Sports Journalism Blog

Posted on April 6th, 2019 in 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four, Student Work by rgeneral

By Mike Williams, Zach Griffith | @MikeWritesSport @zachgriffith17

Sports Capital Journalism Program

By Mike Williams

Virginia vs. Auburn

This isn’t the same Virginia team that was upset as a No. 1 seed in last year’s tournament. This year’s team features four new starters including senior guard Kyle Guy.

Auburn enters the Final Four as one of the hottest shooting teams in the country, but in the second half of Virginia’s Elite Eight win over Purdue, it was clear that Guy found his shot. Auburn is shooting from downtown at a record pace (28 shots away from a tournament record), but Virginia is defensive minded and fourth in the nation in 3-point defense, only allowing 28.7% shooting on 378 attempts. They’re also skilled in rebounding the ball. Guy, who is just 6 foot, 2 inches and 175 pounds, is able to move into the paint and grab rebounds. He had 10 rebounds against Purdue and is averaging 4.6 this year. Virginia also boasts size in the paint with 6-9 junior Mamadi Diakite and 7-1 sophomore Jay Huff (who is shooting 50 percent behind the arc in the last six games).

Virginia 75, Auburn 70

Michigan State vs. Texas Tech

Michigan State and Texas Tech create a fascinating matchup between a self-proclaimed Bob Knight protégé in Tom Izzo and member of the Knight coaching tree, Texas Tech’s Chris Beard. Both teams play similar style games and focus on the defensive side of the basketball. Michigan State has the best player remaining in the tournament in Cassius Winston. He’s a point guard player who averages 18.9 points per game and ranks in the top five in the nation in assists and assists per game. Izzo who will be entering his eighth Final Four in 21 years. Experience and passing ability will prevail as the Spartans will defeat Texas Tech and play for its third national title.

Michigan State 60, Texas Tech 51

By Zach Griffith

Virginia vs. Auburn

While the 3-pointers have treated Auburn well in this year’s tournament, Virginia’s defense will come out on top in this one. Yes, senior Bryce Brown and junior Jared Harper will lead the charge offensively, but the loss of injured sophomore Chuma Okeke (12.0 points, 6.8 rebounds) in their Sweet Sixteen matchup with North Carolina will finally come back to haunt the Tigers. Okeke’s versatility and 6-7 frame will be sorely missed against the Cavaliers, who can challenge Auburn’s interior defense with 6-10 senior Jack Salt and 6-9 junior Mamadi Diakite, the Elite Eight hero. Freshman Kihei Clark, who has dished out 36 assists in his last 10 games, will find juniors Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome in open spots. Be on the lookout for sophomore De’Andre Hunter (nine 20-point games this season) as well, who will be a major X-factor in this one.

Virginia 73, Auburn 65

Michigan State vs. Texas Tech

Although Chris Beard’s Texas Tech squad has made its mark on defense this season, it will be the offensive firepower of sophomore Jarrett Culver that propels the Red Raiders to the championship game. Culver is almost certainly going to be a lottery pick in this year’s NBA Draft, averaging 18.9 points per game this season (second-best in the Big 12). Culver’s smooth style and underrated rebounding ability will cause problems for the Spartans’ defense. Culver is a gifted facilitator as well, coming in fourth in the Big 12 at just under four assists per game. The future pro isn’t alone, however, as guards Davide Moretti (11.6 points) and Matt Mooney (11.0) have been consistent. The strength and brawn of Michigan State sophomore Xavier Tillman (6-8, 245 pounds) and Nick Ward (6-9, 245 pounds) could be an issue, but Culver’s performance will cancel out those issues. Of course, Cassius Winston will have his way, but the Red Raiders will move on to Monday night.

Texas Tech 68, Michigan State 57