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  1. #1501  
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    This Final Four group led by defense
    April 5, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) A short year ago, it not only felt inevitable, it was already happening.


    America's favorite spectator sports had become video games in which 3-pointers and Steph Curry wannabes ruled basketball, quick touchdowns and high-powered offenses ruled football and the days of slow, boring games, the likes of which your grandfather might have enjoyed, were a relic from the past.


    Then, the Super Bowl happened. And March Madness. And now, America's sports fans are faced with what seems again like a novel concept: Defense wins championships.


    Three of the four teams playing in the Final Four on Saturday are among the top nine in defensive efficiency, which measures points allowed per 100 possessions. Leading the way is Texas Tech, which not only has the best number this season (84), but the best in the 18 years the stat has been tracked by advanced-metrics guru Ken Pomeroy.


    ''It's in our DNA. It's our identity,'' said Red Raiders coach Chris Beard. ''And we'll never change. We've always been a team that tries to guard.''


    The trend isn't going unnoticed around the country.


    Coaches who will be watching the Final Four this weekend are meeting at their annual convention in downtown Minneapolis. On Friday, Russ Turner of UC Irvine was on his way to conduct a clinic on - what else? - his program's style of defense. The Anteaters have led the Big West in defense for the last six seasons; this year, they made the tournament and pulled a first-round upset of Kansas State.


    ''The thing is, most fans prefer offense, yet sometimes, the best path to ultimate success is the other way,'' Turner said.


    Many fans were ecstatic last November, when declarations rang out from far and wide that football had officially entered a new era.


    The Rams beat the Chiefs 54-51 in a game featuring two young quarterbacks, Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff, who were anointed as the men leading the NFL into a new age, one in which running, defense and time of possession were virtually meaningless.


    That line of thinking went full steam ahead through the playoffs - not even pausing when Clemson held Alabama to 16 points in a College Football Playoff title-game blowout - until the Patriots brought it to a screeching halt. They beat the Rams 13-3 in a sleep-inducing Super Bowl. Complaints rang out across the country. The trophy, however, looked and weighed exactly the same.


    ''It's a cliche saying, but I think it's ultimately true: Defense wins championships,'' Rams defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh said after the game. ''Their defense outplayed us.''


    Fast forward to April.


    Texas Tech's nation-leading defense finally started getting some national pub; the last step on the road to the Final Four came with a takedown of Gonzaga, the team that, ironically, had the nation's leading offense.


    Virginia's defense needs no introduction. It's the Pack Line Defense. Designed by coach Tony Bennett's legendary father, Dick, it's a man-to-man hybrid that calls for one player to put heavy pressure on the ball handler while the others sag and close down gaps in the middle.


    ''I would say Dick Bennett taught me, through clinics and tapes, a lot of how we try to guard, even still to this day,'' said Auburn's Bruce Pearl, whose trapping, pressure defense was the only Final Four D not ranked in the top 10.


    Only four seasons ago, faced with too many free throws and the lowest average scoring in a generation, the NCAA tweaked rules with the goal of making the game more entertaining, in part by freeing up movement around the court.


    Hand-checking on the perimeter was verboten. It played into an already burgeoning love affair with the 3-pointer - a trend that reached its pinnacle last season when Villanova won the title on the strength of a record-setting 464 long-range field goals. Scoring is up nearly 5 points a game since the rule changes.


    But one minor tweak to those rules came before the 2016-17 season, and could be having an impact this year. It allowed shot blockers under the basket to jump straight up and reject, even if they were standing inside the ''restricted'' semicircle under the basket. Previously, defenders in that area got whistled for virtually any contact.


    Michigan State (six), Texas Tech (15) and Auburn (18) are all in the top 20 in blocks this season. (Though Auburn's top shot-blocker, Chuma Okeke, is out with a knee injury.)


    ''Hopefully, you look at the teams here and they're winning by playing defense, and hopefully that sticks,'' said St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt, whose Bonnies had a top-50 defense this season. ''Because it can't just be an offensive game. It can't just be an All-Star game.''


    In its eighth Final Four of the Tom Izzo era, Michigan State has had its share of All-Stars over the years, but has also made it other ways. This season's team is led by veterans who aren't on the fast path to pro hoops. One thing that's been consistent through all those years: Defense.


    Izzo, whose team starred in one of the modern era's all-time Final Four clunkers - a 53-41 semifinal win over Wisconsin in 2000 - said he wasn't in position to decide if this year's transition to `D' is a permanent thing.


    ''Whatever the way they want to play it, I'll adjust to it,'' he said. ''And I'll complain if we lose and be happy if we win.''
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  2. #1502  
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    The Latest: Auburn stars dealing with colds at Final Four
    April 5, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    The Latest on the Final Four (all times local):


    4:15 p.m.


    Auburn has Sir Charles, Michigan State has Magic and Virginia has Ralph Sampson.


    Texas Tech will have Patrick Mahomes.


    The Chiefs quarterback and reigning NFL MVP plans to watch the Red Raiders play the Spartans in the Final Four on Saturday night. Mahomes doesn't have any official obligations, though he may give the team a shout-out, but he's looking forward to the festive Final Four atmosphere.


    Mahomes played high school basketball and still loves the game, even though it got him into trouble recently. A grainy video of Mahomes making a slick crossover move in a pickup game went viral, and Chiefs general manager Brett Veach - concerned about a potential injury - put an end to those endeavors.


    He'll have to settle for getting his basketball fix as a fan.


    - Dave Skretta reporting from Minneapolis.


    ---


    3:50 p.m.


    Texas Tech assistant coach Mark Adams loves spinning a yarn, often telling of conflicts to motivate the Red Raiders.


    One of his favorites involves dogs named Sugarfoot and Foxy.


    ''Actually, they're real dogs and coach (Chris) Beard has talked a lot about street dogs and has labeled this team that,'' Adams said. ''He likes the underdogs, the street dog mentality, kind of a blue-collar guy anyway. Those were stories about two dogs, friendly dogs except when there was another dog in the neighborhood. There also were good fighters and we talk a lot about fighting.''


    No word if Adams will use Sugarfoot and Foxy for Saturday's Final Four game against Michigan State. Rest assured, though, there will be a story or two.


    - John Marshall reporting from Minneapolis.


    ---


    1:45 p.m.


    Virginia's Braxton Key just can't get away from Auburn.


    The 6-foot-8 junior transferred after two seasons at Alabama, and received a waiver from the NCAA to play right away this season instead of having to sit out a year. Yet his first year with the Cavaliers now has him set to play the Tigers -Alabama's fiercest rival- in Saturday's national semifinals.


    Key said he's heard from ''a lot of my frat friends, former teammates, everyone'' from his Alabama days about the importance of beating Key's (former) instate rival.


    This will be the sixth time Key has faced Auburn. He scored 18 points and 17 points in two meetings during the 2016-17 season, but managed a total of 24 points in three meetings last season.


    ---


    12:55 p.m.


    The sun came up the next day for the Purdue Boilermakers, and coach Matt Painter kept his eye on the big picture.


    After that heartbreaking loss to Virginia in the Elite Eight, one way of looking at it was that the Boilermakers were lucky to be there. That's the approach that Painter took, at least.


    ''It's part of competition,'' Painter said on Friday, after a presentation at the coaches' conference that runs in conjunction with the Final Four. ''The thing you have to keep in mind about our loss is that we were very fortunate to be in the game in the first place.''


    In the Sweet 16 game against Tennessee, Purdue's Carsen Edwards got fouled while taking a 3-pointer with the clock running down. He made two of the three free throws to get the game into overtime, and from there, Purdue won.


    Against Virginia, Cavs forward Mamadi Diakite made a buzzer beater to send the game into overtime, but that time, the Boilermakers weren't able to overcome.


    ''Our guys are crushed,'' Painter said. ''It's something that will stick with us forever, but you've got to move on.''


    - Eddie Pells reporting from Minneapolis.


    ---


    12:30 p.m.


    Coach Tony Bennett has taken Virginia to the Final Four for the first time in 35 years, and his appearance has put him in even more exclusive company. He's part of only the second pair of fathers and sons to coach a team in the national semifinals. His father, Dick Bennett, took Wisconsin to the Final Four in 2000.


    The first family duo to accomplish the feat was Georgetown's John Thompson, who took the Hoyas there in 1982, 1984 and 1985, and John Thompson III, who went with the same program in 2007.


    Bennett said he was proud to be in such a small club, particularly because that means he's even with his dad.


    ''Now he can't look at me and say, `I'm one up on you, son,''' Bennett said. ''At least he can't do t4hat. There's no bragging rights on his part now.''


    - Dave Campbell reporting from Minneapolis.


    ---


    Noon


    Injured Auburn star Chuma Okeke is not expected to travel to Minneapolis to be with the team when it plays Virginia in the Final Four on Saturday.


    Okeke injured his knee a week ago in the Sweet 16 victory against North Carolina. He had surgery in Birmingham, Alabama, to repair a torn knee ligament on Tuesday. An Auburn spokesman said Friday the team was not expecting Okeke to make the trip.


    Auburn players have rallied around Okeke, the team's leading scorer. Malik Dunbar wore Okeke's No. 5 jersey during warmups for the Elite Eight game against Kentucky and says he plans to do the same before the Virginia game.


    - Ralph D. Russo reporting from Minneapolis.


    ---


    11:35 a.m.


    Charles Barkley isn't the only big-name fan of Auburn.


    Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry surprised the Tigers - and another Under Armour-sponsored school, Texas Tech - with pairs of his new sneakers for their Final Four appearance on Saturday night. Curry recorded videos for both of the teams and wished them well as they compete in the national semifinals.


    ''It was amazing. He gave us a special shoutout,'' Tigers star Bryce Brown said. ''He said he was an underdog like us, that this run was like the run he was on with Davidson.''


    Before becoming an NBA star, Curry led tiny Davidson to the Elite Eight of the 2008 tournament.


    Curry is one of Brown's favorite players, so getting a shout-out? ''That meant a lot,'' he said.


    - Dave Skretta reporting from Minneapolis.


    ---


    11:15 a.m.


    Auburn star Jared Harper and some of his teammates are dealing with an illness that he hopes will be better by Saturday night.


    Harper started feeling sick Thursday night and began taking some medicine, and team doctors gave him a shot Friday morning. He was still sniffling during his media rounds before taking the floor for the Tigers' open practice ahead of their semifinal date with Virginia.


    Fellow guard Bryce Brown felt the worst of it on Thursday, but was on the rebound Friday.


    ''We've got a bunch of guys that are sniffling and hacking and coughing, be we don't play today,'' coach Bruce Pearl said.


