MBB: 2019 NCAA Final Four

Isabel Gonzalez

It’s been a wild dance with plenty of close games. Here are the four teams that have survived and advanced.

No. 2 seed Michigan State
Michigan State is the only team left that has won a national championship (1979, 2000). The Spartans made it to the Final Four after defeating this year’s most popular pick, the Duke Blue Devils, 68-67. Head coach Tom Izzo really showed what he is made of at the end of the game.

“To be the best you gotta beat the best, and there’s no question they’re the best,” Izzo said during his post game interview.
His team was down by three with 1:33 remaining. He called a timeout and sophomore forward Xavier Tillman followed it with a layup to make it a one-point game. With 44 seconds left, Izzo called another timeout to call a play that allowed senior forward Kenny Goins to take an open three-point shot.

But the Spartans didn’t shine exclusively during the last two minutes. They finished the first half of the game with a 34-30 lead after going on a 13-0 run. The Spartans scored 15 points off turnovers in the first 20 minutes. They forced 17 turnovers on their opponents and led 11-4 in steals throughout the day. Michigan State got 15 fast break points while Duke got none.

No. 3 seed Texas Tech
Does defense win championships? Texas Tech showed off its nationally recognized defense by holding Gonzaga 19 points under its season average with a final result of 75-69.

The team made it to the Elite Eight last year but then lost top offensive players this season. This clearly wasn’t a problem because the Red Raiders adapted are now going to the first Final Four in school history.

This is head coach Chris Beard’s third season with the program. Before him, the Red Raiders hadn’t gotten a win in an NCAA Tournament since 2005. College basketball insider Jon Rothstein said that if he wants a lifetime contract, he should get it.

The team’s most powerful weapon has been Jarret Culver. The sophomore guard leads the team in scoring (18.9 ppg), rebounding (6.4) and assists (3.8).

No. 5 seed Auburn
The Tigers punched their ticket to the first Final Four in school history after taking down Kentucky 77-71 in overtime. They had lost twice to the Wildcats during the regular season.

“We got two more wins to win our first National Championship,” said Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl during the post game interview standing in the middle of players celebrating and not being able to hide his own excitement.

Auburn barely escaped New Mexico State during the first round, but now has taken down a couple blue bloods. The Tigers lost Chuma Okeke during their win over North Carolina due to a torn ACL He scored 20 points against the Tar Heels going 8-of-11 from the field. He also completed a double-double with 11 rebounds. The question before their game against the Wildcats was how they were going to replace the offense that Okeke brought.

While he couldn’t help with the offense, Okeke brought the team inspiration. Senior guard/forward Malik Dunbar wore Okeke’s jersey during shootaround to help make his presence felt even when he wasn’t in the building. The sophomore forward arrived at halftime and cheered his teammates from a wheelchair.

Jared Harper led Auburn with 26 points, which included the layup that tied the game with 38 seconds left and sent the game into overtime. He kept the momentum going and scored the first four points of the extra period.

No. 1 seed Virginia
Last year, this team got remembered for being the first no. 1 seed ever to lose to a no. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This season gave the Cavaliers a chance to redeem themselves.

At the beginning of the tournament, Rothstein said he would be stunned if no. 1 seed Virginia didn’t reach the Final Four. Well, the Cavaliers did it. They snuck into the semifinals after taking down the no. 3 seed Purdue Boilermakers 80-75. This game went to overtime after a Mamadi Diakite buzzer-beater.

Purdue had a 75-74 lead with 41.5 seconds left in overtime, but a layup by redshirt sophomore guard De’Andre Hunter put Virginia on top with a 76-75 lead and 28 seconds remaining. Purdue’s Carsen Edwards missed a three-point shot and Kyle Guy got the defensive rebound. Guy got fouled and added two points from free throws. Kihei Clark added two more from the charity line with a second remaining.