March Madness Final Four championship up for grabs

By BRIAN FAUSSETTE
On April 3, 2019

Photo courtesy of David Danal, Wikipedia

The March Madness tournament is down to its last four teams. On April 6, the Auburn Tigers will take on the Virginia Cavaliers, and the Texas Tech Red Raiders will take on the Michigan State Spartans.

Virginia is the sole number one seed left standing after Michigan State stunned Duke in their last matchup. Texas Tech is also riding a hot wave, and Auburn has been showing off their depth.

In Auburn’s Sweet 16 victory against the North Carolina Tar Heels, forward Chuma Okeke suffered a knee injury that knocked him out of the tournament. After defeating Kentucky in the elite eight, Auburn has clinched their first-ever Final Four appearance.

The Tigers have been one of the better shooting teams, making about 12 three-pointers per game at a 38 percent rate.

Michigan State took down the powerhouse Duke Blue Devils on their way here, behind the brilliant leadership of head coach Tom Izzo. Izzo preaches toughness and rebounding to his players, and that has been easy to see in their tournament run. Although they lost star player Josh Langford earlier in the regular season, Cassius Winston has really stepped up, leading the team in scoring and assists.

Virginia has not made the Final Four since 1984 and had a crushing loss in last year’s tournament to a 16th seed.

This season, they had one of the most efficient offenses and defenses in the country, with their three-point percentage hovering around 40 percent.

Defensively, they have proven to show they can limit hot shooting teams, holding their opponents to a 28 percent three-pointer percentage. Virginia’s led by their one-two punch backcourt, with features guards Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy.

Texas Tech prides themselves on their third ranked defense, only giving up 59 points per game. Jarrett Culver leads Texas Tech in scoring and rebounds per game. There is a lot of buzz around this team since they seem to be geling at the perfect time.

Head coach Chris Beard saw his stock rise as the Naismith College Coach of the Year throughout the season as well.

Although their percentage chance to win the championship is less than 20 percent, they have proven to be a competent enough opponent to not be underestimated. On their way to the Final Four, Texas Tech has really dominated, knocking off Northern Kentucky, Michigan, Buffalo and Gonzaga with an average victory margin of 15 points.

Just like much of the March Madness tournament, it is tough to predict what will happen over the span of the next week leading up to the National Championship. It’s down to four teams, who’ve all showcased their team strengths that have put them in a position to succeed.

The more popular teams, such as Duke and North Carolina, are out of the mix, so the championship is more up for grabs than ever before.  

 

bfausset@ramapo.edu

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