    The flu bug swept through North Carolina last weekend in Kansas City, where the Tigers knocked off the Tar Heels in the regional semifinal. It's unclear whether Harper may have gotten the same bug.


    Harper is averaging 15.4 points and 5.4 assists.


    - Dave Skretta reporting from Minneapolis.


    ---


    11 a.m.


    Basketball fans have lined up early for the first entry into U.S. Bank Stadium, as the Final Four teams hold open-to-the-public workouts.


    Auburn takes the court first, followed by Virginia, Texas Tech and Michigan State. There's no charge to attend the practices. The games, of course, come at a cost. According to secondary market ticket seller StubHub, as of Friday morning, the lowest price for the semifinal games on Saturday evening is $385.


    U.S. Bank Stadium opened in 2016, the home of the Minnesota Vikings and the host of the Super Bowl after the 2017 NFL season. The seating capacity has been expanded for the Final Four to 72,000.


    - Dave Campbell reporting from Minneapolis.
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  3. #1503  
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    Michigan State, Texas Tech get ready for a Final Four grind
    April 5, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Hunker down, hoops fans. This one might be ugly.


    The Final Four's second semifinal Saturday features Texas Tech, the team with the best defense in a generation, against Michigan State, the nose-in-the-dirt team whose coach used to put helmets and shoulder pads on his players for practice.


    It's a non-glamour pairing pitting two teams that thrive on the grind. Texas Tech (30-6) has allowed more than 70 points only five times this season and not at all in the tournament. Michigan State (32-6), with the ninth-best defense in the country, got here by shutting down more-talented, more-star-studded Duke.


    The over/under on the game is 132.5, meaning there's a good chance the first team to 65 will win.


    ''We try to guard at a high level,'' Red Raiders coach Chris Beard said. ''It's been the identity of our teams at all different levels, and currently at Texas Tech. It's something we try to recruit to. We certainly coach and emphasize it.''


    His players are listening.


    Jarrett Culver is the team's leading scorer (18.9 points a game) and main NBA prospect, but the defensive help comes from all places. Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens were named to the All-Big 12 defensive team. Owens was also a semifinalist for the Naismith defensive player of the year. His swoop-in rejection of Rui Hachimura was the game-sealer in the Elite Eight victory over Gonzaga last week.


    Texas Tech's defense has the best points allowed-per-100 possessions ratio (84) since stat guru Ken Pomeroy started tracking the figure in 2002. The Red Raiders have held teams to 36.9 percent shooting this year, second-lowest in the country.


    ''The defense, you don't know until you go out there,'' Michigan State guard Cassius Winston said. ''You've got to feel it out, but it doesn't take that long to figure out what you can and can't do at this point.''


    Michigan State's defense isn't bad, either. It's built around the hard-nosed lessons coach Tom Izzo has been teaching for years. Back when Izzo was making his first of eight appearances in the Final Four, he would suit his players up in helmets and shoulder pads for rebounding drills.


    Yes, the Spartans can be physical.


    ''This team isn't as physically tough, but they might be as mentally tough as any team I've ever had,'' Izzo said. ''So the word `toughness' is still there.''


    Guard Matt McQuaid is considered the team's best defender. In its media guide, Michigan State unfurls a long list of top players - including Purdue's big-scoring Carsen Edwards and pretty much all of the Big Ten - he has held under their season average. The Spartans were fourth in the nation in blocked shots (203) this season.


    ''This team is very connected,'' Izzo said. ''It's like, when they move, they all move together, and that's why we've been pretty good defensively ourselves.''

    EIGHT IS ENOUGH:
    For all his trips to the Final Four, Izzo has only won it once. He says he does not take much solace in getting close a bunch of times.


    ''I talk to them all the time, and part of it's my fault because I say, `You know, I've been there, and nobody can take that away from me, but my dream is for you guys to get there,''' Izzo said. ''So if they get there, they're taking me along for the ride. So, that's why I still have bigger fish to fry and bigger things to go after.''


    NO DESSERT FOR YOU: Beard has been trying to teach his team self-sacrifice this season, asking all his players to give something up for the larger good of the team. Some said goodbye to Netflix; others took a break from social media; others have handed over their cell phones.


    For Beard, it was beer, desserts and candy. One detail, though.


    ''Did you know a Pop-Tart is not a dessert? It's a breakfast. I've eaten a lot of Pop-Tarts since October,'' he said.


    ANY TIPS: Culver had a fairly simple answer when asked how he would play `D' on himself: ''Pray.''
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  4. #1504  
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    B]Virginia, Texas Tech ride tough defenses into Final Four
    April 5, 2019
    By The Associated Press
    [/B]


    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Virginia's climb to its Final Four breakthrough began with a sound defensive scheme, a steadfast foundation allowing the Cavaliers to grind down even the best and most balanced of offenses for years.


    At Texas Tech, it's as much about pairing an aggressive edge with the X's and O's and scouting work that has led to defensive efficiency not seen in years.


    Their presence in Minneapolis for Saturday's national semifinals is the biggest reason why this is such a defensive-minded Final Four. The approaches differ for the Cavaliers and Red Raiders, but the results can look awfully similar - with opponents seeing their best options taken away while finishing with low scoring totals, bad shooting percentages and high levels of frustration.


    There's one other common thread, too.


    ''If you don't want to play defense,'' Texas Tech's Kyler Edwards said, ''you're not going to play.''


    The Cavaliers, the lone No. 1 seed to make it to the tournament's final weekend, have been a fixture in the top 10 of Ken Pomeroy's defensive efficiency rankings since their breakout 2014 season under Tony Bennett. They enter Saturday's semifinal against Auburn ranked fifth nationally, surrendering 88.7 points per 100 possessions, a metric that factors out Virginia's slower offensive pace and offers a better measure of performance than scoring averages depressed by slower tempos and low-possession games.


    Texas Tech has made a rapid rise in three seasons under Chris Beard, entering its semifinal against Michigan State leading in defensive efficiency (84.0) with the lowest score in KenPom's records dating to the 2002 season.


    So how do they do it?


    For Virginia, it's all about the pack-line defense - a man-to-man scheme that packs four defenders inside an imaginary arc to clog the paint against driving lanes while having one player applying pressure on the ball.


    When working right, there's crowd of defenders to greet any driver. Those driving lanes open if the players are in the wrong spot, and lacking that ball pressure allows a ball handler to - as Alabama transfer Braxton Key put it - ''window shop'' for an easy pass.


    It's a simple approach, just not so easy to beat.


    ''They're very vanilla,'' said ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, a former coach at Manhattan, St. John's and New Mexico. ''There's not a lot of deviation. There's not a lot of adjusting for opponents' strengths. It's more, `This is what we do and you're going to have to beat us by making outside shots,' because most nights we're not letting you to get into the paint.''


    Still, it takes adjustments for players in learning that unwavering approach.


    ''Just growing up, every basketball place, everywhere I've played, it's just force it to the baseline,'' Key said. ''We force everything to the middle and allow no baseline.''


    Virginia's defense depends upon executing its own principles while remaining largely static, regardless of the opponent. The Red Raiders, on the other hand, offer a little more versatility and apply a lot more aggressive pressure.


    Former Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg, now an ESPN analyst, pointed to one element in particular: the ability of the Red Raiders to get into passing lanes, making it difficult to reverse the ball out of trouble from one side of the court to the other.


    ''So basically, they're putting you in a box,'' Greenberg said. ''What they're trying to do is pressure the ball, make you drive it to bad spots on the floor, not allow you to reverse the basketball and again speed you up. ... Say if Virginia switches, they'll switch and stay in their gaps. Texas Tech will switch and deny.''


    That leads to turnovers, which the Red Raiders have been eager to convert into baskets. They have 67 points off turnovers in their first four NCAA Tournament games.


    Beard, chosen The Associated Press coach of the year Thursday, said he looks for how well his players are communicating defensively to see if they're ready. That much was clear Friday during the Red Raiders' public practice session, when players ran a drill that had them running back quickly as though defending in transition.


    ''Get out, get out, get out!'' reserve big man Malik Ondigo yelled toward a teammate as he pointed toward the wing. ''Pick up!''


    The opponent was imaginary, but the urgency was real.


    ''It's our plan,'' Beard said in an interview with the AP. ''Everybody kind of has a plan to win, an identity. ... Really it's our culture. It's what we believe in. Not that other teams don't, but it's just who we are. It's not a secret.''
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    Auburn's top two players, Jared Harper and Bryce Brown, each battling illness


    MINNEAPOLIS -- Auburn's top two scorers on the season, guards Bryce Brown and Jared Harper, are battling illness on Friday just a day before the start of the 2019 Final Four. A third player, backup point guard J'Von McCormick, is also battling a bug.


    Harper's voice was noticeably hoarse as he answered questions in the breakout session with media on Friday morning, where he divulged that he has a cold. Harper, according to coach Bruce Pearl, is "under the weather." He got a shot to deal with the symptoms on Friday. Brown got a shot on Thursday to deal with his own illness.


    "We've got a couple of guys that are sniffling and hacking and coughing, but we don't play today," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. "Jared would be less than 100 percent if we had to play today. If we played yesterday, Bryce would have been less than 100 percent. He'll be fine tomorrow."


    Auburn perhaps benefitted from a bug in the Sweet 16 when North Carolina forward Nassir Little came down with flu-like symptoms before tip. The Tigers pounced on the Tar Heels in turn, taking them down 97-80 in a dominant win. It would be a cruel twist of irony if in the biggest game of the season the bug impacted them in a major way.


    Harper and Brown average a combined 31.4 points and 7.7 assists per game this season. Auburn enters its first Final Four in school history already short-handed after big man Chuma Okeke went down with a season-ending knee-injury in the Tigers' victory vs. North Carolina.
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    Best Bet - Red Raiders vs. Sparty
    April 4, 2019
    By BetDSI



    Final Four – Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Michigan State Spartans


    The late game on Saturday in the Final Four on CBS has the Texas Tech Red Raiders taking on the Michigan State Spartans.


    Both teams are experienced and they have already proven they can handle the big stage, as Texas Tech took out No. 1 seed Gonzaga, while Michigan State dispatched No. 1 seed Duke.


    The Red Raiders and Spartans are both tough defensive squads so this could be a defensive battle. Michigan State is listed as a 2.5-point favorite with the total at 132.5.


    Let’s look at Texas Tech vs. Michigan State and Final Four picks.


    Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Michigan State Spartans
    Date and Time: Saturday, April 6, 8:49 p.m. ET
    Location: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
    College Basketball Odds at BetDSI: Michigan State -2.5, O/U 132.5
    Texas Tech vs. Michigan State TV Coverage: CBS



    Texas Tech has really not had any trouble reaching the Final Four, as they got past Northern Kentucky, routed Buffalo and Michigan and held down Gonzaga. Michigan State has had a tougher time, as they just barely got past Bradley, were unimpressive in a win over Minnesota, routed LSU and just barely got past Duke.


