The NCAA Tournament began with 68 teams but after three weeks of competition, that field is down to the Final Four. Starting Friday night, Auburn, Virginia, Texas Tech and Michigan State will square off in Minneapolis for the right to be national champion.
Here are five bold predictions which may happen during the Final Four.
A new kid on the block wins it all
- New blood: Three of the four teams in the field (Virginia, Texas Tech and Auburn) have not won a national championship yet. Michigan State owns two previous national championships.
- Historic seasons: For Auburn and Texas Tech, their spots in the Final Four mark their best-ever NCAA Tournament runs, and it equals the best run for Virginia as well. All three schools are not traditional blue bloods but have found success in the tournament this season.
- Playing the odds: Statistically, there’s a three-in-four chance that some school will walk away with its first national championship. We’ll take those odds.
Texas Tech holds Michigan State under 65 points and wins
- Defensive prowess: The Red Raiders have been one of the best defensive teams in the country all season. They finished the season third nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 59.2 points per game.
- Tipping the scales: Opponents scored 65 points or more against Texas Tech 11 times this season, with the Red Raiders possessing a 6-5 record in those games. With just six total losses this season, the 65-point threshold has been the difference between a win or loss.
- Michigan State scores well: On the other hand, the Spartans have scored more than 65 points in all but four of their contests this season, going 2-2 when doing so. In the battle of Michigan’s State offensive prowess against Texas Tech’s defense, the Red Raiders will keep it under 65 to win.
Bryce Brown makes five three-pointers, scores 20 or more points
- Heavy usage: For most of the NCAA Tournament, Auburn has heavily relied on its guards for scoring, as Bryce Brown (16 PPG) and Jared Harper (15.4) led the team in scoring all season. As Brown is the team’s leading scorer, he will be counted upon for an offensive spark.
- Sharpshooter from downtown: A 41% shooter from three-point range over the course of the season, Brown made five or more three-pointers 12 times this season, and the Tigers went an impressive 11-1 in those games.
- Iron Man: Having played 30 or more minutes in nearly all of Auburn’s games this season, Brown will have the opportunity to score the ball, even against Virginia’s tight defense. Despite only averaging 16 points per game, his three-point efficiency will power him to a 20-point effort against the Cavaliers.
Virginia allows more than 70 points to Auburn
- The best of the best: No college basketball team was better at defending than Virginia this season, as the 55.4 points allowed per game was the lowest in the country. Virginia only allowed 70 or more points four times this year, but the most recent occurrence came against Purdue on Saturday.
- Auburn is scoring the ball well: Auburn averaged 80.1 points per game this season, scoring 65 and 76 points against Floria, the best defensive team in the SEC and 20th nationally this season. The Tigers have broken the 70-point mark in each of their tournament games and are on a roll offensively.
- Not as important as it used to be: While Virginia has made defense its top priority over scoring, the Cavaliers are enjoying an offensive spark of their own. They routinely scored over 70 points in the final third of the season, making it less crucial to keep their opponent under 70 points.
Virginia takes home the championship
- The best of the rest: The highest-ranked team left in the field, Virginia is perhaps the favorite to win the national championship after it went 29-3 in the regular season and earned a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.
- Redefining history: After becoming the first team to lose to a 16-seed in tournament history last year, the Cavaliers have bounced back from that defeat with the winningest season in school history. The revenge factor cannot be ignored, as the players have made it a point all season to prove themselves after the historic loss.
- The right combination: With the top defense in the country this season and the scoring prowess of players such as junior guard Kyle Guy, Tony Bennett’s squad is in prime position to win the school’s first national championship.