Auburn vs. Virginia
The first of two Final Four games kicks off at 6:09 EST on CBS on Saturday evening. This game features the Auburn Tigers taking on the Virginia Cavaliers. Both teams are obviously playing well to get to this point, but Auburn has been the hottest team in the country for about a month. I expect to see the Tigers try to keep this game fast and rely on their guards Jared Harper and Bryce Brown to make plays.
The loss of Chuma Okeke is massive for this Tigers team that was running on all cylinders until Okeke tore his ACL vs. North Carolina. I was really surprised to see the Tigers beat Kentucky without Okeke, but I think it really came down to the fact that Auburn got exactly what they needed from the rest of the team. Their bigs were really not efficient offensively, which is what Okeke really brings to the table compared to his teammates, but they were able to stay on the court and be annoying, which is all the Tigers could really ask. The key was obviously the play of Jared Harper and Bryce Brown, and that will need to continue if they want to beat Virginia.
Virginia was actually able to get some production from Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome from beyond the arc and that is how they were able to advance past Purdue and Carsen Edwards. I loved Purdue throughout the tournament because of Edwards ability to heat up, and he played some of the best games of his career. Virginia challenged him, but he was still able to get what he needed to. I think these Auburn guards are less electric than a guy like Edwards, but it does scare me to see Virginia go up against two elite guards after getting hurt by one the game before.
The line on this game is -6, and I think that is relatively fair. I think the pace in this game will allow the Tigers to stay in the game long enough to cover the spread, but I don’t think they have the depth to pull off the upset here. I like the Tigers +6 and Virginia on the money line.
Texas Tech vs. Michigan State
Game two of the Final Four pits the Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. the Michigan State Spartans. The biggest narrative surrounding this game is the incredible coaching matchup we get to see here. Chris Beard, the coach of Texas Tech, has really had a coming out party during this tournament and should be seen as an elite coach in college basketball. Obviously, Coach Tom Izzo has seen a lot of criticism lately, but he is also one of the best college basketball coaches of all time, especially after out coaching Coach K last Sunday to get to this game.
Neither team is loaded with incredible talent, but both have a clear star and a bunch of guys working together to win games. Jared Culver and Cassius Winston are both likely just two games away from being named Final 4 MVP if they can lead their team to two more victories. Winston is an elite scorer at 19 points per game on 40% from three and 84% from the line. I’d trust Winston to have the ball in his hands down the stretch of any big game. Jared Culver is a little bigger and almost plays like a point forward at 6’5. Culver is listed as a guard, but I see Culver as more of a dynamic scoring wing than a true guard, even though he has all the skills to become a great guard.
I think this is the better game this weekend and I think it will be fantastic all the way through. Both teams have multiple guys that can pop for a nice game, both defend at a high level and both have a backbone player and coach to lean on in big moments. I think Sparty wins this one similar to their previous game, so give me the Spartans -2.5 here.