    Both Michigan State and Texas Tech have star players that lead them. The Red Raiders have Jarrett Culver, while the Spartans have Cassius Winston. How well each team defends the other star will go a long way towards deciding who wins this game. The Red Raiders will probably put Matt Mooney on Winston, so that is the matchup that might determine the game.


    Keys to Victory


    The Spartans have the ability to dissect an opposing team’s defense, and they have the player to do it in Winston. The Spartans have a solid rotation of big men who can make plays inside in Tillman, Henry, Goins and Ward. If the Spartans win the rebounding battle they could have the edge on Saturday night. Michigan State averages about 78 points per game and gives up 65 per contest.


    Texas Tech will rely on defense and Culver to score to win. They will look to get into another defensive struggle and hope that Moretti and Mooney can hit big shots to take some of the pressure off of Culver. If Culver doesn’t get some help it is hard to see how the Red Raiders can win. Texas Tech averaged 73 points per game during the regular season and gave up just 59 per contest.


    Key Stats


    The Red Raiders are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 vs. the Big Ten. The Red Raiders are 11-1 ATS in their last 12 games vs. a team with a winning straight up record. The
    Spartans are 21-5 ATS in their last 26 games vs. a team with a winning straight up.


    Looking at the total, the Under is 19-8 in the Red Raiders last 27 neutral site games. The Under is 46-22-1 in the Red Raiders last 69 non-conference games. The Under is 5-1 in the Spartans last 6 neutral site games. The Under is 5-2 in the Spartans last 7 vs. the Big 12.


    Texas Tech vs. Michigan State Free Picks


    The Red Raiders have looked really good so far in the tournament, but there is no question that this will be their toughest matchup. Some people might say Gonzaga was a tougher matchup, but Gonzaga has never won anything and they don’t have the big time players that Michigan State has. Culver is a really good player for Texas Tech, but Winston is a star for the Spartans.


    Do you remember the only time that Tom Izzo won a national championship? He had a guard named Mateen Cleaves who led the way. This time around Izzo has a guard in Winston who takes control of games down the stretch. If this game is close then expect Winston to make the plays down the stretch to lead Michigan State to the win.


    We’ll lay the small number at BetDSI and take Michigan State to win this game and play for the national championship on Monday night.


    Texas Tech vs. Michigan State ATS Pick: Michigan State -2.5
    Texas Tech vs. Michigan State Score Prediction: Michigan State 69, Texas Tech 63
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    Best Bet - Tigers vs. Cavaliers
    April 3, 2019
    By BetDSI



    Final Four – Auburn Tigers vs. Virginia Cavaliers


    The first of the two Final Four matchups on Saturday has the Auburn Tigers taking on the Virginia Cavaliers in a game that can be seen on CBS. The Tigers were not expected to get this far and probably should have lost their first round game, but they have turned it on since and now they get a shot against the only No. 1 seed left in the NCAA Tournament, the Virginia Cavaliers.


    This should be a fascinating matchup between an Auburn team that wants to run and gun and a defensive-minded team in Virginia. The Cavaliers are listed as 5.5-point favorites in this contest.


    Let’s look at Auburn vs. Virginia and Final Four picks.


    Auburn Tigers vs. Virginia Cavaliers


    Date and Time: Saturday, April 6, 6:09 p.m. ET
    Location: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
    College Basketball Odds at BetDSI: Virginia -5.5, O/U 131
    Auburn vs. Virginia TV Coverage: CBS



    The Tigers will be making their first-ever appearance in the Final Four and they have not had an easy path. They had to beat Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky to make the Final Four. The Tigers also had to overcome the loss of Chuma Okeke to defeat the Wildcats. Auburn has some capable scorers in Bryce Brown and Jared Harper, but this could be the game they really miss Okeke. Auburn has been red-hot in this tournament as they have averaged over 12 three-pointers made per game in the tourney. It may be difficult to match that number against a stout Virginia defense.


    The Cavaliers are led by Kyle Guy who averages just over 15 points per game, but they have a number of capable scorers including Ty Jerome. Virginia was not impressive in the first round, as they struggled against Gardner-Webb and they were lucky to get past Purdue in the Elite Eight. Perhaps the Final Four is where they will finally play their best.


    Matchup to Watch


    The Tigers need Brown to hold his own against Guy if they are to have a chance to win this game. Brown has hit 15 of 32 from 3-point range in the tournament and he is the key scorer for Auburn. Guy is just 8 of 38 in the tournament, but he came alive against Purdue. Virginia is 10-0 when Guy hits five 3-pointers or more in a game.


    Key Stats


    The Tigers are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 neutral site games. The Cavaliers are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 non-conference games. The Cavaliers are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 NCAA Tournament games.


    Looking at the total, the Over is 5-0 in the Tigers last 5 overall. The Under is 5-1 in the Tigers last 6 vs. the ACC. The Under is 6-1 in the Cavaliers last 7 vs. the SEC.


    Auburn vs. Virginia Free Picks


    How many times have you seen a team play really well in their first game after losing a player to injury and then fall off after that? The Tigers used the emotion of the Okewe injury to play really well and upset Kentucky, but it will be much tougher in the second game without him. The Cavaliers have a player inside in Mamadi Diakite who can take advantage of Okewe’s absence and there is no question that Virginia plays good enough defense to slow down Auburn. The Cavaliers are capable of getting hot on offense and playing stifling defense, so if Virginia gets off to a strong start this game could be over early. It is also worth noting that now that Virginia has made the Final Four the pressure should be off and the team may finally relax and play their best ball. Auburn does have a very good backcourt with Brown and Harper but you can make a case that Virginia’s backcourt is just as good or better.


    All of the edges in this game look to be with the Cavaliers and they should be playing for a national title on Monday night. We’ll lay the points and take Virginia at BetDSI.


    Auburn vs. Virginia ATS Pick: Virginia -5.5
    Auburn vs. Virginia Score Prediction: Virginia 73, Auburn 62
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  8. #1508  
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    SATURDAY, APRIL 6
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  9. #1509  
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    NCAA Latest: Sharps, squares split on winners of both semis
    April 6, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Latest on the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament (all times local):


    10:25 p.m.


    The college basketball season will end Monday night with two defensive-minded teams battling to become a first-time champion.


    Texas Tech entered the national semifinals by allowing just 84 points per 100 possessions, a defensive efficiency score on KenPom that ranks as the best the advanced-stats site has tracked dating to 2002.


    Virginia arrived ranked fifth nationally by surrendering 88.7 points per 100 possessions, a metric that factors out Virginia's slower offensive pace and offers a better measure of performance than scoring averages depressed by low-possession games.


    Both defenses were strong in the second half of their semifinals. Texas Tech allowed Michigan State to make 8 of 24 shots, while Auburn made just 9 of 26 shots against Virginia.


    It will also be a matchup of the past two Associated Press men's national coaches of the year, with Texas Tech's Chris Beard winning this year's award and Virginia's Tony Bennett claiming it last season.


    - Aaron Beard reporting from Minneapolis.


    ---


    10:10 p.m.


    Texas Tech has earned a trip to Monday night's championship game to face Virginia.


    The Red Raiders beat Michigan State 61-51 in Saturday night's second national semifinal.


    Matt Mooney scored 22 points to lead Texas Tech, which is playing in its first Final Four.


    Leading scorer Jarrett Culver was quiet for much of the night, but he scored six straight points to keep the Red Raiders in control after the Spartans had cut a 13-point deficit to 52-51 with 2:54 left.


    Texas Tech shot 56 percent after halftime, while its trademark defensive edge locked down on Michigan State. The Spartans shot just 32 percent, including 8 of 24 in the second half.


    Cassius Winston scored 16 points to lead the Spartans.


    - Aaron Beard reporting from Minneapolis.


    ---


    9:25 p.m.


    The foul called with 0.6 seconds left on Auburn in the first semifinal became an instant classic, when Virginia's Kyle Guy made three free throws to give the Cavaliers a 63-62 victory.


    But there was another officiating decision, or in this case non-decision, that drew heavy scrutiny from TV viewers and disgust from Tigers fans. Ty Jerome appeared to be guilty of a double dribble on his way up the court in the closing seconds, prior to the fateful play.


    The NCAA said the correct call was made on the foul, but the organization declined to comment on whether or not a double dribble should have been called.


    - Dave Campbell reporting from Minneapolis.


    ---


    9:05 p.m.


    The NCAA says the foul on Auburn's Samir Doughty with 0.6 seconds left in the first Final Four game against Virginia was the correct call.


    National coordinator of officiating J.D. Collins released a statement through the NCAA that said the whistle by official James Breeding was in accordance with Rule 4, Section 39.i. That states: ''Verticality applies to a legal position and also to both the offensive and defensive players. The basic components of the principle of verticality are: The defender may not `belly up' or use the lower part of the body or arms to cause contact outside his vertical plane or inside the opponent's vertical plane.''


    Doughty's foul gave Kyle Guy three free throws with the Cavaliers trailing 62-60. Guy made all three to send Virginia to the national championship game for the first time in program history.


    - Dave Campbell reporting from Minneapolis.


    ---


    8:55 p.m.


    Surprise, surprise! Defense is the name of the game again tonight, with Texas Tech's stifling half-court pressure enough to produce a 23-21 lead over Michigan State at halftime in the second national semifinal at U.S. Bank Stadium.


    The Spartans made only one of nine field goals over the final 7+ minutes of the first period, a 3-pointer by Cassius Winston with 1:03 left. They're 7 for 23 from the field, with nine points apiece from Winston and Matt McQuaid.


    The Red Raiders, who have allowed the third-fewest points per game in the nation this season, have nine points from Matt Mooney.


    - Dave Campbell, reporting from Minneapolis.


    ---


    8:40 p.m.


    The celebrity factor is always high at the Final Four, and Texas Tech and Michigan State each have a hotshot NFL quarterback on their side in the house in Minneapolis.


    Minnesota's Kirk Cousins is cheering on his Spartans, in the same stadium where he plays for the Vikings in the fall. Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes III is rooting on his Red Raiders, with Chiefs teammate Travis Kelce sitting next to him in the seats.


    Cousins and Mahomes traded tweets earlier in the day, with Cousins sending a #GoGreen hash tag with a GIF of the Sparty mascot at Mahomes. Mahomes directed a #GunsUp hash tag with a GIF of mascot Raider Red at Cousins.


    Both NFL stars were shown on the scoreboard, prompting loud roars from the respective fan bases.


    Cousins is third on the current NFL list of average annual contract value for quarterbacks at $28 million. Mahomes, the 2018 NFL MVP, is 32nd at $4.1 million.


