Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:59 AM

Saturday's Final Four Tips

Brackets | Matchups | Betting Angles

Final Four - National Semifinal (Minneapolis, MN)
No. 5 Auburn vs. No. 1 Virginia (CBS, 6:09 PM EST)

Opening Odds: Virginia -5½, 131

-- Auburn (30-9 SU, 21-16 ATS) has had an NCAA Tournament that won't soon be forgotten by the Tigers faithful. The only low point was the lost of start forward Chuma Okeke, who scored 20 points with 11 rebounds in a double-double against North Carolina before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

-- That was about the only thing which hasn't gone right for the Tigers and head coach Bruce Pearl, although the first game of the tourney was a bit hairy. The Tigers tried their hardest to give away their opening-round game against New Mexico State, eeking out a 78-77 win over the 12-seed New Mexico State, the only game of the NCAA Tournament which the Tigers failed to cover. After that they throttle blue bloods Kansas and North Carolina before edging SEC rival Kentucky by a 77-71 score in overtime to punc their ticket their their first-ever Final Four.

-- Jared Harper picked up the slack with Okeke on the shelf, scoring 26 points with five assists and four rebounds to go along with two blocked shots across 39 minutes, and he is averaging 17.5 points per game (PPG) with 6.5 rebounds per game (RPG) through four NCAA Tournament games. Bryce Brown stepped up in a big way against Kentucky, hitting 8-for-12 from the field with four triples, giving him 24 points. He is averaging 18.3 PPG with 3.0 RPG in this tournament.

-- Auburn has done well on offense in the tournament, and that's not a surprise since they averaged 80.2 PPG to rank 28th nationally. They also dropped in 3-pointers at a 37.9-percent clip, ranking 31st in the country in that department. The Tigers jack up a lot of shots, though, and were just 134th in the nation with a 45.1 field-goal percentage. They're not a great free-throw shooting club, either, ranking 166th at 70.9 percent, so that will be interesting to watch in the final minutes as the intensity gets ratcheted up to a level they've never seen in program history.

-- Defensively, Auburn is just so-so. In the tournament they've allowed at least 71 points in each of their four outings, good for an average of 75.8 PPG. That's slightly more than their 68.9 PPG average allowed, which was good for just 107th in the country.

-- Auburn enters this one having covered eight of their past 10 games overall, and they're 4-1 ATS in the past five against teams with a winning record. They're also 4-1 ATS in the past five neutral-site affairs.

-- The 'over' has cashed in five in a row for Pearl's squad, while going 7-0 in their past seven against teams with a winning percentage over .600. The over is also 5-0 in their past five neutral-site affairs, and 4-1 in the past five non-conference tilts, although the under has actually hit in five of their past six matchups against ACC foes.

-- These teams used to meet semi-frequently, with the underdog cashing in four in a row. The last meeting was Dec. 7, 2009, though, with the Tigers coming away with a 68-67 win.

-- Virginia (33-3 SU, 25-11 ATS) can finally stop answering questions about their historically bad loss to No. 16 seed UMBC last season, and talk about the good times instead. It's their first trip to the Final Four under the leadership of Tony Bennett, following in the footsteps of his dad, Dick, who took the Wisconsin Badgers to the Final Four back in 2000.

-- It looked like lightning was going to strike the Hoos twice, as 16-seed Gardner-Webb opened up a double-digit lead on the No. 1 seed in the first round before the Cavaliers pulled away in the second half for a 71-56 victory. After that scare from the Bulldogs, and the confidence from winning that one game, UVA hasn't looked back.

-- In the second round the Cavs steamed past Oklahoma by a 63-51 score, and then they edged Oregon in a defensive dogfight in the Sweet Sixteen, outlasting the Ducks 53-49 in a game with a score resembling the days before the 3-point line and the shot clock. Last, but certainly not least, they persevered against Purdue in what might have been the best game of this season's NCAA Tournament to date, winning 80-75 in overtime.

-- In that game against the Boilermakers, UVA was up against it in the final seconds, down two. However, Mamadi Diakite had the put-back after a missed free throw, tipping it in after the rebound to force overtime. Diakite saved the season, ending up with 14 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots across his 42 minutes. Kyle Guy finally had a decent game after scuffling in the first three tournament battles, going for 25 points, 10 rebounds, a steal and five 3-pointers. Ty Jerome also contributed 24 points with seven assists and five boards while turning it over just once, and he dumped in four triples.

-- UVA was able to overcome 14 3-pointers from the Boilers, and a good reason they were so successful was their ability to get to the free-throw line, and efficiency once they were there. The Hoos ended the night 17-for-20 (85.0 percent) at the charity stripe, a good reason why they're here, although the final miss is also a big reason they're here, too.

-- Virginia is the last remaining No. 1 seed in this season's Field of 68 still alive.

