Texas Tech Red Raiders (31-6) vs. Virginia Cavaliers (34-3)
Game time: Monday, April 8, 9:20 p.m. ET
Location: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Where to watch: CBS
Spread: Virginia -1
The final matchup of the NCAA Tournament will come down to two of the nation’s best defenses. Top-seeded Virginia will take on No. 3 Texas Tech in Minneapolis on Monday night in the first appearance in a national title game for each school.
Undoubtedly, a low-scoring affair is on the horizon, with neither team allowing its opponent to score more than 60 points per game, on average. On top of that, Virginia and Texas Tech both rank top 10 in defending the three and top 5 in field-goal percentage defense. The over/under at the time of posting is set at 117.5, and neither team is trending toward the over based on past performances.
If you’ve paid attention to any of Texas Tech’s last few games, you’ve witnessed the Red Raiders’ ability to completely shut down any opposing team’s offensive output. Against Northern Kentucky, Buffalo, and Michigan, Texas Tech held each team to 37.1, 36.5 and 32.7 percent shooting, respectively. One of those offenses (Buffalo’s) was the fifth-best in the nation. Texas Tech then took down the No. 1 scoring offense, Gonzaga, and suffocated veteran team Michigan State by holding the Spartans to 31.9 percent shooting from the field and 29.2 percent shooting from three.
Virginia’s showing in the NCAA Tournament is a little less impressive. The Cavaliers kicked off March Madness with a shaky first half against 16th-seeded Gardner-Webb. In the Sweet Sixteen, they escaped 12th-seeded Oregon by four. It took overtime to move past Purdue in the Elite Eight. And, in the Final Four, Virginia topped Auburn by one, 63-62, following some controversy, as Ty Jerome appeared to double-dribble when he bumped the ball off his back foot as the clock was winding down. Had the call been made, Auburn would’ve been granted possession and likely walked away the winner.
Now, Virginia has one more life and the chance to complete its quest for vindication after making history as the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 in last year’s tournament. The Cavaliers will look for Jerome, Kyle Guy and De’Andre Hunter to continue lighting it up from three (they each average around 40 percent from behind the arc).
Texas Tech will need Jarrett Culver to put his NBA-caliber talent on full display. Against Michigan State, Culver only scored 10, eight below his season average. He went 0 of 6 in the first half but made a huge three with 1:01 left in regulation to secure a 58-51 lead.
Fifth-year senior Matt Mooney was the star for the Red Raiders against the Spartans. The 23-year-old matched his season high of 22 points and hit three three-pointers over three minutes to build a 13-point lead in the second half against Michigan State. Davide Moretti, who is shooting 50 percent from the field, 45 percent from three and 90 percent from the free-throw line, will be another key for the Red Raiders.
Virginia should also fear the paint due to Tariq Owens. The senior forward is one of the best shot-blockers in the country and is proving so in the Big Dance, with three blocks each against Michigan State and Gonzaga, two against Michigan and five versus Northern Kentucky.
The Red Raiders are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 NCAA Tournament games and 11-0 ATS against a team with a winning straight-up record. Virginia is 2-7 ATS in its last 9 NCAA Tournament games and 18-8 ATS in its last 26 non-conference games.
As for the under, it’s 5-1 in Texas Tech’s last six NCAA Tournament games and 20-8 in its last 28 neutral-site games. Meanwhile, the under is 4-1 in Virginia’s last five overall and 8-2 in the Cavaliers’ last 10 non-conference games.
It may look like Virginia is destined for redemption, but the more consistent team in the tournament is Texas Tech. The Red Raiders seem to fear no one, and why should they when their defense can stifle absolutely anyone? Take Texas Tech moneyline.
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