    - Dave Campbell, reporting from Minneapolis.


    ---


    8 p.m.


    The second national semifinal game has begun at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis between Texas Tech and Michigan State, with Virginia waiting for the winner in the championship on Monday night.


    Spartans coach Tom Izzo has taken his team to the Final Four for the eighth time, with point guard Cassius Winston leading the way this season after surviving the stacked East Region and defeating consensus favorite Duke, the No. 1 overall seed, in the Elite Eight.


    This is the first appearance for the Red Raiders, who are coached by Chris Beard and fueled his relentlessly aggressive defensive approach. The Red Raiders also beat a No. 1 seed to get here, taking down Gonzaga in the West Region final last weekend.


    - Dave Campbell, reporting from Minneapolis.


    ---


    7:25 p.m.


    Several members of the Auburn student section were escorted out of U.S. Bank Stadium by police after the Tigers lost to Virginia 63-62 on three foul shots by Kyle Guy in the final second of the game.


    The free throws came after the Tigers had rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit, and after it appeared that the Tigers had won the game. Guy missed a 3-pointer from the corner and the buzzer sounded, and Auburn players began spilling onto the court to celebrate.


    But official James Breeding had whistled a foul on the Tigers' Samir Doughty for bumping into Guy on the shot, and that gave one of Virginia's best free-throw shooters a chance to win the game.


    - Dave Skretta reporting from Minneapolis.


    ---


    7:10 p.m.


    Kyle Guy made three free throws after a questionable foul call with 0.6 seconds left, and Virginia survived a frantic rally by Auburn for a 63-62 victory in the national semifinals.


    The Tigers had used a 14-0 run in the closing minutes to turn what had been a 10-point deficit into a 61-57 lead with 19.3 seconds left. Guy answered with a 3-pointer to give Virginia a chance, and the Tigers' Jared Harper could only make the front end of a one-and-one with 7.4 seconds left.


    Virginia was not yet in the bonus, and Auburn brilliantly used a couple of fouls to whittle time off the clock. The Cavaliers wound up with 1.5 seconds to work and got the ball to Guy, who was bumped by the Tigers' Samir Doughty on a 3-point shot from the corner.


    The buzzer sounded and Auburn thought it had won, but official James Breeding had called a foul and sent Guy to the line. He made all three free throws and the Tigers' desperation heave was no good.


    - Dave Skretta reporting from Minneapolis.


    ---


    6:45 p.m.


    Virginia's defense is doing a good job of protecting the rim against undersized Auburn.


    The Cavaliers have blocked seven shots as of midway through the second half of Saturday's national semifinal. That includes three in the paint in the second half, one being a dunk attempt that was stuffed by De'Andre Hunter.


    Mamadi Diakite has blocked four shots for Virginia, which had managed seven or more blocks just twice all season. The Cavaliers' season high is eight late in the regular season against Syracuse.


    - Aaron Beard reporting from Minneapolis.


    ---


    6:40 p.m.


    Virginia is dictating its typical snail-like tempo, and a barrage of 3-pointers has given the Cavaliers their biggest lead of the game at 50-43 over Auburn with less than 8 minutes to go.


    Meanwhile, the starting lineups are out for the second national semifinal.


    Texas Tech is going with the same veteran group that propelled it to the first Final Four in school history. That means sophomores Jarrett Culver and Davide Morretti will join seniors Tariq Owens, Norense Odiase and Matt Mooney when the Red Raiders face Michigan State.


    The Spartans counter with Big Ten player of the year Cassius Winston and Matt McQuaid in the backcourt, and Kenny Goins, Aaron Henry and Xavier Tillman in the frontcourt.


    - Dave Skretta reporting from Minneapolis.


    ---


    6:25 p.m.


    The first eight points of the second half belongd to Virginia.


    So does the pace of play. And the rebounding battle. And the momentum. And most importantly, the lead. The Cavaliers have edged ahead 36-31 with 14 1/2 minutes to go in the national semifinals.


    The Tigers missed their first eight shots to start the second half. They've been particularly bad from the 3-point arc, where Bryce Brown's latest miss left them 3 for 19 from 3.


    Auburn coach Bruce Pearl dismissed any concerns about his sharpshooting team's ability to make shots in a football stadium, saying Thursday that the rims were ''soft.'' They haven't been so far.


    - Dave Skretta reporting from Minneapolis.


    ---


    6:15 p.m.


    The second half between Auburn and Virginia is underway with a national title berth at stake.


    The Tigers were just 3 of 14 from beyond the 3-point arc in the first half, though they still managed to take a 31-28 lead into the locker room. A big reason for that was their ability to get to the rim against a Virginia defense that is designed to prevent just that.


    The Cavaliers are leaning on Ty Jerome, who had 13 points in the first half.


    Virginia center Jack Salt played only 2 minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, and that meant a short bench for coach Tony Bennett. Salt should figure more prominently in the second half.


    - Dave Skretta reporting from Minneapolis.


    ---


    5:50 p.m.


    Auburn is 20 minutes away from the national title game after what might go down as one of the fastest first halves in Final Four history.


    The Tigers lead Virginia 31-28 at the break. But the teams burned through the first half in less than 40 minutes of real time, thanks in part to seven total turnovers and nine total fouls.


    In fact, there was never an under-4 minute media timeout because there was never a dead ball down the stretch. Missed shots were cleanly rebounded, neither team turned it over and there was never a blown whistle for a foul - so the teams kept on playing.


    - Dave Skretta reporting from Minneapolis.


    ---


    5:30 p.m.


    The first 10 minutes of the Final Four matchup between Auburn and Virginia is going about as expected: The Tigers are throwing up 3-pointers and the Cavaliers are slowing the pace.


    Worth watching, though: Virginia center Jack Salt already has two fouls.


    The Cavaliers figured to have an advantage in the paint with Auburn missing 6-foot-8 forward Chuma Okeke to a knee injury. But the 6-10 Salt is on the bench, where he does Virginia no good.


    Meanwhile, Auburn football coach Guz Malzahn got a big ovation when he was shown on the video screens inside U.S. Bank Arena.


    - Dave Skretta reporting from Minneapolis.


    ---


    5:10 p.m.


    The first national semifinal is underway with Auburn, fresh off a trio of wins over Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky, taking on No. 1 seed Virginia at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.


    It's the quintessential matchup of high-speed, 3-point-shooters in the Tigers against a methodical, defensive bunch of Cavaliers. It's also a matchup of the mighty SEC and hoops-mad ACC.


    Auburn made a late change to its starting lineup, putting Danjel Purifoy in its first five.


    The second semifinal pits Texas Tech, the regular-season co-champs of the Big 12, against Michigan State. The Red Raiders are in the Final Four for the first time while the Spartans are making their 10th appearance in the national semifinals.


    - Dave Skretta reporting from Minneapolis.


    ---


    4:50 p.m.


    Auburn junior Jared Harper was the last player to leave the court after the Tigers and Virginia warmed up for their national semifinal. The 5-foot-11 guard made four straight deep, straight-on 3-pointers, and then a layup before jogging off the elevated court at U.S. Bank Stadium.


    Once again, Auburn's Malik Dunbar was wearing Chuma Okeke's No. 5 jersey during warmups. Okeke is out with a knee injury sustained in the Sweet 16 victory against North Carolina


    Auburn is in its first Final Four and Virginia its first since 1984. With both teams in blue and orange, it's hard to tell which has more fan support for the first game of the Final Four doubleheader - though by volume of cheers, the Cavaliers appear to have an edge.


    - Ralph D. Russo reporting from Minneapolis.


    ---


    4:30 p.m.


    The betting public is split on Virginia and Auburn in the first game of the Final Four.


    Betting data released by William Hill US on Saturday night shows more wagers are being placed on Auburn on spread and money line bets, but more money for both wagers is backing Virginia.


    That difference shows a split between sharp bettors gambling more money per bet and a higher number of casual bettors who wager less.


    The difference is especially stark on the money line, which is minus-300 for Virginia, meaning a gambler would need to bet $300 to win $100. William Hill says 77% of wagers are backing Auburn, where a $100 bet can win $250 if the Tigers win the game outright. Still, 72% of the money is favoring Virginia to win straight up.


    The money line bet between Texas Tech and Michigan State is seeing a similar divide, with sharp bettors heavily backing the Spartans (92%) and more tickets on Texas Tech (58%).


    ---


    4:25 p.m.


    No surprises in the starting lineups for Virginia and Auburn in the first national semifinal.


    The Tigers are going with their usual backcourt in Jared Harper and Bryce Brown, while their trio of forwards will be Horace Spencer, Malik Dunbar and Anfernee McLemore.


    It's been McLemore and sixth man Danjel Purifoy who have picked up the minutes in place of forward Chuma Okeke, who tore the ACL in his left knee late in a regional semifinal win over North Carolina.


    Virginia is going with freshman Kihei Clark and juniors Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome in the backcourt, and De'Andre Hunter and Mamadi Diakite provide some length and ability to guard down low.


    - Dave Skretta reporting from Minneapolis


    ---


    3:45 p.m.


    Intriguing hire or incredible troll job?


    The Washington Post, citing unnamed sources, reported Saturday that Virginia Tech was on the verge of hiring UMBC's Ryan Odom as its next coach. That would be the same UMBC that became the first 16-seed to beat a No. 1 when it knocked Virginia out of the tournament a year ago.


    It could also be just a ruse, though. The Baltimore Sun received a text message from Odom saying of the rumor, ''Nothing to it.'' The newspaper also reported that two anonymous sources said the 44-year-old Odom -a longtime Virginia Tech assistant under Seth Greenberg - isn't going anywhere.


    Meanwhile in Minneapolis, the Hokies' hated rivals were warming up for their Final Four matchup with Auburn.


    - Dave Skretta reporting from Minneapolis


    ---


    2:20 p.m.


    The NCAA will honor late AP Basketball Writer Jim O'Connell at the Final Four in Minneapolis by leaving a courtside seat open for him this weekend. O'Connell covered 39 consecutive Final Fours from 1979-2017 for AP and was one of the most knowledgeable and well-known people covering college basketball. He died in July at 64 after fighting a series of ailments in recent years.


    O'Connell, known as Oc to everyone who knew him, was a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association Hall of Fame and he received the Curt Gowdy Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Before Virginia plays Auburn in the first national semifinal Saturday, a video tribute to O'Connell will be shown in U.S. Bank Stadium.


    ---


    Following an epic Elite Eight and a week of buildup, the Final Four is finally here.


    Michigan State is the regular, making its eighth appearance in the national semifinals of the NCAA Tournament under Tom Izzo.


