On Monday night, the Texas Tech Red Raiders and Virginia Cavaliers will square off for the NCAA Tournament championship. Neither team owns a title at the moment, and both are making their first championship appearance. Texas Tech is coming off the heels of a 10-point win over Michigan State, while Virginia took down Auburn thanks to 3 controversial free throws in the final second. Both teams got here on defensive merit, and it should be interesting to see whose defense prevails. The game can be seen tonight at 9:20 on CBS.
Defense, defense, defense. Both squads hang their hat at the defensive end, and it showed in 2019. Virginia led the nation in defense, surrendering only 55.5 points per game for the year. Texas Tech ranked just behind, finishing third, and allowing only 58.8 points per contest. Texas Tech actually ranked ahead of Virginia, and led the nation in points allowed per possession. Neither team allows opponents to shoot over 38.4%. No matter how you look at it, these are two of the best, if not the best, defensive teams in the country. Defense could be the deciding factor.
Despite being defensive-minded teams, Virginia and Texas Tech are also very efficient on the other end. Virginia shoots 47.4% on the year, while Texas Tech is just behind at 47.0%. Both teams can also hit from beyond the arc. In fact, scoring may give an advantage to Texas Tech. The Red Raiders have been one of the best-shooting teams in the nation since tournament season began, and have scored at a higher rate than the Cavaliers. Not to mention that Texas Tech has done this against 2 two-seeds and a one-seed.
Both teams have guards who can really play. Virginia has Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome, while Texas Tech has Jarrett Culver and Matt Mooney. Guy is one of the most accurate three-point shooters in the country, and Culver is Texas Tech’s all-around stud who is fresh off of winning the Big 12 Player of the Year award. Jerome is a great passer and another efficient shooter, and Matt Mooney and Davide Moretti are both very good three-point shooters for Texas Tech. These are two very complete teams, and the guard play is very impressive from both a shooting and passing standpoint.
Hunter vs. Owens
Perhaps one of the most intriguing games-within-the-game will be the De’Andre Hunter-Tariq Owens matchup. Hunter was named the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year for the Cavs, and Owens is wrapping up his first season in Lubbock. Hunter is obviously a great defensive player, but is also Virginia’s best offensive player, and most complete, all-around player. The 6’10” Owens is a very solid scorer inside, and is one of the best shot-blockers in the nation. As important as guard play will be tonight, this matchup should be just as significant. NOTE: Owens is expected to play after injuring his right ankle in the win over Michigan State.
A year after losing in the first round to No. 16 UMBC, Virginia clawed itself back to a top-seed, and has escaped every game until this point. Texas Tech reached the Elite 8 last season, and now finds itself in the national title game this season. Both teams are incredibly talented and deserving of the opportunity to win a championship. However, only one can cut down the nets, and based off of what we’ve seen in the tournament, Texas Tech appears to be the better team. They’re hotter, have been giant-slayers in the tournament, and Jarrett Culver is an absolute monster. If Tariq Owens is healthy, and if Texas Tech can win the battle on the boards, the Red Raiders should go home champions. Final Score: 76-69, Texas Tech
*All Stats and Scores From ESPN.com and FoxSports.com