Virginia vs. Auburn in the Final Four: How they got here plus a prediction




I want to share Stories and images for publishing Whatapp News


Virginia and Auburn have taken completely different paths to the Final Four.

For UVA, making it to the national semifinals feels like a relief as much as a cause for celebration. Virginia entered the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in five of the last six seasons before finally breaking through to the sport’s biggest stage. This run comes one year after being on the wrong end of the biggest upset in the history of March Madness, when UMBC shocked the world as a No. 16 seed and knocked out the ‘Hoos in the opening round of last season’s tournament.

Fifth-seeded Auburn is the biggest surprise in this year’s tournament. The Tigers are in the Final Four for the first time ever after an inspired run through March Madness that included victories over three of the biggest powerhouses in the sport in Kansas, North Carolina, and Kentucky. The Tigers are riding a 12-game winning streak into this matchup.

This is everything you need to know about Virginia and Auburn.

Virginia


What were preseason expectations?

Virginia had to get to the Final Four for this season to be a success after last year’s disaster against UMBC. The ‘Hoos returned most of last season’s team minus guard Devon Hall and big man Isaiah Wilkins and started the year at No. 5 in the preseason AP poll. It was easy to forget Virginia entered the tournament at 31-2 one year earlier after an incredible one-loss season in the ACC. The Cavaliers’ year was always going to be made in March.

The road to March

The ACC featured three of the best teams in the country, but Virginia still won a share of the conference’s regular season title at 16-2 in league play. UVA ran through the non-conference portion of the schedule unbeaten and entered their first game against Duke at 16-0. Virginia lost both matchups to Coach K’s Blue Devils this season, but were otherwise flawless before falling to Florida State in the ACC tournament.

Virginia is ranked as the No. 1 team in the country by KenPom’s metrics. The Cavaliers are also the only team in college basketball currently ranked in the top five of both offensive and defensive efficiency. In a stat that should come as a surprise to no one, Virginia also ranks dead last out of 353 DI teams in tempo. The ‘Hoos play super slow, with elite defense, and surprisingly efficient offense this season.

The road to the Final Four

Virginia hasn’t always looked impressive in their march to the Final Four, but they have survived. The opener against 16-seed Gardner-Webb saw UVA trail at halftime before rallying to avoid disaster for the second straight year. Virginia handled an uninspiring Oklahoma team in the round of 32 handily, then advanced past No. 12 seed Oregon in the Sweet 16 even if the four-point victory wasn’t pretty. The Elite Eight game against Purdue was certifiably ridiculous, with UVA surviving Carsen Edwards’ long distance onslaught with a miracle buzzer-beater to force overtime before winning in the extra frame.

Most essential player

Ty Jerome. The junior guard does everything for Virginia, setting up the offense as a facilitator, hitting big three-pointers, playing an essential role on the defensive end. At 6’5, Jerome has the size to make up for his lack of foot speed and also has an advanced feel for the game that lets him pick apart opposing defenses with the ball in his hands. He’s been UVA’s most consistent player all season.

X-Factor

De’Andre Hunter. Hunter is a possible top-10 NBA draft pick because he profiles as the prototypical 3-and-D wing. While pro scouts love his huge frame, defensive versatility and shooting ability, Hunter hasn’t been all that impressive for UVA in this tournament run. The Cavaliers need to get Hunter going by spoon-feeding him threes and letting him attack closeouts. If he has a big offensive weekend, Virginia should be the favorites to win it all.

Auburn


Auburn v Kentucky

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

What were preseason expectations?

This was always going to be one of the most anticipated seasons in Auburn history. Bruce Pearl finally broke through with the Tigers last season, winning a share of the SEC regular season title, setting a program record with 26 wins, and making the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2003. Auburn lost top scorer Mustapha Heron when he transferred to St. John’s, but returned almost everyone else while adding Austin Wiley and Danjel Purfoy, two players suspended for all of last season following the FBI’s investigation into corruption throughout college basketball.

Auburn started this year No. 11 in the AP Poll (we had them at No. 10) and were picked to finish third in the SEC. The Tigers were supposed to be good, but no one thought they’d be this good.

The road to March

Auburn took plenty of bumps on their way to March. After losing to Mississippi State on Jan. 26, the Tigers sat at 2-4 in conference and 13-6 overall. When Auburn lost to Kentucky on Feb. 23, they were only .500 in SEC and still conceivably on the bubble. Bruce Pearl’s team hasn’t lost since, a stretch that included four wins in four days to claim the SEC tournament title, punctuated by a 20-point win in the championship game over a powerful Tennessee team.

The road to the Final Four

The Tigers were announced as a No. 5 seed on Selection Sunday. It’s easy to forget now, but the Tigers were nearly upset in round one against New Mexico State, a game that featured a wild ending before Pearl’s team came away with a one-point win. A round of 32 date with Kansas was considerably easier, and started Auburn’s reign as the giant killers of college basketball.

A win over North Carolina was one of the most impressive of the NCAA tournament, but it came at a heavy price. Chuma Okeke, in the middle of the game of his life, tore his ACL and brought his head coach to tears. Two days later, Auburn rallied to knock off Kentucky in overtime to reach the Final Four for the first time in program history.

Most essential player

Jared Harper. The diminutive junior point guard has been the engine of Auburn’s offense all year. averaging 15.4 points and 5.8 assists while hitting a career-best 37 percent of his three-point shots. Harper played the role of facilitator in the Sweet 16 against UNC by dishing out a game-high 11 assists. In the Elite Eight, Auburn needed Harper’s scoring and he answered with 26 points. If the game gets close in the Final Four, you know Harper will be the guy with the ball in his hands.

X-Factor

Bryce Brown. Brown is a college basketball success story in every way, a former three-star recruit who took his only high-major offer and spent fours developing into the one of the better guards in the country. Brown led Auburn in scoring at 16 points per game and scored efficiently from all three levels, ending the season with an impressive 61 percent true shooting percentage. After a slow start against Kentucky in the Elite Eight, he was able to knock down some huge shots, finishing with 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting to star in the win. Auburn will need Brown to stay hot vs. an elite Virginia defense. We’ll see if he’s up for the task.

Prediction

Virginia 69, Auburn 64

This game should come down to whoever controls the pace. Virginia wants to play slow, and Auburn thrives when it’s pushing the ball up the court. In the end, UVA’s trio of perimeter stars move Tony Bennett one step closer to his first national championship.



Source link

I want to share Stories and images for publishing Whatapp News

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply