Duke’s upset loss and Texas Tech’s huge win sets up Final Four action

B | Wikimedia Commons

B | Wikimedia Commons

Kyle McKee, Sports Editor

After one of the best second weekends of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in recent history, the Final Four is set. The top seed out of the South bracket, Virginia, managed to survive against Purdue in one of the best Elite Eight games ever played.

Carsen Edwards of the Boilermakers went off for 42 points but committed a costly turnover near the end of overtime that cost Purdue the game. Virginia played the Auburn Tigers, who upset the Kentucky Wildcats in overtime as well.

Auburn lost twice to Kentucky in the regular season, but got over the hump with help from its star guards, Jared Harper and Bryce Brown. Charles Barkley was elated in the studio when his alma mater, Auburn, won and reached its first Final Four in school history.

Virginia versus Auburn will be the first Final Four matchup last Saturday, which will be followed by Michigan State versus Texas Tech. Michigan State won a thriller against the star-studded squad
of Duke.

The Big Ten Player of the Year, Cassius Winston, played exceptionally like he has all year long. Duke’s late game breaks finally caught up to them. The team managed to escape UCF and Virginia Tech in the previous rounds but couldn’t do so against Michigan State.

The Spartans outplayed the Blue Devils. Michigan State executed well down the stretch, whereas Duke played isolation basketball and tried to beat the Spartans with its talent. Duke had more talent than Michigan State and more talent than anybody in the country, but the best talent rarely wins the national championship in college basketball.

As for Texas Tech, the team was in a battle against Gonzaga. Texas Tech almost blew a big lead and lost the game. However, thanks to Josh Perkins, who received a technical foul for swiping the ball out of a Texas Tech player’s hands while trying to inbound the ball, the Red Raiders survived and advanced to their first appearance in the Final Four.

This year’s Final Four exemplifies the common theme of this season in college basketball: balance. There is one team from the four best conferences in college basketball. The ACC has Virginia, the Big Ten has Michigan State, the Big 12 has Texas Tech and the SEC has Auburn. In a similar vein, every Final Four team won its conference tournament.

Despite Duke and Kentucky not making it to Minneapolis, this should be a very good and close Final Four. Virginia is the highest seed remaining and should be considered the favorite to win it all. However, as recent history has suggested, it’s hard to trust the Cavaliers. In order for Virginia to win and capture its first National Championship, the team needs to score the ball.

Defense is not the issue for Tony Bennett’s squad, who plays incredible pack-line defense from top to bottom. It is the offensive side of the ball that can be worrisome. If Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome are not shooting well, then it’s hard to find where the points will come from. If they want to cut down the nets in Minneapolis, those two have to produce like they did
against Purdue.

On the other side, Auburn is the lowest seed left in the tournament, so the team is the least favorite to win. However, on its way to the Final Four, Auburn defeated the three winningest programs in college basketball history in Kansas, UNC and Kentucky.

In order for Auburn to win, the team needs to keep shooting lights out from behind the arc, as well as limit its opponents on the offensive glass. The team was destroyed by Kentucky on the offensive side and was lucky that Kentucky’s rebounding prowess didn’t cost it the game.

The second matchup is between Michigan State and Texas Tech. While Michigan State has more tournament experience and a more experienced head coach in Tom Izzo, Texas Tech will have the best player on the court in projected lottery pick, Jarrett Culver.

Michigan State is going to have to execute like it did against Duke in order to win and Cassius Winston needs to continue to be a playmaker for his teammates in order for the Spartans to prevail in Minneapolis. Texas Tech, on the other hand, just needs to keep playing how it has been for the most part. The Red Raiders have the most efficient defense in the country, as well as the most efficient offense in the country since the team last lost.

If Michigan State wins it all, it will be the first Big Ten team to win the championship since it won 2000. If the Spartans don’t prevail, Virginia, Auburn or Texas Tech will win their first national championship in school history. It will be the first time a school has won its first championship since 2006 when Florida won.

Whatever happens, history is going to be made.