The road to the Final Four is here. Minneapolis is all set for the Final Four this weekend. None of the blue blood schools are in the Final Four. Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Duke are all knocked out. Three of them were knocked out by the same team in consecutive rounds.
This Final Four will see two first-timers, another school’s first appearance since 1984, another school since the early 2000’s. Only one of the four schools has won a national championship in basketball.
- 1-seed, Virginia Cavaliers, South Region Champs
- 2-seed, Michigan State Spartans, East Region Champs
- 3-seed, Texas Tech Red Raiders, West Region Champs
- 5-seed, Auburn Tigers, Midwest Champs
However, let’s focus on Virginia and Auburn.
South Region Champs: Virginia Cavaliers
The South Region was chaotic as most predicted. See the March Madness Region Breakdown. Nine upsets took place in the first week of the tournament and three of them came from the South Region. Oregon over Wisconsin in the 12 over 5 upset. UC Irvine over Kansas State in the 13 over 4 upset. Iowa over Cincinnati in the 10 over 7 upset.
The 3-seed, Purdue Boilermakers, caught fire in the tournament after struggling going into the NCAA Tournament. The Boilermakers blitz the defending champs in Villanova in the Round of 32 and then ousting the 2-seed and favorite, Tennessee volunteers in the Elite Eight.
Yet, the other favorite in the South Region made through to the Final Four.
The Virginia Cavaliers took on the hottest team in the tournament in the 12-seed and PAC-12 champs in the Oregon Ducks. Going back to the previous of the Sweet 16: South Region, you expected a defensive battle because both team were ranked in top 20 in defensive points allowed. The Cavaliers were at the top and Oregon at 20th.
Both teams were allowing around 54 points per game in the tournament before their Sweet 16 matchup. And pretty much those statistics stayed true after this one.
Virginia defeated Oregon 53-49 in Louisville. Cavs took the first half 30-22 and Oregon could not fully comeback despite winning the second half 27-23. Both shot poorly from the field and beyond the arc. Oregon was 37.8% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc and Virginia shot 35.7% from the field and 27.3% from beyond the arc. Kenny Wooten, the Ducks big man, came into the game with 11 blocks; he had only one block shot against the Cavs.
The difference in this game was that the Cavs had four players score in double-figures to the Ducks’ three players scoring in double-figures.
After the Cavaliers ousted the Ducks, it was on the hottest player in tournament in Carsen Edwards and the Purdue Boilermakers. A trip to Minneapolis and the Final Four was on the line.
This game was the opposite of the Sweet 16 game. Points were scored tp the point that we needed overtime to decide this one. Remember that even though Virginia is tops defensively, they can score the ball if need be and that was this incredible Elite Eight game.
The Cavaliers won 80-75. Carsen Edwards dropped 42 points in the losing effort. The Boilermakers shot 49% from the field and 43.8% from the 3-point range, but most of it came from one player. No other player scored in double-figures for Purdue.
Virginia on the other hand, had four players score in double-figures. Two of them scored 20 points in Kyle Guy with 25 points and Ty Jerome with 24 points. mi
This the Cavaliers first Final Four trip since 1984 and they will be seeking their first national championship in school history. What story it will be if the Cavaliers finish the deal. Going from the historic knocked to a 16-seed a year ago to national champs a year later.
Midwest Region Champs: Auburn Tigers
One of the other hottest teams entering the tournament beside Oregon had to be the SEC Champs and 5-seed in the Midwest, Auburn Tigers. Also winning four games in four days, the Tigers capture the SEC crown, defeating Missouri, South Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee. Their up-tempo and chaotic play like the Tar Heels of North Carolina, a little foreshadowing there, got them the 5-seed in the Midwest.
Check out the March Madness Breakdown of the Midwest Region.
The Tigers survived an upset scare from New Mexico State in the Round of 64 and they just beat down the Kansas Jayhawks in the Round of 32.
You took down one blue blood programs in Kansas, but can you take out another blue blood program? They was the question heading into Kansas City as the Tigers faced the top seed in the Midwest in the North Carolina Tar Heels. Buckle your seat belts because this one was fast and furious in KC. Two team that play up-tempo and are not afraid to shoot the rock.
Unfortunately, only one of those teams could not miss and it wasn’t the Tar Heels that could not miss. The first half was good, the Tigers lead 41-39 at the half. The second half however, the Tigers just would not miss a shot, dropping 56 points in the second half to the Tar Heels 41 points. Auburn shot 54.5% from the field and 46% from 3 which is ridiculous.
On a bad note, the Tigers lost their best player in Chuma Okeke, who was injury in the second half to a torn ACL. Nevertheless, the Tigers took down another blue blood program amd the Midwest’s top seed in North Carolina, 97-80.
Now the Tigers at this point is the hottest left in tournament because Oregon was knocked out by Virginia in the Sweet 16. Not only are the Tigers are hot, they defeated two blue blood programs back-to-back. However, a third blue blood program and SEC foe stood between Auburn and the Final Four.
Kentucky had beaten Auburn twice during the season, but now the stakes are much bigger. This was first game without Okeke for the Tigers. PJ Washington for Kentucky is coming off his first game against Houston in the Sweet 16.
A second Elite Eight game to go into overtime. There is just no way that the Tigers can knock off three blue blood programs all in a row. Well, the Tigers outscored the Wildcats 17-11 in the OT session so, yeah they took out three blue blood programs in a 77-71 win. PJ Washington dropped 28 points off the bench for Kentucky but it wasn’t enough. Auburn shot 40% from the field and 30.4% from beyond the arc.
The Auburn Tigers are making their first-ever Final Four appearance in school history.
The Final Four Matchup
Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Final Four. The Cavaliers of the ACC. The Tigers of the SEC. One team likes to play defense and slow the pace down, but can score if need be. The another team loves the up-tempo, fast pace game and wants to shoot you out of the gym. Contrasting are ahead in the Final Four matchup.
Virginia looks to finish off an incredible storyline. Being the first top seed to lost to a 16-seed and now find themselves a year later in the Final Four is remarkable. But they want to finish this story off went the championship.
Auburn is making their first-ever Final Four appearance. Beating three blue blood programs in a row to get there is astonishing. Blitzing the Kansas Jayhawks. Out Tar Heeling the Tar Heels. And getting over the Wildcat hump, the Tigers of Auburn are the hottest team remaining.
The guard matchups are something to look at for sure. Kyle Guy dropping 25 points against Purdue up against Bryce Brown who dropped 24 against Kentucky. Jared Harper of Auburn in a point guard matchup against Kihei Clark of Virginia.
But, the one thing that will be in the Cavaliers favor is inside. Deandre Hunter and Mamadi Diakite along with Jack Salt coming off the bench could very well provide a big problem for the undersized Tigers.
At the end of the day, Virginia is my pick to win here because of that size and depth. But the game is played on the court and not on paper.
Will the slow and methodical pace of the Cavaliers suffocate the Tigers? Will the Tigers shoot the Cavs out the Final Four and out of Minneapolis? Something has to give Saturday evening.
This game gets the Final Four started on CBS at 6:09PM.