There's a national championship on the line Monday night. We made our best guesses between Texas Tech and Virginia.
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One last time this season, we're here with our predictions. It's Texas Tech and Virginia squaring off in the title game Monday night. The Cavaliers survived a thriller against Auburn, advancing on three free throws from Kyle Guy with less than a second on the clock. The Red Raiders edged Michigan State to continue their dream run through the tournament and set up a championship date with Virginia.
Here's how we think the March Madness finale will play out.
Dan Greene: Texas Tech
I don't feel particularly confident about Texas Tech because this really feels like a game that will be decided by the narrowest of margins—perhaps, if Virginia's recent history is any indicator, by a wild, fateful play in the final moments. What I like about the Red Raiders here is that the length, athleticism, and activity of their defense could pose the Cavaliers as many problems inside the arc as they did Michigan State, and their supporting cast around Jarrett Culver seems to be peaking at just the right time. This is going to be a tight grind, but I think Texas Tech takes it.
Jeremy Woo: Virginia
With Saturday’s late-game oddities out of the way and standing one win away from redemption, the Hoos complete their mission. It’s going to be physical, it’ll be low-scoring, and we might welcome the six-month break from college hoops by the time it’s over, but it feels like Texas Tech’s mojo has to run dry eventually.
Michael Beller: Virginia
Texas Tech has imposed its will on every team it has played in the tournament, but Virginia is a different beast. The Cavaliers welcome the style the Red Raiders want to play, and have the shooting to counteract their defensive strengths. After making three of the biggest free throws in NCAA tournament history, Kyle Guy will carry the Cavs to their first ever national championship.
Emily Caron: Virginia
I picked Virginia to win it all in my bracket because of how complete they are as a team and how capable Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy are as leaders–and scorers. All of that showed on Saturday night. The Hoos' big three of De'Andre Hunter, Jerome and Guy are the offensive weapons Virginia needs to take the title. All finished with double digits (Jerome was one assist from a double-double) against Auburn and can hang with the Red Raiders' defense too. Virginia is used to the pace that Texas Tech plays at and knows how to make the most of fewer possessions. While this game might not be the thriller fans want in the championship game, Virginia should take the win.
Eric Single: Texas Tech
I've been riding Virginia's redemption narrative for all it's worth, but the way Texas Tech pulled away from Michigan State has convinced me that the Red Raiders are so new to this stage they won't know to tighten up with everything on the line. One of Jarrett Culver or De'Andre Hunter is due for a dominant night, and my bet's on Culver, lifting his hometown school to new heights. As long as Tariq Owens is 75% or better after his Final Four injury scare, Tech's frontcourt can tip the scales.
Molly Geary: Texas Tech
The Red Raiders have a historically elite defense—it's currently the best-ever in the kenpom era (since 2002), by nearly a full efficiency point. It just held Michigan State—a team that beat the No. 2 defense, Michigan, three times this season—to its worst offensive performance of the season. Texas Tech's offense, though, is the reason why it wins this. It began a dramatic improvement around the start of February, and because of that, this team is even better than its season-long stats and analytics suggest. And as the Spartans learned on Saturday, the Red Raiders don't even need a superhuman Jarrett Culver effort to beat you, as the likes of Matt Mooney (or Davide Moretti, who had 12 against Gonzaga) are more than capable of getting hot.
Max Meyer: Virginia
Virginia is a team of destiny. A year after becoming the first team to lose to a No. 16 seed, the basketball gods have willed the Hoos to miraculous wins over Purdue and Auburn. Texas Tech is a great story too, but Virginia will finish its Hollywood ending on Monday night in Minneapolis.
Michael Shapiro: Texas Tech
I'll continue to ride with the nation's best defense and trust Texas Tech to lock down Virginia. Jarrett Culver went 3-12 from the field against Michigan State and the Red Raiders still cruised to the title game. Expect a better effort from the future top-ten pick, and the first championship in program history.