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Final Four: Breaking down the title-game matchup between Texas Tech and Virginia  1 Month ago

Source:   USA Today  

Texas Tech and Virginia have navigated the NCAA tournament field of 68 all the way to their first national championship game appearance. One will cut down the nets in Minneapolis and take home the title. 

A breakdown of the key matchups between the Red Raiders and Cavaliers.

BACKCOURT: VIRGINIA

Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy and De’Andre Hunter form the savvy nucleus for the Cavaliers’ run to the national championship game. Hunter is Virginia’s most talented player, but his offense has been spotty; Guy and Jerome make things go. Against Auburn, the trio combined for 50 of the team’s 63 points. Guy shoots 42.5 percent from three-point range; his last-minute three followed by three free throws with 0.6 seconds left, propelled the Cavaliers to a one-point win in the semifinals. All three are tough, gritty defenders.

Texas Tech sophomore Jarrett Culver is a projected NBA lottery pick whose impact on both ends of the floor is almost incalculable. Meanwhile, Matt Mooney equaled his season high with 22 points in the win against Michigan State. Culver, Mooney and Davide Moretti are more than capable from the perimeter, and they’re all integral to Texas Tech’s defensive scheme.

But Jerome and Guy are more experienced in big moments and probably more reliable as scorers.

FRONTCOURT: TEXAS TECH

The Red Raiders’ defense works in large part because of the ability of players like Tariq Owens and Norense Odiase to provide help – the defense is designed, in fact, to funnel the ball toward them – and notably, to protect the rim. Owens especially serves as an eraser. Offensively, they’re complementary scorers. But defense drives this team, and they’re literally among the biggest reasons Texas Tech stops opponents cold.

Something to watch: Owens rolled an ankle in the second half against Michigan State. He returned to play, but was noticeably limping after the game.

With Virginia’s four-guard lineup, 6-9 junior forward Mamadi Diakite is asked to do a lot on the interior. He’s averaging 10.8 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks during the tournament. Hunter is also counted on to help inside. At 6-10 and 250 pounds, Jack Salt provides bulk and quality minutes, but against Auburn he picked up quick fouls and wasn’t a factor.

NOT THE BEST LOOK:  Title game won't show best of college hoops

WHO HAS THE EDGE?  Breaking down other keys to title-game matchup

COACHING: TEXAS TECH

Despite a disparity in experience, this is a very difficult call. Tony Bennett is among the game’s best at making adjustments during games, and in reaching the Final Four he has erased one (invalid) criticism (or at least the tag ‘Best Coach Never to Reach the Final Four’). A year after becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16, Bennett has the Cavaliers within 40 minutes of a national championship.

Chris Beard’s journey to college hoops’ biggest stage has been a winding one. But his ability to consistently cobble together winners from parts has never been more evident than this year, after Texas Tech lost five of its top six scorers from last season’s Elite Eight team.

There’s no decided edge here, but Beard has Texas Tech playing better than any team in the NCAA tournament.

INTANGIBLES: VIRGINIA

This time a year ago, the Cavaliers were beginning offseason workouts and wondering how and why they weren’t still playing. But that massive upset by Maryland-Baltimore County helped to forge the collective demeanor that fueled this run to the national championship game. Likewise, Virginia has found a way to win its last two games with improbable escapes. The combination has turned doubt into well-founded confidence.

THE PICK: TEXAS TECH

The three-pointer has ruled this NCAA tournament – the total of 1,062 has shattered the record – but we’re more likely to watch a struggle to score unlike any championship game in many years. Texas Tech has simply clamped down on opponents and squeezed, and Virginia’s defense is very similar in its impact, if not scheme.

The Cavaliers have more consistent scoring threats and slightly more offensive capability – but Texas Tech has several players who’ve shown the penchant to take and make big shots, and its defense is slightly better. It’s easy to see either team winning (and by something like 47-45), but the Red Raiders are on a roll.

 

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