NCAAMB Final Four update

The final game is set! Texas Tech will play the University of Virginia for the championship. Let’s take a look at what happened this week to get us here.

The Elite Eight finished while The Tartan was in office adding the finishing touches to our previous issue. Auburn managed to beat the University of Kentucky in overtime. Auburn rode off the backs of Bryce Brown and Jared Harper, who together scored 50 points. On the other side, Coach Calipari and the Kentucky team relied on PJ Washington, who played valiantly with a sprained foot injury resulting in 28 points and 13 rebounds. The upset gave Auburn their first Final Four bid in the history of their school.

Duke and Michigan State played for the last Final Four spot. Michigan State pulled off the ‘impossible,’ though many other schools perhaps could have deservedly done so earlier, and ended Duke’s run in the tournament. Following the precedent set by the rest of the tournament, the game was a thriller. The score was constantly neck and neck, but going into the last 1:20, it seemed like Duke’s lead of three would perhaps get them the win again, just as their slim leads did in the prior few games. Michigan State managed to put in a layup, which cut the lead to just one. Duke now had possession of the ball, except they couldn’t convert the possession into points, as both RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson were unable to get anything to go down when the game entered the clutch and they needed it the most. On the other hand, Michigan State took advantage of their chances and drained a three-pointer. It was likely the biggest shot of Kenny Goins’ career, a brilliant story from being a walk-on to hitting the dagger in the Elite 8 round that took down the Goliath Duke.

The score now being 68-66 in favor of Michigan State, Barrett missed a three-pointer that bounced out-of-bounds to a scramble, but it was Duke ball. When Barrett received the pass in from Tre Jones, he attempted some failed hero ball by driving towards the basket. He was stopped by a wall of Michigan State defenders but drew a foul. In perhaps the most amusing part of the game, Barrett missed his first foul shot when he intended to make it, and made the second when he wanted to miss so that his team could grab the rebound and try to tie the game. Thus, Michigan State got the ball, were promptly fouled, made the inbound pass, and ran the clock out.

In the Final Four, Texas Tech defeated Michigan State handedly. Although there were moments where Michigan State got within five or six points, Texas Tech jumped out to the early lead and kept it, finishing by a margin of 10. The final score was 61-51.

Although Texas Tech had the rare easy win, the game played before was everything but easy. In perhaps the most controversial and crazy game, Virginia managed to score nine points in eight seconds to win by one against Auburn. Auburn managed to score 11 straight points to take away a decent Virginia lead. The scoreline read 61-57 in favor of Auburn after they drained a corner three, and it looked like the game was over with 10 seconds left. Virginia’s Kyle Guy managed to also sink a corner three to make the score 61-60. Virginia fouled Auburn, who converted on only one of the free throws. With Auburn ahead only by two, the controversy of the game began. Auburn had fouls to give, so they fouled Virginia’s Ty Jerome twice, which didn’t result in free throws for Virginia. On the second time Ty Jerome was fouled, he double dribbled right before the foul call after he tried to do a behind-the-back crossover that bounced off his foot. While the immediate reaction in the game ended up focusing on the subsequent three-point foul on Guy when he attempted a corner three buzzer beater, social media blew up about the missed double dribble. Incensing to those angry about the double dribble call, Guy managed to put in all three free throws to give Virginia a win that many thought they didn’t deserve.

The discussion around the double dribble is misplaced for several reasons. Right before Jerome attempts the behind-the-back crossover, the Auburn defender grabbed Jerome’s jersey, which is a foul. However, the referees missed it despite the fact that Auburn was trying to foul. If anything, the missed double dribble call let Auburn tick off a few more seconds from the clock that they wouldn’t have gotten if the referees called the jersey pull in the first place. Regardless, if the Auburn player had just made the second free throw, the game would have at least gone into overtime, or if Auburn didn’t try to foul the second time, Auburn would have likely won with only three seconds left on the clock. Lastly, the referees were bad for both sides. When Virginia had a 10 point lead, the referees made a handful of dubious calls that put Auburn back in the game. While everyone probably agrees that referees need to see some reform, this game was not “stolen” by any means.

Many will be looking towards the championship game with an air of disdain for what they see as Virginia’s illegitimate opportunity to contend for the trophy. Nevertheless, The Tartan and other basketball fans will be looking forward to a good game.