    The Spartans will face Final Four newbie Texas Tech and its oxygen-sucking defense.


    Virginia, the only No. 1 seed left in the bracket, is in Minneapolis to make a new kind of history after its momentous first-round fail against No. 16 seed UMBC a year ago.


    The Cavaliers and their impenetrable pack-line defense will try to stop the volume-shooting Auburn Tigers, who have poured in 3-pointers during this NCAA Tournament like they're playing pop-a-shot.
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    Virginia shocks Auburn in final seconds
    April 6, 2019
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    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Hard to call Virginia basketball boring after the last two games. And the Cavaliers have pretty much put the choker label to rest, too.


    From one-and-done to NCAA Tournament miracle men, Virginia will play for the national title for the first time after pulling off another last-second stunner. Kyle Guy made three free throws with 0.6 seconds left, steadily swishing each one as debate immediately started over the sequence that sent him to the line, and Virginia beat Auburn 63-62 Saturday in the Final Four.


    A year after becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16, these top-seeded Cavaliers now look like destiny's team.


    ''It's a great story,'' Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. ''It is.''


    The Cavaliers (34-3) will face either Michigan State or Texas Tech on Monday night.


    Bennett has built a powerhouse in 10 years in Charlottesville on a style of play that is often about as exciting as a trip to the campus library. The Cavaliers have gotten straight A's in the regular season with stingy defense and walk-it-up offense, but NCAA success has been hard to come by. Blown leads and early exits have been their story - never more than when the Cavaliers lost to UMBC, a school known for chess, not hoops.


    Something has gotten into these Wahoos the last two weeks, though. They reached the Final Four for the first time since 1984 with a wild buzzer-beater by Mahmadi Diakite to send their Elite Eight game against Purdue to overtime. Beating the Tigers took an even crazier finish.


    Fifth-seeded Auburn (30-10) had erased a 10-point deficit in the final five minutes and taken a 4-point lead. Heartbreak was again at hand for Virginia.


    The Tigers led 61-60 after Guy made an off-balance 3 with 7.6 seconds left. The shot snapped a drought of more than five minutes by the Cavaliers, who then immediately sent Jared Harper to the line.


    Harper made one and Auburn, with fouls to give, did so twice. On one of them, it looked as if Ty Jerome might have double-dribbled into a decisive turnover. Jerome also might have been fouled before the mishandle. But there was no whistle for either.


    ''We knew there was a disruption,'' Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said.


    With 1.5 seconds left and in need of some magic, Virginia got the ball to Guy in the corner. He turned and fired and Samir Doughty, hands straight up in the air, bumped into Guy's hip. The shot was short, bouncing off the rim. Game over? Auburn started to celebrate and the PA announcer in U.S. Bank Stadium even announced the Tigers had won.


    Guy pulled his jersey over his face. But not in angst. He said he exactly knew why official James Breeding had blown his whistle.


    ''I heard him call it right away,'' Guy said. "That was me focusing.''


    Meanwhile, Pearl lost it on the sideline, pumping his fist and screaming.


    ''We kind of thought we had it sealed,'' said Bryce Brown, who led the Auburn comeback with three 3s in the final 4:30. ''It's not why we lost the game. I just didn't agree with the call.''


    Pearl said he didn't want the final call to define a great game, but he did say the officials seemed to be letting physical play go throughout.


    ''My advice ... if that's a foul, call it,'' Pearl said. ''Call it at the beginning of the game, call it in the middle of the game, call it at the end of the game. Don't call it any more or less at any other time during the game.''


    Guy swished the first two free throws to tie it and Auburn called a timeout to ice him. Didn't work. He hit one more for the lead.


    ''I just literally told myself that we dream of these moments, and to be able to make one happen was special,'' Guy said.


    Auburn threw a long inbound pass to Brown, but his desperation 3 was short.


    The Cavaliers mobbed Guy on one end. Brown sat on the court, head hanging on the other. Auburn, in the Final Four for the first time, had its 12-game winning streak and season end in a most painful way.


    NCAA national coordinator of officials J.D. Collins declined comment on the potential double dribble, but said Breeding's call was correct.


    The foul violated the rule that ''verticality applies to a legal position and also to both the offensive and defensive players,'' Collins said. ''The defender may not `belly up' or use the lower part of the body or arms to cause contact outside his vertical plane or inside the opponent's vertical plane.''


    Jerome scored 21 points for Virginia and De'Andre Hunter had 10 of his 14 in a stellar second half.


    Doughty led Auburn with 13 points and Brown had 12 for Auburn, which survived the first round against New Mexico State when Terrell Brown of the Aggies missed two of three free throws with 1.1 seconds remaining in the Tigers' 78-77 victory.


    Auburn wasn't so fortunate this time, and Virginia, the team that made UMBC a household name - at least for a little while - in the first round of last year's tournament would not be denied. Being on the receiving end of maybe the most humbling NCAA Tournament upset ever has been Virginia's cross to bear all season. Even after beating Auburn, the Cavaliers had to recall the feeling of their offseason routine starting unexpectedly early last year.


    ''I feel like I get asked this question every single round, every round we advance, and every round I say the same thing almost,'' Jerome said, ''and it feels a little bit sweeter, a little bit sweeter.''


    Then Guy said: ''Not much to add. Just you guys can ask that question again on Monday.''
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    Michigan St endures more Final Four heartbreak vs Texas Tech
    April 6, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The buzzer sounded and Tom Izzo walked stoically across the Final Four floor to shake hands with Texas Tech counterpart Chris Beard, complimenting him on his team's toughness and a fine defensive performance.


    It's a walk Izzo has made a lot over the past two decades.


    Frustrated all night by the Red Raiders' stingy defense, and unable to get guards Cassius Winston and Matt McQuaid into much rhythm, Michigan State fell once again on college basketball's grandest stage. The Spartans' 61-51 defeat in the national semifinals Saturday night was their sixth straight trip to the tournament's final weekend without hoisting a championship trophy.


    ''Probably in a day I'll be able to sit back and look at the incredible journey and incredible run,'' Izzo said, ''but right now it's just disappointing.''


    It's also disappointing for Izzo's beloved Big Ten, which hasn't had a national champion since Mateen Cleaves and the Spartans won the coach his only title in 2000.


    ''I feel like I'm part of that issue. I'll put on my big-boy pants and say, `Yeah, I've been here eight times and won one,''' Izzo said, ''but I'll keep knocking on the door.''


    The Spartans had their chances to break it down Saturday night.


    They trailed just 23-21 at halftime in the kind of defensive slugfest everyone anticipated, and it was still a nip-and-tuck game early in the second half. And even when the Red Raiders pushed the lead to 48-35 - their biggest of the game - the Spartans never quite seemed out of it.


    The Big Ten's regular-season and tournament champions kept pecking away, including a series of free throws that nipped into Texas Tech's lead. When Aaron Henry followed two foul shots of his own with a big basket with 2:51 left, the deficit was down to 52-51 and the green-clad fans were stirring.


    That was the closest the Spartans got down the stretch.


    Jarrett Culver answered with a scooping layup for the Red Raiders, and Winston committed a silly offensive foul at the other end to give the ball back. McQuaid missed a wide open 3-pointer on Michigan State's next trip down floor, and Culver added a free throw to extend the Red Raiders' lead.


    ''They did a good job of rotating. They switch really well. Made it hard to get into the post, things like that,'' Winston said. ''Their defense is really, really good, and forces you into some tough situations to make plays.''


    The Spartans' last chance to make it close ended when Xavier Tillman was stripped by Texas Tech big man Norense Odiase with 1:19 to go, and the Red Raiders efficiently put the game away.


    Izzo shook Beard's hand as the Red Raiders set their sights on Virginia in the final.


    ''Coach Izzo is just class,'' Beard said. ''I mean, it was kind of a surreal moment. He just congratulated us and he mentioned our toughness, and that means a lot in our program.''


    The defeats Michigan State has endured in the Final Four over the years have come in all flavors: They've fallen as high seeds expected to do great things and low seeds that surpassed expectations, and run into buzz-saws such as Duke and Arizona that were loaded with future NBA prospects and dropped down-to-the-wire nail-biters to the likes of Gordon Hayward and Butler.


    On Saturday night, they lost to a team that beat them at their own game.


    Izzo prides himself on toughness - in the old days, he'd suit up his guys in shoulder pads and helmets in practice. Yet the Red Raiders beat Michigan State to the punch all night, harassing Sparty on the perimeter and rendering Tillman and fellow forward Kenny Goins ineffective in the paint.


    Michigan State wound up shooting 32 percent from the field, went 7 of 24 from the 3-point arc and desperately could have used Joshua Langford, their forward they lost to a season-ending injury in January.


    ''We wanted to win. We wanted to win a championship. That was our goal,'' said McQuaid, who battled cramps down the stretch. ''We just didn't shoot goo, and you know, Texas Tech played really good.''


    Winston, who played all 40 minutes, tried to rescue the Spartans in the second half. The Big Ten player of the year wound up with 16 points but he needed 16 shots to get there.


    Nobody else gave him much help, either.


    The result was a national championship appearance for Texas Tech in its first trip to the Final Four, and another weekend that ended in disappointment for Izzo and the Spartans.


    ''Very seldom in my career have we kind of gout out-beat-up, and tonight was one of those nights,'' Izzo said. ''I guess somewhere there's a compliment to us that (Beard) kind of believes in the same philosophy which I think is true in any sport. We always talk about defense wins championships.''
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    Virginia, Texas Tech get defensive to move to title game
    April 6, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Slap the floor, bend those knees and get both hands up.


    This national championship game is going to be a clinic on defense.


    Virginia and Texas Tech are the last two teams alive in the NCAA Tournament, and they're in the final because they barely let their opponents breathe when possessing the ball.


    Two of the three best defenses in the nation will meet for the title on Monday night, the first appearance in the final for each program.


    Virginia stunned Auburn 63-62, when Kyle Guy sank three free throws with 0.6 seconds left after a late foul call. Then Texas Tech grinded past Michigan State 61-51, buoyed by 22 points from Matt Mooney and bolstered by coach Chris Beard's smothering defensive approach.


    No matter the number of shots made, though, the trophy will be lifted and the confetti will be dropped at U.S. Bank Stadium, where 72,711 fans packed the 3-year-old football facility for the semifinal games on Saturday night.
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    CBB MARCH / APRIL MADNESS RECORD OPINIONS AND BEST BETS !


