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#430734 - 04/05/19 11:35 PM Final Four
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Auburn Tigers vs. Virginia Cavaliers
It figures to be a wild contrast in styles in the first game of the Final Four on Saturday, when red-hot Auburn tries to impose its up-tempo style on methodical Virginia in Minneapolis with a berth in the national title game on the line. The Tigers have won 12 in a row, including the last three in the NCAA Tournament over college basketball blue bloods Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky while averaging 87.7 points in those games.

You understand obviously their quickness, their ability, just how scrappy they are and just a really good team, as everyone is when you get to this stage that's playing good basketball," Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett told reporters of Auburn's style. "Just continuing to dive in, and obviously have great respect for what they've done." Bennett's team has authored a remarkable turnaround in the tournament after an embarrassing first-round exit a year ago, reaching its first Final Four in 35 years by virtue of an overtime win against Purdue in the South Region final. Junior forward Mamadi Diakite's basket to force the extra session will go down as one of the more notable buzzer-beaters in NCAA history and helped Virginia become the only No. 1 seed to reach the Final Four. The winner will take on Michigan State or Texas Tech in the championship Monday night.

TV: 6:09 p.m. ET, CBS LINE: Check Intertops for the latest line

ABOUT AUBURN (30-9): Behind dynamic guards Bryce Brown and Jared Harper, the Tigers break teams down by pushing the ball and finding open shooters on the wings, but coach Bruce Pearl knows that Virginia's top-rated defense presents a unique challenge. "Now, when you play against a team like Virginia, whose efficiency numbers are off the chart both offensively and defensively and they play at one of the slowest paces in college basketball, freedoms that I give my players are going to be challenged because we'd better take advantage of possessions, because they are every single time," Pearl told reporters. "And there will be fewer of them. So we can have fewer empty possessions than we would typically have. Otherwise, we're going to get beat." Harper and Brown combined for 50 points and six steals in the 77-71 victory over Kentucky in the Midwest Region final to help the Tigers survive the season-ending knee injury to star forward Chuma Okeke suffered the previous game versus North Carolina.

ABOUT VIRGINIA (33-3): The Cavaliers have some standout guards of their own and received a combined 49 points from Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome in the win over Purdue, with Guy seizing a career-high 10 rebounds and Jerome handing out a game-high seven assists. Diakite averages 7.5 points and 4.3 rebounds but those numbers have soared to 13.0 and 9.0, respectively, in the tournament. Sophomore guard De'Andre Hunter (14.9 points per game) ranks second to Guy (15.2) on the team's scoring list and has at least 10 in 22 of his last 23 contests.

TIP-INS

1. Virginia yields only 55.4 points per game and holds opponents to 28.7 percent shooting from 3-point range.

2. Harper is averaging 18 points over his last seven games while making 37-of-42 free throws.

3. The Tigers own a 4-3 series advantage, although the teams have not met since 2009.

PREDICTION: Virginia 71, Auburn 69
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#430735 - 04/05/19 11:35 PM Re: Final Four [Re: FREAK]
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Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Michigan State Spartans

A school that has made a habit of playing in the Final Four against a first-time participant is what will be on tap when Michigan State faces Texas Tech in the NCAA Tournament national semifinals in Minneapolis on Saturday night. The Spartans advanced to their eighth Final Four under coach Tom Izzo - and third against a first-timer - by topping No. 1 overall seed Duke in the East Region final, while the Red Raiders defeated top-seeded Gonzaga in the West Region final.

Michigan State is powered by junior point guard Cassius Winston, the team leader in scoring (18.9 points) and assists (7.6) who will be key against a trapping Texas Tech defense, though Winston has been excellent with the ball in the tournament by averaging 7.7 assists and 2.7 turnovers. Also important will be the outside shooting of the team's two seniors - guard Matt McQuaid (9.8 points, 70 3-pointers) and forward Kenny Goins (8.1 points, 9.0 rebounds, 56 3-pointers), who have each shined at times during the tournament. Texas Tech's defense is its calling card, holding opponents to 59 points per game and 36.9 percent shooting from the floor - including 29.3 percent from 3-point range. Sophomore guard Jarrett Culver has been the team's best offensive weapon throughout the year, leading the Red Raiders in scoring (18.9 points), rebounding (6.4) and assists (3.8), though he'll get plenty of defensive attention from McQuaid and freshman forward Aaron Henry.

TV: 8:49 p.m. ET, CBS

ABOUT TEXAS TECH (30-6): The Red Raiders are one of the top defensive teams in the country, but the possession isn't complete until a rebound is secured, and that's not an easy task against Michigan State. Texas Tech average 34.2 boards while the Spartans snag 40.6 per game and are averaging 11.2 offensive rebounds in NCAA Tournament play, leading to 11.5 second-chance points per game. Coach Chris Beard talks about his team being physical and tough and tries to model his squad after the Spartans' physical toughness but to advance, the Red Raiders are going to have to rebound as a team to limit Michigan State's offensive opportunities.

ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (32-6): Henry has emerged as an important cog for the Spartans in the postseason, and it goes beyond his 10.2 points per game in the NCAA Tournament - up from his season scoring average of 5.4 points entering the tournament. Henry has shown a grasp of Michigan State's team concepts on both ends of the floor more in the tournament, as shown by him averaging five assists against LSU and Duke. Texas Tech will look to force the ball out of Winston's hands as much as possible, forcing other players to make good decisions - whether with their shot or with passes - and Henry could find his play making the difference in the semifinal contest.

TIP-INS

1. Texas Tech sophomore G Davide Moretti (11.6 points, 69 3-pointers) has become a consistent offensive threat for the Red Raiders, scoring in double figures in his last 11 contests after hitting that mark 13 times in the team's first 25 games.

2. Since Michigan State F Xavier Tillman moved into the starting lineup 12 games ago, he's averaged 13.8 points and 8.1 rebounds, scoring a career-high 19 points twice including against Duke.

3. The winner faces Virginia or Auburn on Monday night for the national championship.

PREDICTION: Michigan State 76, Texas Tech 68
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#430993 - 04/08/19 12:39 AM Re: Final Four [Re: FREAK]
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Registered: 12/01/00
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Two of the best defensive teams in the country vie for their first national championship when Texas Tech meets Virginia in the NCAA Tournament title game Monday night at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Virginia has limited opponents to a national-best 55.5 points per game and 38.4 percent shooting while the Red Raiders advanced to the final by holding Michigan State to 31.9 percent from the field in Saturday’s 61-51 victory.

The Cavaliers, who became the first No. 1 seed in history to lose to a 16th seed in last season’s tournament, needed three free throws from junior guard Kyle Guy with less than one second left to beat Auburn 63-62 in the semifinals. “To think this time last year we were starting our spring workouts, and to still be playing at this point in the season. … with one other team in the whole country on the stage that you dreamed about since you were a little kid, it’s an unreal feeling,” Virginia junior guard Ty Jerome told reporters. “We’re going to do everything we can to finish the job.” Texas Tech lost five of its top six scorers from last season’s Elite Eight team, but leaned on its stifling defense (58.8 points, 36.8 percent shooting against) along with the emergence of Big 12 Player of the Year Jarrett Culver (18.6 points) and third-year coach Chris Beard molded the team into one capable of something special. “(Beard) said (last summer), we have enough in this gym, in this locker room right here to play on the final Monday night,” Red Raiders senior guard Matt Mooney told reporters after matching his season high with 22 points Saturday. “. … He might be psychic because here we are on the final Monday night. We just believed him and believed in each other all year long.”

TV: 9:20 p.m. ET, CBS

ABOUT TEXAS TECH (31-6): Mooney, who averages 11.3 points overall, drained 4-of-8 from 3-point range Saturday while Culver (10 points, 3-of-12 shooting) struggled, with Beard telling reporters: “Matt had the courage to step up and take those shots. He’s making plays on both ends. … He’s a special player.” Sophomore guard Davide Moretti (11.4 points) saw his streak of 11 straight double-figure games end with five in the semifinal, but senior guard Brandone Francis scored nine off the bench against Michigan State. Senior forward Tariq Owens (8.8 points, team-high 2.5 blocks) suffered an ankle injury in the second half Saturday, but was able to return to the floor.

ABOUT VIRGINIA (34-3): Guy struggled shooting in the first three games of the tournament (8-for-38 overall, 3-for-26 from 3-point range), but has warmed up the last two (13-for-30, 7-for-18) while averaging 20 points. Guy leads the team overall (15.2) while sophomore swingman De’Andre Hunter (14.9), who missed last year’s tournament with an injury, scored 14 on 7-of-11 shooting from the field in Saturday’s victory. Jerome (13.5 points, team-high 5.4 assists) scored 24 in the South Region final against Purdue and led the way with 21 points to go along with nine boards and six assists in the semifinals, draining four 3-pointers for the second straight game.

TIP-INS

1. Virginia junior F Mamadi Diakite is averaging 10.8 points in the NCAA Tournament - 3.4 above his season mark - and blocked five shots Saturday.

2. Texas Tech senior C Norense Odiase, who has started all 36 games, is averaging 7.3 rebounds (5.3 overall) in the last four contests after hauling in nine Saturday.

3. The Cavaliers and Red Raiders have never met ... The over-under betting total of 117.5, already down from the opening line of 119, marks the lowest number since Florida-UCLA (128) in 2006.

PREDICTION: Virginia 56, Texas Tech 53
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