Final Four Preview
Host Preston Shoemaker, joined by Pat Tartaro, David Hadar, and Andrew Field dive into the NCAA Final Four matchups. They highlight key players to watch and give their predictions for who will be cutting down the nets in Minneapolis.
March Madness is winding down as the Final Four begins this Saturday, April 10. as Virginia takes on Auburn and Michigan State plays Texas Tech. Here we will preview the matchups, the players to look out for, and predict who will move on to the championship as the Final Four commences.
Virginia vs. Auburn
The Auburn Tigers are making their first-ever Final Four appearance to the joy of Auburn alum Charles Barkley. Bruce Pearl is in his sixth season at Auburn and has turned the program around recently as they have made the tournament the past two years.
This year has culminated in an SEC championship and a school best tournament run that has led them to the Final Four. The Tigers are led by guards Bryce Brown and Jared Harper as they have provided most of the scoring during the tournament. Losing forward Chuma Okeke was a big blow to the Tigers offense and defense as he was the third-leading scorer and rebounder along with being first on the team in steals per game with 1.7 and second in blocks with 1.2.
The Tigers need for Harper and Brown to have a big game if they want to compete with Virginia and have a chance at making a trip to the championship game.
The Virginia Cavaliers are making their first Final Four appearance since 1984 as Tony Bennett’s squad got past a resilient Purdue team in overtime but never would have gotten there in the first place if it were not for Mamadi Diakite’s last second floater to send it to the extra period.
Virginia's defense is also solid as teams have only shot a combined 38.4 percent from the field and 28.7 percent from behind the arc.
The Cavaliers are led by senior guard Ty Jerome and junior guard Kyle Guy. Guy and Jerome have powered the Cavaliers offensively so far as in the Elite Eight as they scored 25 and 24 points respectively, but the player to watch looks to be Mamadi Diakite.
With the injury to Chuma Okeke, look for the Cavaliers to get Diakite the ball inside and work against Anfernee McLemore and Horace Spencer and then have the option to drive or kick out to the shooters in Guy and Jerome. This is a tough matchup for Auburn because of the loss of Okeke and look for Virginia's offense to shine in this game as they will move past the Tigers to get to the championship game.
Prediction: Virginia over Auburn.
Texas Tech vs. Michigan State
Another team making their first Final Four appearance are the Texas Tech Red Raiders, as third-year head coach Chris Beard has the Red Raiders playing at an elite level on defense. Coming off an Elite Eight run in 2018, the Red Raiders have surpassed last year’s run as they beat the Gonzaga Bulldogs 75-69.
The Red Raiders scoring is led by sophomore guard Jarrett Culver as he has paced the team in the tournament and the regular season as he averaged 18.9 points per game. The guard play for the Red Raiders is versatile as both Davide Moretti and Matt Mooney are second and third on the team in scoring with 11.6 and 11 points per game respectively. Mooney also leads the team in steals per game with 1.9 along with Moretti and Culver who both average over one steal per game.
The Red Raiders rank third in the nation in points allowed per game with just 59. The team in first you ask? Another Final Four team in the Virginia Cavaliers with 55.4. This Red Raiders defense has active hands in getting steals and then are able to run the break in transition offense which is what makes them dangerous.
The Michigan State Spartans have made it to their eighth Final Four under Tom Izzo and are looking to win their first championship since 2000. Coming off a thrilling upset of one-seed Duke, the Spartans look dangerous going into their semi-final matchup.
The Spartans look to ride their senior leader Cassius Winston all the way to the championship game. Winston is the heartbeat of the team as he mans the point and leads the team in scoring with 18.9 points per game and assists with 7.6 per game. The Spartans will also look to big men Nick Ward and Xavier Tillman to impose their will down low and in the post.
This will be another difficult matchup for the Spartans as the Red Raider defense is a strength and the Spartans have struggled scoring at times, but you can bet that Cassius Winston and Tom Izzo along with the rest of the Spartans are not going to go down without a fight.
Prediction: Texas Tech over Michigan State.
Andrew Field is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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