The Final Four March Into April!


Daniel Toll

The March Madness Final Four will take the court this Saturday, April 6th , in hopes of making it to the finals and winning a championship!

Daniel Toll, Sports Editor

Since its debut in 1939 as the first National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) men’s basketball tournament, March Madness has grown to be one of the most anticipated, exciting, and nerve-wracking sporting events of the year. Hosting 68 teams, March Madness is a single-elimination tournament in which teams, if eligible, compete in seven rounds of play for a national championship. While the event in its entirety has become nationally viewed, the penultimate round known as the Final Four is where the “madness” factor of the tournament finds its roots.

With the increasing popularity of fantasy sports over time, several sports fans have partaken in bracket drafting for the tournament, hoping to takeaway large amounts of prize money with a potentially perfect bracket. This year, to the demise of several fantasy sports drafters, the March Madness Final Four features teams that roughly 0.04% of ESPN brackets predicted, allowing for an interestingly unexpected semifinal to say the least. In this year’s Final Four, the University of Virginia will be taking on the University of Auburn, and Texas Tech will be battling Michigan State on Saturday, April 6th at 6:09 P.M and 8:39 P.M respectively. Below is a brief preview of the two Final Four match-ups with analytical insight into what each team needs to advance to the finals.

University of Virginia vs University of Auburn

The University of Virginia Cavaliers in the regular season put up tremendous records, only trailing the fan-favorite Duke Blue Devils in the Advanced Press power ranking for college basketball, whereas the Auburn Tigers were ranked at number 14, sporting a 30-9 record capitalized by a 12-game win streak. Despite being lower in the power rankings, Auburn has been one of the more impressive teams of the season, having defeated powerhouse teams like Tennessee, North Carolina, Kansas, and Kentucky.

“I think Virginia should win because they hold their opponents to one of the lowest average game scores and field goals throughout the tournament and, since they don’t necessarily have an NBA prospect, they play a team-led game,” freshman Anthony Russo said.

In their upcoming clash, fans can expect an array of shots to be taken from beyond the arc, especially from Auburn, whose reliance on the three-pointer is evident in that nearly 50% of their shots are taken and scored from the three-point line. While Virginia will not be as dependent on the three, they do showcase eighth best three-point percentage out of all college teams in the country. In a game that looks to be dominated by long-range shooting the Virginia Cavaliers will need Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and De’Andre Hunter to be on their A-game, and Auburn will rely on Bryce Brown and Jared Harper, two three-point sharpshooters shooting 37% from distance.

While Auburn’s recent success cannot be undermined by any means, it will certainly be interesting to see how they adapt to the loss of star  player Chuma Okeke, who tore his ACL in the Elite Eight game against Kentucky, proving to be a tremendous loss for the Auburn frontcourt. Despite this, the game figures to be one that will be dominated by man-to-man matchups and will certainly be a high-scoring game.

“UVA can definitely take Auburn this coming Saturday and land themselves in the championship game. They’ve been on a winning streak  and I can see them winning the title,” junior Julianna Goldfarb said.

Texas Tech vs Mississippi State

The later game of the Final Four will feature one of the premier lock-down defensive teams of the country in the Texas Tech Red Raiders, who, in their Elite Eight victory held opposing scorers to 0.97 points per possession. Placed at ninth overall in the power rankings, their defense has certainly carried the way for them throughout the course of the regular season and March Madness, and they can render any offensive team powerless and ineffective.

Their opponent, Michigan State, is considered to be one of the more balanced teams in the country and was placed just above Texas Tech at eighth overall in the power rankings. Their overall skills proved to be critical in their Elite Eight game against Duke, placing them on a national spotlight as Duke was a favorite to win the tournament. After their victory, the Michigan State Spartans moved up to fifth on offensive efficiency and eight on defensive efficiency, making them one of two teams to be a top 10 team on both ends of the floor. The other, being Virginia, could be a potential competitor for Michigan State in the championship if they were to be victorious over Texas Tech.

While the feats have come in bunches this season for Michigan, the most impressive aspect of their season has been their ability to produce without two of their starters, Nick Ward and Joshua Langford, due to injury. However, the emergence of Cassius Winston as a Big Ten Player of the Year and Xavier Tillman’s offensive contributions of 15.3 points and 8 rebounds per game has given Michigan much-needed offensive help during the regular season and into March Madness. In a game with two equally matched teams, the defensive potency of Texas Tech should prove to be a formidable opponent for Michigan State.

The Final Four games will surely be an exciting event for the best remaining teams in the country and their legions of followers and fans. While the matchups were far from expected, each team has proven to be exceptional in a variety of ways and each could be an eventual champion. Be sure to tune in to the March Madness Final Four this Saturday on the CBS channel, or livestream the games on!

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