This is the Final Four, MSU Spartans win it all



COLIN HORNING, Sports Writer

The 2019 Men’s Final Four will take place just a few hours north of Cedar Falls at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn.

On Saturday, April 6, the matchups will feature two-seeded Michigan State against three-seeded Texas Tech, as well as one-seeded Virginia versus five-seeded Auburn, with the winners of both games meeting on the following Monday, April 8, for the National Championship.

While there were no Cinderella teams reaching the final weekend of the tournament this season, the remaining four teams were certainly not what most of us would have expected.

Three of the four one-seeded teams were bounced out of the tournament before the Final Four, including top-overall seed and popular national champion pick, Duke. Regardless of how they got here, this weekend will certainly prove to be an exciting finish to the 2018-19 season.

The first game this Saturday will feature the Virginia Cavaliers against the Auburn Tigers, with tip-off scheduled for 6:09 p.m. Virginia certainly did not have an easy road to the Twin Cities, surviving another 16-seed scare in the first round against Gardner-Webb, winning a low-scoring, defensive contest against Oregon and squeaking out an overtime win against Purdue.

Coming off their SEC conference tournament title, Auburn has rolled through the tournament, knocking out storied programs like North Carolina, Kansas and Kentucky on their way to the Final Four.

Although the Tigers have played extremely well and Virginia has had to grind their way through the tournament, expect this game to wind up in favor of the Cavaliers. Auburn is without leading rebounder Chuma Okeke due to an ACL tear in their game against UNC, and Virginia will be feeding off their motivation of avenging last season’s embarrassing blowout-loss to UMBC.

The Cavaliers have experience from top to bottom in both coaching and from their players, which proves to be extremely valuable this time of year. They tend to slow down the pace of play, in contrast to Auburn’s up-tempo, three-point oriented offense. Expect Virginia to come out on top of this one.

The second-half of Saturday’s games will pit the Michigan State Spartans against the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

The Spartans knocked off top-overall seed Duke in the previous round, proving that they can beat anybody in this tournament. They play an extremely disciplined, defensive-minded brand of basketball lead by head coach Tom Izzo. MSU hardly turns the ball over (only six times against LSU) and has the second-highest defensive field goal percentage in the country.

Their opponent, the Texas Tech Red Raiders, are appearing in their first Final Four in school history. Cruising through the tournament, TTU has won every game so far by double-digits, except for their six-point win against one-seed Gonzaga.

Along with Michigan State, Texas Tech plays a very defensive-minded style, so expect this one to be a low-scoring affair. Due to their experience and ability to wear down their opponents, Michigan State will come out on top and face Virginia in the title game.

These two battle-tested, storied programs will be sure to make an exciting title game. Both are disciplined, play tough defense and have experienced players and coaches.

Virginia tends to find ways to win games, regardless of if it’s pretty or not. Michigan State beat one of the best college basketball teams in recent memory to get to this spot. It will likely be a close game, but expect Michigan State to come out victorious and bring the Big Ten its first title since 2000.