Defense is guaranteed to win the championship this season, as Texas Tech and Virginia both won their Final Four matchups Saturday to advance to the national championship game on Monday. The Red Raiders boast the nation’s No. 1 efficiency defense per Ken Pomeroy, while Tony Bennett’s pack-line scheme has lifted the Cavaliers into the top-5.
Both games came down to the final minutes. Kyle Guy took advantage of a Samir Doughty foul on a 3-pointer, sinking all three free throws to clinch a 63-62 victory over Auburn. In the next game, Texas Tech built a 15-point second-half lead, but stiffarmed Michigan State’s late surge to win 61-51.
This is also a meeting of two teams that have never reached the national championship game. Virginia had made two Final Fours before this April, while this is Texas Tech’s first appearance in the national semifinals. It was also Auburn’s first trip to the Final Four.
Who’s it going to be? The upstart from the Lone Star State, or the program run by the son of the highly-regarded Dick Bennett? Let’s take a look at the betting preview.
Texas Tech vs. Virginia Preview
*Note: Betting info and updated lines courtesy of FanDuel:
- Texas Tech Red Raiders (+1.5) vs. Virginia Cavaliers on April 8 (9:20 p.m. EST, CBS)
- Over/Under: 118.5
Neither team entered the weekend with unexpected injuries other than little-used reserve that suffered season-ending injuries earlier in the season. That may have changed with a couple scary-looking ankle rolls by Red Raiders center Tariq Owens, a phenom on the defensive end.
He returned for a shift later in the half.
He holds one of the best block rates in the country (per Pomeroy), swatting 13 shots so far in the tournament. He harasses drivers in the lane, as well as shooters on the perimeter. Against Michigan State, he adjusted in mid-air to disrupt an alley-oop attempt.
One of Virginia’s big issues last tournament was the absence of NBA lottery hopeful De’Andre Hunter. He’s reached double-digits in each tournament game, so far. Against Auburn, he put together an efficient line of 14 points on 11 shots, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks.
Assuming Owens is healthy, Hunter’s ability to score inside (or lack thereof versus Owens) will be a gigantic factor.
Texas Tech vs. Virginia Prediction & Pick
Many have said all tournament long that Texas Tech’s offense would be an impediment. That clearly hasn’t been the case, as future NBA Draft lottery pick Jarrett Culver is the centerpiece of the nation’s No. 28 efficiency offense.
Culver is currently ranked No. 1 in the Kenpom Player of the Year list. He has scored a hair under 19 points per game, and impressively scored 22 points against one of the nation’s other top defenses in Michigan in the Sweet 16.
Even when he struggles, he’s surrounded by an array of impressive perimeter threats. Guards Matt Mooney and Italian-born Davide Moretti both drain over 38 percent of their triples. Mooney, in particular, was in a zone versus the Spartans, tallying 22 points, including 4 threes to help balloon the Red Raiders lead to double-digits in the second half.
Bennett’s own defense will want to frustrate the backcourt into a high-usage but inefficient game. The Cavaliers boast the No. 3 3-point percentage defense, allowing just 28.7% on the year.
Both teams have an answer for each other’s strengths. Think Owens will intimidate inside? Try telling that to 6-foot-9 Guinean center Mamadi Diakite, who himself is an excellent shot-blocker. Think Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome will facilitate easy looks? Texas Tech forces turnovers on 23.1% of possessions.
In fact, these teams are statistically nearly identical, at least defensively. It’s a tough call, but Texas Tech has flexed its muscles more and more with each game. Meanwhile, Virginia needed two escapes versus Auburn and Purdue to even get here.
The Red Raiders will bring the trophy back to Lubbock.
Prediction: Texas Tech 55, Virginia 49
Pick: Texas Tech +1.5
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