NCAA Final Four: The Madness Ensues in Minneapolis This Weekend
Four teams left in the NCAA Tournament with championship hopes in mind. Only Michigan State has won a title before, while Texas Tech, Auburn and Virginia are hoping to hoist a championship for the first time in school history.
And this isn't your traditional Final Four. No Kentucky; no Duke. Instead, this Final Four encapsulates teams that have built themselves from the ground up.
Before dissecting each team, this is a perfect time to also check how you're doing in the KLAQ Million Dollar Bracket Challenge, where the local winner will receive $1000 from TFCU!
Let's breakdown each matchup:
(1) Virginia vs. (5) Auburn - Saturday, 4:10 p.m. MT CBS
Tigers: Saying that Bruce Pearl and the Auburn Tigers have overachieved is an understatement. But the SEC Tournament Champions haven't lost since Feb. 23 (vs. Kentucky) and have won 12 straight leading into Saturday. Auburn's biggest problem entering the Final Four is they will be without their best player in Chuma Okeke, who suffered a torn ACL against North Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen. They will need Bryce Brown (16 points per game) and Jared Harper (6 assists per game) to both have big games in order to win.
Cavaliers: Entering his 10th season this year, Virginia head coach Tony Bennett and his squad had something to prove after the Cavaliers fell to 16th-seeded UMBC in last year's NCAA Tournament. They played with a chip on their shoulder all year long and stormed through the season with a 33-3 overall record. Kyle Guy (15.2 ppg) and Ty Jerome (5.3 assists per game) are both dynamic on the court. What truly separates them from the rest of the field is the fact that Virginia plays at the slowest pace in all of college basketball.
Prediction: Virginia 78 - Auburn 70 — Virginia rolls through Auburn, while the Tigers let their biggest injury in Okeke finally weigh on them. On the flip side, if Auburn starts really connecting from 3-point land, they will be in a position where they can win the game.
(2) Michigan State vs. (3) Texas Tech - Saturday, 6:50 p.m. MT CBS
Spartans: The Big 10 Tournament Champions in Michigan State continue to show their worth and want to bring another title back to Sparty Land. It's been a valiant coaching effort by Tom Izzo, who has built this team around four-year players and not a single future NBA lottery pick. It's been the senior leadership of guard Cassius Winston (18.8 ppg) that has propelled Michigan State to the Final Four and his ability to stay poised and dominant through games is what could win it for the Spartans in Minneapolis.
Red Raiders: You want to talk about a magnificent coaching effort, how about Chris Beard's Red Raiders, who were picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 and now are contending for a championship run. The Red Raiders have athleticism and talent around their bunch with the best defense in the county. They are led by the eventual NBA top-10 pick in Jarrett Culver (18.9 ppg). And when Culver's off, you can count on guys like Davide Moretti (69 3-pointers made) and Tariq Owens to pick up the scraps on the floor.
Prediction: Texas Tech 65 - Michigan State 64 — Chris Beard and the Red Raiders present too many problems for the Spartans using their pesky defensive presence.