    DATE W-L-T % UNITS RECORD


    04/06/2019 3-1-0 75.00% +950
    04/05/2019 0-2-0 0.00% -11.00
    04/04/2019 1-3-0 25.00% -11.50
    04/03/2019 1-1-0 50.00% -0.50
    04/02/2019 3-5-0 37.50% -12.50
    04/01/2019 0-1-1 0.00% -5.50
    03/31/2019 3-1-0 75.00% +9.50
    03/30/2019 2-2-0 50.00% -1.00
    03/29/2019 6-4-0 60.00% +8.00
    03/28/2019 7-7-0 50.00% -3.50
    03/27/2019 5-1-0 83.33% +19.50
    03/26/2019 6-4-0 60.00% +8.00
    03/25/2019 8-6-0 57.14% +7.00
    03/24/2019 12-12-2 50.00% -6.00
    03/23/2019 8-14-0 36.36% -37.00
    03/22/2019 12-15-0 44.44% -22.50
    03/21/2019 15-12-1 55.56% +900
    03/20/2019 10-14-0 41.67% -27.00
    03/19/2019 9-14-1 39.13% -32.00
    03/18/2019 2-0-0 100.00% +10.00


    Totals..........113-119-4......48.70%.....-79.50




    ******************************




    BEST BETS:


    DATE........................ATS................... ..UNITS..................O/U..................UNITS.............TOTALS


    04/06/2019.............1 - 1......................-0.50...................2 - 0.................+10.00.............+9.50
    04/05/2019.............0 - 1......................-5.50...................0 - 1..................-5.50................-11.00
    04/04/2019.............0 - 2......................-11.00.................1 - 1..................-0.50................-11.50
    04/03/2019.............1 - 0......................+5.00..................0 - 1..................-5.50................-0.50
    04/02/2019.............2 - 2......................-1.00...................1 - 3..................-11.50...............-12.50
    04/01/2019.............0 - 0 - 1.................+0.00..................0 - 1..................-5.50.................-5.50
    03/31/2019.............1 - 1......................-0.50...................2 - 0..................+10.00..............+9.50
    03/30/2019.............1 - 1......................-0.50...................1 - 1..................0.50..................-1.00
    03/29/2019.............3 - 1.....................+9.50...................3 - 1.................+9.50................+19.00
    03/28/2019.............4 - 2.....................+9.00...................2 - 2.................-1.00.................+8.00
    03/27/2019.............3 - 0.....................+15.00.................2 - 1.................+4.50...............+19.50
    03/26/2019.............1 - 2......................-6.00...................2 - 2..................-1.00................-7.00
    03/25/2019.............5 - 1.....................+19.50.................2 - 3...................-6.50...............+13.00
    03/24/2019.............6 - 2.....................+19.00.................4 - 5...................-7.50...............+11.50
    03/23/2019.............3 - 6......................-18.00.................4 - 5...................-7.50................-25.50
    03/22/2019.............5 - 6......................-8.00...................5 - 6...................-8.00................-16.00
    03/21/2019.............6 - 3......................+8.50..................3 - 7...................-23.50..............-15.00
    03/20/2019.............3 - 7......................-23.00.................1 - 1...................-0.50................-23.50
    03/19/2019.............5 - 5......................-2.50...................2 - 6..................-23.00...............-25.50
    03/18/2019.............1 - 0......................+5.00..................1 - 0..................+5.00..............+10.00




    Totals....................51 - 43.....................+14.00..............38 - 47................-68.50..............-54.50
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  14. #1514  
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    Sunday’s 6-pack


    Next six Final Four sites:


    2020: Atlanta


    2021: Indianapolis


    2022: New Orleans


    2023: Houston


    2024: Phoenix


    2025: San Antonio


    Quote of the Day
    “I could lie to you and tel you I knew I was going to knock those down, but I was terrified.”
    Kyle Guy


    Sunday’s quiz
    Which current Big East basketball coach was the coach at Virginia before Tony Bennett?


    Saturday’s quiz
    When the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, Terry Francona was their manager.


    Friday’s quiz
    Russell Westbrook played his college basketball at UCLA




    **************************


    Sunday’s List of 13: Wrapping up a sports Saturday……


    13) Virginia 63, Auburn 62— Wow. Virginia led 57-47 with 5:03 left, then went in the ashcan, not scoring again until they hit a 3-ball with 0:07.4 left, after Auburn had scored 14 consecutive points. Auburn fouled a 3-point shooter with 0:00.6 left; the kid makes all three foul shots and the Cavaliers are playing for the national title.


    12) Texas Tech 61, Michigan State 51— Defense ruled in Minneapolis Saturday; Texas Tech held Spartans to 31% from floor in a slow 60-possession slugfest, and advance to their first national title game. Spartans were 8-23 inside arc, 7-24 on the arc. Tom Izzo drops to 2-6 in national semifinal games; you have to win a hell of a lot to get to eight Final Fours.


    11) Not sure why this happened, but Cubs/Red Sox still haven’t played a home game yet, and both teams are off to ugly starts, Chicago at 2-6, Boston at 2-8.


    Cubs especially look like a team that didn’t have any spring training; they’re first team since at least 1960 to commit catcher’s interference three games in a row.


    10) Since 1984, 68 baseball teams started the season 1-6; only 3 of those 68 teams made the playoffs that year.


    9) Rockets 120, Knicks 96— Houston led this game 72-43 at halftime Friday night, so it was never in doubt, but with 1:47 left and the subs playing out the string, the Rockets’ bench was mostly empty, with the starters off to the locker room, in a surprising show of disrespect. Only guy who stuck around on the Houston bench was former Knick Iman Shumpert.


    Houston coach Mike D’Antoni missed the game with the flu; assistant Jeff Bzdelik was coaching the team. There is no rule against this, but it shows a lack of class.


    8) 26 of first 55 (47.3%) replay reviews this baseball season resulted in a reversal.


    7) Coaching carousel:
    — Vanderbilt hired Jerry Stackhouse as its new basketball coach.
    — Buffalo promoted assistant Jim Whitesell to head coach.
    — Georgia State hired former Siena coach/Tennessee ass’t Rob Lanier as its coach.
    — Elon hired Mike Schrage as its coach.


    6) Antoine Pettway is an assistant basketball coach at Alabama; he will be working for his 4th different head coach in Tuscaloosa next season. New coach Nate Oats retained Pettway when he was hired last week. Unusual for an assistant coach to stay so long at one place, but he also played at Alabama, and his wife went to school there, too.


    5) St John’s assistant coach Matt Abdelmassih left for Nebraska; now his big recruit for the Red Storm this year, JC point guard Cam Mack has asked for his release from St John’s.


    4) Since 2000, only one major league pitcher has thrown 140+ pitches in an April game; that was Sterling Hitchcock in 2000, and he had Tommy John surgery before 2000 was over.


    3) Baseball injuries:
    — Colorado Rockies put Ryan McMahon on the IL wit a sprained elbow. Rockies called up Josh Fuentes to replace him; Fuentes is Nolan Arenado’s cousin.
    — Red Sox put IF Brock Holt (scratched cornea) on the IL after his 2-year old son poked him in the eye.


    2) Vlade Divac, Sidney Moncrief, Al Attles and Jack Sikma were among 12 people voted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend.


    1) Some people never learn, I mean really never learn.


    A Florida man was arrested and charged with burglary after police say he broke into cars in the parking lot of the jail from which he had just been released on grand theft charges.


    Oy.
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  15. #1515  
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    Monday’s 6-pack

    More very early over/under NFL win totals:


    — Dolphins 5, under -$120


    — Vikings 9


    — Patriots 11, under -$115


    — Saints 10.5, over -$120


    — Giants 6


    — Jets 7, over -$115


    Quote of the Day
    “I think in the last five years, not counting this year, there’s been 380 or thereabouts go out early for the draft, and 25 percent of those guys didn’t even get drafted. And another 25 percent weren’t on the team in three years. So, that means 50 percent of the guys that went out early for the draft had failed grades. “But if you look at the number of guys that were first- and second-round draft picks, there were very few guys that had failed careers. Now, we have guys that have no draft grades, seventh-round grades, free-agent grades, fifth-round grades that are going out of the draft. And the person that loses in that is the player.”
    Nick Saban


    Monday’s quiz
    Where was Nick Saban head coach before LSU, the Dolphins and Alabama?
    (Hint: His QB at this school later played for the Rams)


    Sunday’s quiz
    DePaul coach Dave Leitao was the coach at Virginia before Tony Bennett.


    Saturday’s quiz
    When the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, Terry Francona was their manager.


    ******************************


    Monday’s List of 13: Wrapping up a sports weekend……


    13) A gambler at the MGM in Las Vegas had $96,000 on the money line with Virginia Saturday night; hope the guy went to church to give thanks Sunday. His $96K ticket at -$250 paid him a handsome $38,400 for two hours of stress.


    12) How is it possible that ESPN’s Sunday Night baseball hadn’t been in Denver since 2001? Maybe they should move games around more; Colorado games are fun to watch.


    11) Coaching carousel:
    — Arkansas hires Nevada coach Eric Musselman- when a team starts five seniors, its a good time for the coach to re-locate.
    — Virginia Tech hired Wofford coach Mike Young.


    10) UCLA fired basketball coach Steve Alford on New Year’s Eve; you’d think they’d have hired a replacement by now, seeing how it is April 8th. They’ve butchered this coaching hire in epic fashion; would be they go for an alum like Earl Watson?


    9) Texas Tech fired its football coach after last season; the guy winds up getting hired as head coach by the Arizona Cardinals. Four months later, Tech makes the Final Four for the first time; with big $$$ johs like UCLA/LSU open or likely to be open, will Tech be able to keep Chris Beard?


    8) Pirates 7, Reds 5— Derek Dietrich homered his first time up for the Reds in this game, lingering at the plate a little to admire it. His second time up? Chris Archer throws the first pitch behind him, clearing both benches in an exchange that was a little more volatile than usual baseball dust-ups.


    Five players get thrown out, but not Archer, the guy who started everything by throwing behind the batter. As my high school chemistry teacher often said, that was nonsensical.


    Dietrich hit a second homer later in the game.


    7) Baseball injuries:
    — Braves put C Brian McCann (hamstring) on the IL.
    — Rangers put 1B Ronald Guzman (hamstring) on the IL.


    6) Purdue G Carsen Edwards is entering the NBA Draft, after scoring 34.8 ppg in four NCAA tournament games. Will be curious to see how his game translates to the NBA.


    5) Pretty big week for Jim Nantz; he does the national title game in Minneapolis tonight, then its off to Augusta for The Masters on Thursday.


    4) Golf is hard; Jordan Spieth shot a 42 on the front nine in San Antonio Saturday, then he played the back nine in 31. Neither one of those happens much.


    3) Minnesota Vikings signed QB Sean Mannion to back up Kirk Cousins; Mannion had been with the Rams the last couple years, but LA signed Blake Bortles as a backup this winter.


