The first Final Four game of the weekend tips off when #5 Auburn pushes for an upset result against #1 Virginia.
A spot in the College Basketball National Championship is on the line and we’re expecting yet another quality game.
Auburn Tigers vs. Virginia Cavaliers @ U.S. Bank Stadium
Past Meetings And Form
It’s quite amazing to see the Auburn Tigers in the Final Four after the injury to Chuma Okeke against North Carolina, but they fought on resolutely to stun Kentucky in the Elite 8.
The 97-80 win over North Carolina was the biggest shock of the season as the Auburn Tigers were simply too good on the offensive side of the floor. That wasn’t the case against Kentucky as Auburn’s defense was the shining light.
Giving up only 71 points (including overtime) against a capable Kentucky team isn’t easy and that bodes well for Auburn, which was a +4500 chance to win the National Championship mid-way through the season.
Standing in their way will be the Virginia Cavaliers, which have redeemed their stunning loss in the first round last season. The Cavaliers were the first #1-ranked side to lose in the opening round last season but they have more than made up for it.
Their Elite 8 win over the Purdue Boilermakers had to be seen to be believed. Looking down and out in the concluding stages, Virginia went on a 9-1 run in the final 15 seconds to score a truly remarkable comeback. It was also thanks to a last-second shot to force overtime.
Virginia came out 80-75 winners in overtime and they have a sense of destiny about them this season. They have always promised to be National Champions over the last few years and they seemingly have the defense needed to win this season.
This game could all come down to which team makes their three-point attempts.
We want the Cinderella story for Auburn to continue but we just don’t think they have enough in the tank to beat a Virginia side which is stingy on defense.
Auburn will need to hit the three with good efficiency and that’s not their biggest asset. It is Virginia’s however, with the likes of Kyle Guy knocking down clutch three’s when they need him most.
Bookmakers have the spread set at 5 points and that’s fair for a game that could be close throughout, but we’re expecting Virginia to pull away late and possibly even rest some of their stars in the fourth quarter.
Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Michigan State Spartans @ U.S. Bank Stadium
It’s an unlikely Final Four matchup between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Michigan State Spartans, but that’s what makes it so intriguing.
The Red Raiders weren’t expected to make the Final Four and, in some respects, neither were the Spartans.
Past Meetings And Form
On the back of some stellar play from Jarrett Culver and his supporting cast, the Texas Tech Red Raiders have made the Final Four after beating Gonzaga in the Elite 8.
Gonzaga, along with Duke, were favorites to win the title this season but no one told that to Texas Tech, which manhandled the Bulldogs, winning 75-69. It was a performance representative of a team that knows exactly who they are and they’re killer on defense.
Red Raiders have allowed only 57 points per game this season and held the best offensive team, Gonzaga, to only 69 points. Prior to that win, they held Michigan to 44 points and as the old saying goes, “defense wins championships”.
Michigan State are another quality defensive team, allowing just 61.3 points per game and keeping teams such as LSU and Duke to under 68 points.
They were most impressive against Duke, which boasted offensive threats such as Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett. That win will give the Spartans oodles of confidence for this game, knowing they defeated a team with the likely #1 and #2 NBA draft picks.
Riding a nine-game winning streak and with a coach of the highest quality in Tom Izzo, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the Spartans make the final.
Bettors must respect the defense of both teams and expect a contest that might not feature much offense. It might not be that thrilling to watch from that perspective, but seeing good defense can be just as exciting.
Texas Tech will be amped to play in the Final Four, as will Michigan State, but the latter is a more professional unit which won’t be frustrated by the compact defense of the Red Raiders.
Spartans’ captain Cassius Winston might be only a lenient 6’0” on the statistics sheet, but he plays with all the confidence in the world and his leadership could be enough for the Spartans.