When the confetti falls after tonight’s game, Texas Tech or Virginia will celebrate their very first men’s college basketball national championship.
The Texas Tech Red Raiders are making the most of their first Final Four appearance while the Virginia Cavaliers are trying to craft the ultimate redemption story after being knocked out of last year’s tournament in the opening round by No. 16 seed UMBC.
Texas Tech (31-6) made easy work of Michigan State in Saturday’s national semifinal while Virginia (34-3) barely escaped in consecutive razor thin wins against Purdue and Auburn.
The Cavs’ Ty Jerome was exceptional in the Final Four with 29 points, nine rebounds and six assists while the Red Raiders’ Matt Mooney seized the spotlight with 22 points in the win over the Spartans and their point guard extraordinaire Cassius Winston.
If you’re a fan of great defense, this national championship game should be a classic with both teams ranking in the top three in defensive efficiency.
Both teams will need their best players to step it up on the offensive end, though.
It should be a low-scoring affair, but the matchup will feature two top-10 NBA Draft picks that have been playing in the shadow of Zion Williamson and Duke all year.
But now they have the stage to themselves.
Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter and Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver, unlike Duke’s celebrated freshmen, were not celebrated one-and-done recruits coming out of high school. One scouting service had 300 recruits ranked higher than Culver, but both he and Hunter had very good freshmen seasons.
And now, as sophomores, they’ve proven those high school rankings to be farcical as they’ve emerged as two of the best players in the college game today.
Culver is an elite defender who makes things happen on the offensive end as a scorer and passer. He’s effective both with and without the ball, has length and rebounds well.
Hunter got busy last year as a freshman, but missed UVA’s tournament loss to UMBC due to a broken wrist.
At 6-foot-7, he can score the ball in numerous ways, whether it’s on the move or off the catch-and-shoot on the wing. He also creates shots for others, fights for rebounds and is an absolute menace on the defensive end that can guard any position on the floor.
Both players have shown flashes of stardom that will allow them to cash some pretty substantial checks in the near future. And in Monday’s national championship game, their respective squads will need them to be at their very best if they plan on cutting down the nets and delivering their school’s first ever D-I basketball title.