    2) Rockets 149, Suns 113— Houston was 27-57 behind the arc in this game, setting the all-time record for 3-pointers in an NBA game.


    1) Today would’ve been Jim (Catfish) Hunter’s 73rd birthday; he was my boyhood idol, a great pitcher who helped the A’s win three World Series. Threw a perfect game, won 224 games, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987. He even knocked in three of the four runs Oakland scored the night he threw his perfect game. Hell of a big game pitcher.
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  16. #1516  
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    Texas Tech vs. Virginia
    Kevin Rogers


    Monday night’s National Championship game is very intriguing on many levels. We’re not seeing the likes of Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, Villanova, or Michigan State. Instead, it’s two schools that have never raised the championship plaque as Virginia and Texas Tech play for the 2019 title at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.


    The Cavaliers (34-3 SU, 25-12 ATS) are a top-seed for the second straight Big Dance, but suffered a mortifying defeat to 16th-seed UMBC last March by 20 points. Virginia avoided a second consecutive massive upset in the first round by erasing a six-point deficit to upstart Gardner-Webb in a 71-56 victory, although the Cavaliers failed to cash as hefty 22 -point favorites.


    Tony Bennett’s squad cruised past Oklahoma in the second round, 63-51 to barely cover as 10 -point favorites, in spite of Kyle Guy’s 0-for-10 performance from three-point range. The Cavaliers squeezed out a 53-49 victory over Oregon as 8 -point favorites in the Sweet 16 in an ugly offensive performance by both clubs, as UVA shot 35% from the floor.


    Virginia outlasted Purdue in the Elite Eight, 80-75 in overtime, while picking up a miracle cover as 4 -point favorites. The Cavaliers trailed by three points late after Ty Jerome was fouled with five seconds remaining. Jerome nailed the first free throw and missed the second one, but UVA tracked down the rebound and Mamadi Diakite’s short jumper beat the buzzer and forced overtime. Virginia led by three with five seconds left in overtime, but Purdue turned the ball over and the Cavs hit two free throws to grab the cover.


    Now to the foul heard ‘round the world.


    In Saturday’s Final Four matchup with an Auburn squad who eliminated Kansas, North Carolina, and Kentucky in three straight round, the Cavaliers trailed, 31-28 at halftime. Virginia rallied back to take a 57-47 advantage with 5:24 left to get in front of the -6 closing number. However, Auburn ran off 14 straight points to pull in front, 61-57 with 17 seconds remaining and creep closer towards its first ever National Championship appearance.


    Guy knocked down a three-pointer to cut the deficit to one, while Auburn split a pair of free throws to take a 62-60 lead. The fun began in the final five seconds as the referees missed a double-dribble committed by Virginia, then Guy was fouled on a three-pointer in the left corner with five-tenths of a second remaining. Guy sank all three free throws to give Virginia the 63-62 victory, but Auburn backers had the last laugh as the Tigers cashed in the underdog role.


    Texas Tech (31-6 SU, 20-16-1 ATS) was shocked by West Virginia in the Big 12 quarterfinals as 13-point favorites, but the Red Raiders have bounced back nicely with five straight wins in the NCAA tournament. It all started with a 72-57 triumph in the opening round over Northern Kentucky, followed by a 78-58 rout of a solid Buffalo team as 3 -point favorites in the second round.


    The Red Raiders handled last year’s runner-up Michigan in the Sweet 16 with a 63-44 blowout as 1 -point underdogs. Jarrett Culver led Texas Tech with 22 points, as the Red Raiders held the Wolverines to 1-of-19 shooting from three-point range. Texas Tech knocked out top-seed Gonzaga in the Elite Eight one season after getting bounced in the same round by eventual national champion Villanova. The Red Raiders held off the Bulldogs, 75-69 as five-point underdogs to improve to 12-2 ATS the last 14 games.


    After Michigan State escaped past Duke in the Elite Eight, it seemed like the Spartans were the team to beat in Minneapolis. However, Texas Tech completed its sweep of the Michigan powers in the tournament by bouncing the Spartans, 61-51 as two-point underdogs on Saturday. The Red Raiders limited MSU to 32% shooting from the floor, while senior Matt Mooney led Texas Tech with 22 points to help a Big 12 school advance to its first title game since Kansas lost to Kentucky in the 2012 championship.


    Texas Tech began the season with a 2-3 ATS mark in the role of an underdog, which included losses to Duke in New York City and blowout defeats at Kansas State and Kansas. However, Chris Beard’s club owns a perfect 3-0 SU/ATS record in the last three opportunities in the ‘dog role, all over the last 10 days with the three victories over Michigan, Gonzaga, and Michigan State.


    The miniscule total of 118 on Monday night tells us a lot about a potential grind-it-out affair with these two defensive-minded teams. The UNDER has cashed in seven of the last nine championships dating back to 2010, including in each of the last two years with Villanova blowing out Michigan, 79-62 on a 144 total last season and North Carolina edging Gonzaga in 2017 on a 154 total, 71-65.


    If you believe in wacky trends, in the last two seasons ending in odd numbers, the ACC has captured the championship. In 2017, UNC took home the title and in 2015, Duke won the championship, and in both cases, those powers were number one seeds like Virginia. Meanwhile, besides Kansas winning three championships in its storied history, the only other current Big 12 school owning titles in college hoops is Oklahoma State, who won back-to-back in 1945 and 1946 when the Cowboys went by Oklahoma A&M.


    Title Game History


    -- The opening total of 119 is the lowest in National Championship Game history. This number shatters the previous record of 128.


    -- Favorites are 24-10 straight up and 15-19 against the spread in National Championship game history


    - The 'under' has gone 19-14 since 1985 and the low side is on a 7-2 run the past nine years.

    -- Totals that closed at 135 or lower and their results


    128 (Florida vs. UCLA in 2006) - Over
    128 (Duke vs. Butler in 2010) - Under
    131.5 (Connecticut vs. Butler in 2011) - Under
    135 (Connecticut vs. Kentucky in 2014) - Under


    -- Virginia (-1.5) is one of the shortest spreads in NCAA Tournament Championship History


    -- Listed below are the four smallest spreads in the title game


    2017: North Carolina (-1.5) vs. Gonzaga - Favorite
    2006: Florida (-1) vs. UCLA - Favorite
    1986: Duke (-1) vs. Louisville - Underdog
    2015: Wisconsin (-1) vs. Duke - Underdog

    Conference Trends in the NCAA Tournament Championship Game

    -- ACC is 10-6 straight up and 10-6 against the spread, 4-10 over/under

    -- Big 12/Big 8 is 2-4 straight up and 2-4 against the spread, 1-3 over/under

    Seeds Trends in the NCAA Tournament Championship Game

    -- #1 Seeds are 21-12 straight up and 17-16 against the spread, 10-18 Over/Under

    -- #3 Seeds are 4-6 straight up and 4-6 against the spread, 4-3 Over/Under

    -- #1 vs. #3 is 2-0 straight up and 1-0 against the spread, 1-0 Over/Under


    2018 - Villanova 79 Michigan 62 (Favorite-Under)
    1990 - UNLV 103 Duke 73 (No Line Posted due to Nevada Gaming)
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  17. #1517  
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    Early bettors hammer Under odds for Texas Tech-Virginia title clash
    Patrick Everson


    A week into April, March Madness heads toward its conclusion with Monday night’s championship game. We check in on the opening odds and early action for the NCAA Tournament final, with insights from Eric Osterman, manager at The SuperBook at Westgate in Las Vegas, and Matt Chaprales, head of content for PointsBet USA in New Jersey.


    No. 3 Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers – Open: -1; Move: -1.5; Move: -1


    Virginia was the lone No. 1 seed to reach the Final Four and stayed on its feet for one last dance at the Big Dance – barely. The Cavaliers (34-3 SU, 25-12 ATS) had a 10-point lead with five minutes left against No. 5 seed Auburn, blew all that and more, but got a fortuitous noncall of a double dribble, followed by a final-second foul call on a missed 3-pointer.


    Kyle Guy then made all three free throws, giving the Cavs a 63-62 victory as 6-point favorites Saturday.


    Texas Tech has been the best bet of the NCAA Tourney, going 5-0 SU and ATS heading into Monday’s 9:20 p.m. ET championship clash. The Red Raiders (31-6 SU, 20-16-1 ATS) also let a double-digit advantage slip away in the semifinals, turning a 48-35 lead with 9:23 remaining into just a 52-51 edge with 2:35 left against No. 2 seed Michigan State.


    However, Texas Tech closed with a 9-0 run to claim a 61-51 victory as a 1.5-point underdog Saturday, moving to 14-1 SU and 13-2 ATS in its last 15 games.


    While there was a little jockeying with the opening pointspread, what proved more intriguing was the total. The SuperBook opened at 120, quickly went to 119.5 and ultimately dipped to 118.5 before bettors slowed down their fire. Still, The SuperBook made two trips to 118 before going back to 118.5 late Saturday night.


    “It was a situation where we posted it before anyone else,” Osterman said. “The third bet we took was on the Under, and then a couple more decent-sized bets came in on the Under. And then more places started posting lower totals, so we had to go down too. It was a combination of money and the market. It looks like it’s calmed down a little bit since we went to 118.5.”


    As for the spread, Cavaliers backers definitely liked the opener of -1.


    “The first bet we took was a $5,000 limit bet on Virginia -1,” Osterman said. “We didn’t move off that, but then we went to -1.5 because it looked like the market was gonna stay there. Then the market came back down, and we took a Texas Tech moneyline bet from one of our house players. So we decided to go back to 1.”


    PointsBet opened the total at 118.5 and also drew some early Under cash, dropping to 117.5 by late Saturday night.


    “The first bets were all on the under,” Chaprales said.


    On the spread, Virginia spent the late night bouncing between the opener of -1.5 and -1 at PointsBet.


    “We’re anticipating another rock fight,” Chaprales said before describing out-of-the-gate pointspread action. “The line actually moved to 1 for about 90 seconds. Some immediate Virginia resistance at -1 pushed it back to -1.5. Then more Tech money, back to 1. These numbers are so tight, I could see a ping-pong scenario.”
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  18. #1518  
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    THREE REASONS WHY TEXAS TECH COVERS


    NO. 1 DEFENSE!


    Well, obviously, as Texas Tech and Virginia boast two of the best defenses in the country but there are a couple of things that the Red Raiders do particularily well that will frustrate the Cavaliers.


    The first is 3-point defense. The Red Raiders rank 11th in the nation in allowing opponents to shoot just 29.3 percent from behind the arc on the season and have allowed opponents to hit on just 31-of-117 attempts (26.5 percent) so far in the tournament. Virginia relies on the 3-ball for 35.4 percent of its total offense and that’s going to dry up on Monday night.


