State’s. Both of their abilities to spread the floor and open opportunities for other teammates has been a huge difference maker in the tournament so far.
All in all, this game looks like a strong defensive matchup with Winston and Culver in the driver’s seat for their respective offenses. Expect the team whose star player shines the brightest and whose defense can hold the longest to emerge from the weekend victorious.
March is over, but March Madness isn’t quite done yet. For these four teams, they have reached an incredible accomplishment, but let’s see who can make it even further this Saturday.
Contact Kyle Lydon at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.