Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Michigan State Spartans -3
The Texas Tech Red Raiders blew up most brackets with their upset of Gonzaga in the Elite Eight. They also blew up the Big 12. The preseason #7 ranked team in the Big 12 has spent an entire season shattering expectations. Texas Tech was able to overcome different styles of teams on their run to the Final Four trouncing an offensive minded Buffalo team, grinding a win versus defensive minded Michigan and showing its full repertoire taking down the #1 team in offensive efficiency in the country the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Texas Tech’s bread and butter is and will be on the defensive end. Texas Tech garners takeaways on 23.1 percent of opponent possessions, 11th in the nation. Tech will look to keep this low scoring and dirty.
Michigan State has seemed to find itself on the offensive end by utilizing the fast break. The Spartans were able to overcome two teams that athletically were superior by not allowing them to set their defenses. If Cassius Winston can control the ball Michigan State should be to impose its will on the break with Xavier Tillman attacking the rim. There will be a lot of pressure on Winston to run the offense efficiently out of half court sets. We know Michigan will be looking to run but the grind it out style of Texas Tech will look to take that away. Tech also brings the 28th nationally ranked offensively efficient team which means they will not turn the ball over enough to allow the new “running” Spartans to take off.
This game will be a matchup between a coach on the rise and a coach that is cementing his legacy. Chris Beard has done a remarkable job bringing the Red Raiders to this point. Jarrett Culver will have to find his shot earl, if he doesn’t it will be up to Matt Mooney to start the offense from the outside. This game will be a hard hitting affair, usually I would lean to the veteran coach in this situation but I am going with Chris Beard. Texas Tech has bought into what Beard is selling. They will have no fear of Michigan State. The Red Raiders are going to shut down Winston and the fast break and pull out the victory. I may lean ML on this game but if you can take the points why not be safe.
Pick: Texas Tech +3
Auburn Tigers vs. Virginia Cavaliers -5.5
The Auburn Tigers came into the tournament hot but no one saw this coming from Bruce Pearl’s squad. Defeating three of the blue blood of college basketball on their way to the final four. The injury to Chumu Okeke could have derailed any team going into their elite eight matchup with the Kentucky Wildcats but they rallied behind his injury. This Auburn team reminds me of the UConn title team of 2014. Playing the part of Shabazz Napier is senior Jerad Harper while the part of Ryan Boatright being played by Bryce Brown. The Tigers are a veteran led team that goes ten deep to make sure they can keep up their frantic pace. If Auburn can come out and play their pace and jump out to an early lead it will be a problem for the defensive minded Virginia Cavaliers.
Virginia seems like a team of destiny after the debacle of last season. Their last second game tying shot from Mamdi Diakite over Purdue was something that we only see in movies. The Cavaliers are battle tested through the season but have a tendancy to have some slow starts. If Virginia doesn’t come out and set the pace they will be overcome by the constant attack of Auburn. Unlike the other final four matchup the Cavaliers will have to contend with multiple scorers in order to be successful, this game will be a battle of different styles that should be a chess matchup of two great coaches.
Pick: Auburn +5.5 (Virginia wins by 4)