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March Madness: The Final Four

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March Madness: The Final Four

Tournament Challenge is ending as the Final Four approaches

Tournament Challenge is ending as the Final Four approaches

Charlotte Cooke

Tournament Challenge is ending as the Final Four approaches

Charlotte Cooke

Charlotte Cooke

Tournament Challenge is ending as the Final Four approaches

Ryan Cole, Sentry Staff Reporter

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They say that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. This reference about March is true when relating to the weather, but there are other factors at play that make even the days nearing the end of the month intense. Factors that drive many sports fans into a severe state of super fandom, and lead to hours and hours spent on the edge of the couch cushion, staring at the television. Factors that some say lead fans into such a crazy and obsessive state that could only be described as a form of madness. The 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, March Madness, began on March 21, kicking off a series of three consecutive weekends of non-stop basketball.

Since the first round began, 64 of the 68 teams in the field have been eliminated from the big dance, leaving only the top four teams in the country still vying for a national championship. Texas Tech, The University of Virginia (UVA), Auburn, and Michigan State will finish off their seasons in Minneapolis next weekend, in the annual Final Four.

This year’s Final Four, features teams largely devoid of lottery pick level offensive talents like Duke’s Zion Williamson. However, fans should be excited to witness two of the country’s top defensive teams in Virginia and Texas Tech, and also some of the nation’s most offensively potent guards.

UVA

UVA is perhaps the best story of this year’s tournament. Coming off a season in which they became the first number one seed to lose to a sixteen seed in history, UVA was able to put their past behind them and use it as motivation to propel them into this year’s Final Four.

The team’s coach, Tony Bennett (not to be confused with the singer), will make his first ever appearance in the Final Four, showcasing his trademark, pack-line defense that has held opponents to the least amount of points on average in the country. Bennett will largely rely on his two junior guards Ty Jerome, and Kyle Guy (one of the best shooters in the game), along with future NBA player and ACC Defensive Player of the Year, DeAndre Hunter.

The Cavaliers have long been criticized for losing in the tournament, and their defensive style of play has been said to “not work in March.” The team should be able to finally silence all of the critics after they beat Purdue in overtime to advance to the Final Four.

 

Michigan State

Tom Izzo is one of the most fiery coaches in the NCAA, and he has showed that flare throughout the tournament, yelling at refs, and screaming at his players for not hustling. Some find this style to be obnoxious, and disrespectful, but it seems to have worked enough to propel the Spartans in to their eighth Final Four since Izzo became their head coach in 1995.

The green and white are led by junior point guard Cassius Winston, who was instrumental in their win against Duke in the elite eight, and big men Nick Ward and Xavier Tillman. Michigan State is a tall team, and their elite size can be difficult to handle around the basket. They also open up space for their big men by forcing teams to respect their ability to shoot the three and drive the ball.

The Spartans are also sound defensively, ranking 17th in the country in defensive efficiency. Izzo’s team is the trendy pick to take home the title with their talent on both ends of the floor, and the composure that they have shown in big games and moments like during the game against Duke.

Auburn

The Tigers are erasing their reputation as a football school and ridding lights out three-point shooting and Charles Barkley’s die-hard fandom to the Final Four. Junior point guard, Jared Harper has raised his draft stock during the tournament more than any other player, and has shown the ability to shoot the three, as well as drive the lane. The Tigers play at a lightning quick pace, getting out on fast breaks and outrunning their opponents.

Coach Bruce Pearl has lead the five seed past NCAA giants Kansas and North Carolina and will try to continue his magical run through the tournament against Virginia in the Final Four. The stark contrast between the teams in pace of play and the differences in the coach’s philosophy, should make for a fascinating matchup.

Texas Tech

They say that defense wins championships, and Texas Tech comes into the Final Four ranking first in defensive efficiency, even above the stingy Virginia defense. Coach Chris Beard, runs a zone defense that is comparable to Syracuse’s famous zone, making use of his teams tall and athletic lineup. This athleticism allows them to play aggressive defense and recover with highlight real blocks and steals when they make a mistake.

Texas Tech is led by two-way player Jared Culver who is just as good defensively as the rest of the team, and doubles as one of the premier offensive threats in the game. The scary thing about them however, is that they have proven their ability to perform against quality opponents, even when Culver is not on his game. They were able to take down one seed Gonzaga in the Elite Eight on a night when their star shot five for 19 from the field. Italian guard, Davide Morretti has knocked down some key three pointers in the tournament, and is their most effective three-point shooter, shooting the ball at a 46 percent success rate from beyond the arc, and their veteran starting lineup has shown composure late in games.

Texas Tech may not be the popular pick to take home the title, but their effective coaching, stingy defense, and athleticism, should give the Red Raiders a chance to continue their successful run through the tournament.

 

This year’s Final Four doe not appear to be one that will garner great ratings for CBS compared to other years, but there are reasons to watch these four teams play, even if none of them have Zion Williamson. They will put on display stingy defenses, athletic scorers, and lights out three-point shooters that will adequately entertain the average college basketball fan and fascinate the die-hards. So, clear your schedules, sit back, drink some Orange Vanilla Coke and watch as they compete for the ultimate honor of winning the college basketball National Championship.

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