-- The Cavaliers are just 2-6 ATS in the past eight NCAA Tournament games, and only a bad beat in the final moments of their overtime win against the Boilermakers prevented that from being 1-7. They're 8-3 ATS in the past 11 games outside of the conference, and 40-19-1 ATS in the past 60 following a straight-up win.

-- The over in their OT win against Purdue was a rarity, as the under is 7-2 in their past nine non-conference games, and 5-2 in the past seven neutral-site contests. The under is also 6-1 in their past seven vs. SEC opponents.

Final Four - National Semifinal (Minneapolis, MN)
No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 2 Michigan State (CBS, 8:49 PM EST)

Opening Odds: Michigan State -2½, 132½

-- Texas Tech (30-6 SU, 19-16 ATS) is easily the best defensive team remaining out of the four teams still alive for the national title, and we'll find out if defense wins championships on the hardwood. They ranked third in the country, allowing just 59.0 PPG this season, and they were second in defensive field-goal percentage at 36.9 percent. They also yielded just 29.3 percent of their 3-pointers against, checking in 10th in the nation.

-- The Red Raiders have rolled up an impressive resume getting to Minneapolis, so don't discount them even though they're slight underdogs. They racked up a 72-57 win over Northern Kentucky of the Horizon League in the opener, covering a 13-point number, and they throttled Buffalo by 20 points in a game against a team which spent a majority of the season in The Associated Press Top 25. Perhaps their most impressive win was in the Sweet Sixteen, as they dismantled Michigan by a 63-44 score, showing off an unbelievable defensive effort.

-- The most points they allowed in the NCAA Tournament came against No. 1 seed Gonzaga in the Elite Eight, but they still held the nation's top scoring offense to 69 points, well below their average.

-- Texas Tech is methodical on offense, posting just 73.0 PPG to rank 158th in the nation. The shots they took take go in, however, as they were a very efficient 47.1 percent from the field to rank 46th, and a respectable 69th in 3-pointer shooting at 36.5 percent.

-- Texas Tech is an impressive 13-3 ATS in their past 16 games overall, including 4-0 ATS in the NCAA Tournament, adthey're 11-1 ATS in the past 12 games against teams with an overall winning record.

-- The over against Gonzaga was the first in five NCAA Tournament games for the Red Raiders. The under is 19-8 in their past 27 neutral-site battles, and 46-22-1 in the past 69 non-conference tilts.

-- This is Texas Tech's first appearance in the Final Four.

-- Michigan State (32-6 SU, 27-11 ATS) started out rather sluggishly in their first NCAA Tournament game against Bradley from the Missouri Valley Conference, winning 76-65 as 17 1/2-point favorites. That seems to be the theme for each of the Final Four participants, who went a combined 1-3 ATS in the first round.

-- Michigan State hammered Big Ten foe Minnesota by a 70-50 count in Round 2 to get their sea legs, and they roughed up a good LSU side in the Sweet Sixteen by an 80-63 count. The most impressive game was their win over Duke, 68-67, as they punched their ticket to Minneapolis.

-- Duke had been winning those close games in the end, but Michigan State was able to make sure they weren't the latest victim of the Blue Devils at the buzzer. They beat a team with a handful of players expected to be NBA lottery picks next season, led by Cassius Winston. He poured in 20 points with 10 assists and four steals while hitting a pair of 3-pointers. Xavier Tillman was also rock-solid, going for 19 points on 8-for-12 shooting, while adding nine boards, three steals andtwo blocked shots. Kenny Goins added 10 points, nine boards and two steals with a pair of triples, as the Spartans were very balanced in the win for Tom Izzo's group.

-- A lot has been mentioned about Texas Tech's defense, but Michigan State knows a little something about defense, too. The allowed just 65.1 PPG to rank 34th in the country, and they had the third-best defensive field-goal percentage allowed at 37.9 percent. This game could be quite the slugfest in Minneapolis.

-- The difference in this one might be rebounding, as Michigan State used their size to rank ninth in the nation with 40.6 boards per game, while yielding just 28.3 RPG to check in 24th in the country defensively.

-- The Spartans won't be fazed by Texas Tech and their defense. They're been there and done that against rival Michigan, who plays a similar style. Sparty is 21-5 ATS in the past 26 games against teams with winning overall records, too, while going 26-9 ATS in their past 35 games overall. Michigan State is also 5-1 ATS in the past six on a neutral floor.

-- The under is 5-1 in the past six games overall, and 4-1 in the past five in the NCAA Tournament. The under is also 19-7-1 in the past 27 against teams with a winning percentage over .600, and 5-2 in Michigan State's past seven against the Big 12.

-- These teams have never met on the hardwood.

Follow Joe Williams on Twitter at @JoeWilliamsVI.

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