    The second is that the Red Raiders just don’t allow teams to move the ball around. Texas Tech is one of the best teams in the nation at limiting team assists, allowing just 9.6 per game, the fourth-fewest in the nation. Heading into the Final Four, Michigan State was third in the nation with 18.7 assists per game and then managed just six against the Red Raiders. Virginia has been scoring in the tournament with solid ball movement and is averaging 14.3 assists per game in its last three.


    This is going to be a defensive slugfest with a total that has already ticked down to 118 but the Red Raiders have the defensive edge in a couple of key categories which should help them to their first national title in school history.


    NO. 2 JARRETT CULVER


    Texas Tech needs a better overall performance from Jarrett Culver on Monday. The future NBA lottery prospect was clutch late in the game on Saturday, hitting a key 3-pointer 58 seconds remaining, but he finished the game with just 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting while also adding five boards and five assists. The Big 12 Player of the Year came into the tournament hot, however, averaging 21.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 4.5 assists in four NCAA Tournament games prior to Minneapolis.


    Virginia only lost three times all season and in two of those, it was because Zion Williamson dominated from inside the arc, hitting on 15-of-22 two-point attempts. Culver is not Williamson but he is at his best when he’s driving to the basket and not settling for outside shots. His ability to get to the rim should be a key factor that Texas Tech will look to exploit against the Cavaliers. Culver is by far the Red Raiders’ best player and expect him to bounce back with a big performance on Monday night.


    NO. 3 LUCK RUNS OUT


    Alright, someone has to say it: Virginia is downright lucky to be playing for the national championship on Monday night. That last sequence on Saturday was just silly, first with Ty Jerome getting away with a double-dribble before getting fouled and then the Cavaliers getting bailed out by Auburn’s Samir Doughty as he fouled Kyle Guy on his 3-point attempt with less than a second remaining (and yes, it was a foul). And don’t forget about how Virginia got to Minneapolis, needing a miraculous buzzer-beater from Mamadi Diakite to force overtime against Purdue in the Elite Eight.


    Virginia’s luck runs out on Monday. Texas Tech is a runaway train at the moment that is destroying anything and everything in its path. The Red Raiders are 5-0 against the spread so far in the tournament and will get to 6-0 when they cover — and likely win outright — in the National Championship game on Monday night.




    THREE REASONS WHY VIRGINIA COVERS


    NO. 1 VIRGINIA KNOWS HOW TO WIN CLOSE GAMES


    You have to be good to be lucky, as any sports bettor knows. A cynic might look at Virginia's last couple of results and see luck, but it takes more more than luck to win close games against quality teams like Purdue and Aubun.


    Virginia has proved that when the chips are down they can win close battles. They have the tenacity to fight back from behind as they did against Purdue after trailing 25-16, and they had the mettle to close out a tight finish against an Auburn team that was out for blood in the final five minutes.


    Most people think this championship game is going to be close and if it is, Virginia has the resiliency to win. With a spread this small, I'm more than comfortable taking them to cover as well.


    NO. 2 DISIPLINE


    Texas Tech aren't turnover machines by any stretch of the imagination, but they can't compare to the discipline of Virginia on either side of the ball. Virginia simply refuses to beat itself.


    The Cavaliers commit just 14.3 fouls per game, the sixth fewest in the country, while Texas Tech sits near the middle of the pack with 17.3 which ranks 142nd.


    UVA also rarely turns the ball over, ranking 11th in the nation in turnovers per possession, while TTU ranks 138nd. In a game that should be very close, a foul here and a turnover there will make all the difference.


    NO. 3 REBOUNDING


    During the tournament Texas Tech has played exceptionally well in almost every aspect of the game, except on the boards. The Raiders' rebounding rate of 50.9 percent ranks a modest 125th in the country and over their last three games that number has plummeted to 45.5 percent. Tech's second-leading rebounder Tariq Owens had what looked to be a nasty ankle injury against Michigan State but returned to the floor. It looks like nothing is going to keep Owens out of the lineup in the championship game, but ankle injuries are difficult to play on and could affect his rebounding ability.


    Virginia ranks 18th in the country in rebounding rate at 53.9 percent, and should be able to limit TTU's chances on the offensive end.


    Rebounding, turnovers, and clutch play, these are the things that win championships and Virginia's got the edge which should help them win and cover in Minneapolis.
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  19. #1519  
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    NCAAB
    Dunkel


    Monday, April 8




    Texas Tech @ Virginia


    Game 811-812
    April 8, 2019 @ 9:20 pm


    Dunkel Rating:
    Texas Tech
    80.697
    Virginia
    78.493
    Dunkel Team:
    Dunkel Line:
    Dunkel Total:
    Texas Tech
    by 2
    114
    Vegas Team:
    Vegas Line:
    Vegas Total:
    Virginia
    by 1 1/2
    118
    Dunkel Pick:
    Texas Tech
    (+1 1/2); Under









    NCAAB
    Long Sheet


    Monday, April 8



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    TEXAS TECH (31 - 6) vs. VIRGINIA (34 - 3) - 4/8/2019, 9:20 PM
    Top Trends for this game.
    TEXAS TECH is 141-185 ATS (-62.5 Units) as an underdog since 1997.
    TEXAS TECH is 39-60 ATS (-27.0 Units) in road games versus good defensive teams - allowing <=64 points/game since 1997.
    VIRGINIA is 25-12 ATS (+11.8 Units) in all games this season.
    VIRGINIA is 25-12 ATS (+11.8 Units) in all lined games this season.
    VIRGINIA is 23-12 ATS (+9.8 Units) as a favorite this season.
    VIRGINIA is 12-5 ATS (+6.5 Units) after a non-conference game this season.
    VIRGINIA is 18-9 ATS (+8.1 Units) in non-conference games over the last 2 seasons.
    VIRGINIA is 14-6 ATS (+7.4 Units) in road games when playing against a team with a winning record this season.
    TEXAS TECH is 6-0 ATS (+6.0 Units) when playing with one or less days rest this season.
    TEXAS TECH is 8-2 ATS (+5.8 Units) in road games after allowing 60 points or less this season.
    TEXAS TECH is 17-9 ATS (+7.1 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record this season.
    TEXAS TECH is 13-5 ATS (+7.5 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record after 15 or more games this season.

    Head-to-Head Series History
    There were no past matchups in this series during this time period.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------







    NCAAB
    Armadillo's Write-Up


    Monday, April 8



    Virginia won its last three games by total of 10 points, using near-miraculous finishes to win last two games. Cavaliers played two subs a total of 19:00 Saturday; Auburn shot 50% inside arc, but only 9-31 on arc against them. Only Cavalier senior who plays is their 7th man. Virginia is 17-0 outside ACC this year. Texas Tech is 16-1 outside the Big X, with only loss by 11 to Duke on neutral floor. Four of Red Raiders’ five NCAA tourney wins were by 10+ points. Tech starts three seniors; they held Michigan State to 31.9% from floor Saturday.


    — Favorites won/covered five of last eight national title games.
    — Since 2000, #1-seeds are 8-1 in final vs non-#1-seeds (7-2 vs spread).
    — #1-seed won last four national titles; since 1990, #3-seeds are 3-5 in title games, 0-2 vs #1-seeds.
    — Last time a Big X school won national title was Kansas in 2008.








    811Texas Tech -812 Virginia
    VIRGINIA is 11-0 ATS (11 Units) in road games off a no-cover where the team won straight up as a favorite over the last 2 seasons.








    NCAAB


    Monday, April 8



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    Trend Report
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    Texas Tech Red Raiders
    Texas Tech is 5-0 ATS in its last 5 games
    Texas Tech is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
    The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Texas Tech's last 5 games
    Virginia Cavaliers
    Virginia is 2-4 ATS in its last 6 games
    Virginia is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
    The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Virginia's last 5 games
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  20. #1520  
    RX Junior
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  21. #1521  
    RX Semi-God
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    MONDAY, APRIL 8
    GAME TIME(ET) PICK UNITS


    TTU at UVA 09:20 PM


    TTU +1.5


    U 119.0
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  22. #1522  
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    Analysis: Offensive adjustments lead Virginia to first title
    April 9, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Virginia got its redemption - thanks to its offense, not its vaunted defense.


    Riding the broad shoulders of De'Andre Hunter, Virginia beat Texas Tech 85-77 in overtime Monday night to win the program's first national title.


    Defensively-minded, the Cavaliers (35-3) turned a night of adjustments against Texas Tech's vaunted defense into one of college basketball's great redemption stories.


    The loss to No. 16 UMBC will never be erased, but the taste has turned from sour to sweet in a year.


    Hunter was the catalyst, scoring 27 points and grabbing nine rebounds. He had plenty of help from Virginia's better-than-last-year offense. Kyle Guy scored 24 points, Ty Jerome 16 and the Cavaliers made 11 3-pointers against the most efficient defense the past 17 years.


    It took a night of schematic counterpunching to get the Wahoos to the top.


    The average sports fan wants to see dunks, baskets in transition, revolving numbers on the scoreboard.


    The Red Raiders (31-7) and Cavaliers are not that.


    Their game is a different kind of beautiful, one based on brawn and beating a man to his spot.


    That's what both teams did early. First media timeout: 5 combined points, one made field goal in nine shots.


    The Cavaliers adjusted to the Red Raiders' constant switching by getting the ball to the middle and mixing in motion offense while building a 10-point lead.


    Texas Tech spent the early part of the game hoisting up shots at the end of the shot clock as Virginia switched and hard-hedged screens, forcing the Red Raiders well away from the basket.


    With coach Chris Beard yelling for them to push the pace, the Red Raiders countered by getting into their offense quicker and moving the ball better. An 18-4 run pulled them within 32-29 at halftime.


    The pawns kept changing positions in the second half.


    Texas Tech went small when big man Tariq Owens picked up his third foul, so Virginia's Tony Bennett did the same. With more spacing, both teams went on a scoring spree, so Beard put Owens back in. Virginia big man Mamadi Diakite followed him from the scorer's table.


    Virginia went up 10 behind Hunter and Guy getting hot, beating the Red Raiders with a series of individual moves.


    Moretti, Matt Mooney and Brandone Francis brought Texas Tech back by shooting over the top of the Cavaliers, hitting a string of 3-pointers.


    Jerome did his one-on-one thing, beating a defender off the dribble to find Hunter in the corner for a 3-pointer. He knocked it down with 12.9 seconds left, sending the game to overtime.


    Hunter hit the big shot in overtime, too, a 3-pointer that put the Cavaliers up 2.


    Jerome hit a pair of free throws, then Guy. Diakite did the same and Braxton Key had the exclamation mark with a breakaway dunk.


    Defined by its defense, Virginia is national champions because of its offense.
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