Well, everybody, we’ve made it this far. We’re almost at the end of March Madness. This weekend, we’ll see the Final Four in action – Virginia, Auburn, Michigan State, and Texas Tech. It’s a battle between teams filled with veterans and a few surprises. There will be no Duke or Kentucky in sight when things get real on Saturday in Minneapolis.
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Here’s a breakdown of the games happening at US Bank Stadium this weekend and what you can expect. If you’re down to check out the Championship Game on Monday no matter who’s playing, shop those tickets now too. Right now, they’re as cheap as they’re going to get! When we find out who’s playing in it, not so much…
Virginia vs. Auburn
Auburn made waves by unexpectedly blowing out #1 UNC and then defeating #2 Kentucky back to back. Virginia, on the other hand, is proving that they’re worth the hype they’ve gotten all season… even if they didn’t have to face #2 Tennessee to get this far. A defensive powerhouse, UVA is still trying to use last year’s catastrophic loss to a 16-seed in the first round as a uniting force to go all the way. Leading scorer, junior shooting guard Kyle Guy said, “We got the greatest lesson learned ever last year” and coach Tony Bennett agrees. This is Virginia’s first Final Four appearance since 1984 and if they can win, it’ll be their first NCAA Championship ever. Vegas is saying they’ll win by 5. Besides, they’re the only #1 seed left in the tourney!
The most surprising team in the Final Four, #5 Auburn came into the tournament on a hot streak, looking like they couldn’t miss a three-point shot. The Tigers have veteran players like Bryce Brown and Jared Harper leading the team. Their experience and grit helped them defeat Calipari’s team of stellar one-and-dones even after losing star player Chuma Okeke to an ACL injury during their defeat of Carolina along the way. Auburn’s coach Bruce Pearl isn’t underestimating the value of experience for players on both sides of the court in this upcoming match – particularly the experience of losing. Pearl said, “Virginia had the experience of not getting there a year ago. That experience has helped them grind through this tremendous run they’ve had.”
Michigan State vs. Texas Tech
With a closer spread (just 2.5 points), Saturday’s evening game should be even more exciting. Texas Tech is yet another defensive powerhouse and they’re taking on Michigan State who has been here before. The legendary Spartans coach Tom Izzo is bringing his team of veterans to Minneapolis with their eyes on the prize. (Some say they should have gotten a #1 seed in the first place.) It’s Izzo’s eighth Final Four and the Spartans had no trouble at all during the first three rounds of the tournament. Then they shocked #1 Duke in nail-biting fashion with a one-point win and a last minute shot. Guard Cassius Winston has been killing it in March and Xavier Tillman has become a star big man for the team. The Spartans have a great passing offense, one of the best in the nation, scoring tons off of well-executed assists. They’re Sports Illustrated’s favorites to win it all, but don’t underestimate their opponents…
Texas Tech is all about older guys with more experience. They went to the Elite Eight last year and they’ve gone even further this year… even when it wasn’t expected. Their defense is phenomenal, holding back the likes of #2 Michigan and #1 Gonzaga in impressive fashion. The Red Raiders are aggressive and smart, plus they’ve got a leader in guard Jarrett Culver. Not only does he contribute solid defensive skills, but he’s scored at least 16 points in each tournament game so far. They could win here if they can force Michigan State to turn the ball over – it’s been a recurring problem for the Spartans this season. Texas Tech just needs to capitalize on that.
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