(CBS Minnesota/CBS Local)- After two frenetic weekends of tournament action, we are closing in on the waning moments of the NCAA Tournament. The Final Four tips off this Saturday, when Virginia battles Auburn and Michigan State meets Texas Tech at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The Cavaliers and Tigers will take the floor first on CBS, with tip time set for 6:09 p.m. Eastern time. As has been the case for the past five seasons, the broadcast team of Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill and Tracy Wolfson will be on the call for the network. On a conference call Tuesday to discuss the Final Four, analysts Hill and Raftery weighed in with their thoughts on the matchups, and they agreed that the contrast in styles between Auburn and Virginia makes for a fascinating game.
“Auburn is a great three-point-shooting team. They spread the floor well and have tremendous guard play. They will want to get up and down and make it a track meet,” said Hill. “Then you have Virginia, and their style of play is methodical, very deliberate. Who will dictate tempo? We hear that a lot, but in this game it will really matter. Virginia kind of lulls you into playing their style of basketball. The defense of Virginia against this high-powered, ball movement, shooting the ball from deep and getting-out-in-transition style of play from Auburn will be interesting.”
Illustrative of that point, the Cavaliers ranked dead last in Ken Pomeroy’s Adjusted Tempo rating, at 59.2 possessions per 40 minutes. On the flip side, Auburn, while not among the faster teams in the country, was 200 spots higher in those rankings, at 153rd, with 67.9 possessions per 40. The Tigers are the fastest-paced team of the the four squads left by a decent margin, as Michigan State (201) and Texas Tech (228) are both behind them in the ratings.
That tempo has been a part of the Tigers’ identity in this tournament, getting out in transition to set up easy layups or open looks at the three-point line. That is unlikely or, at least, likely to happen less often against Virginia, as the Cavaliers rarely allow transition opportunities and play at a methodical pace, as Hill alluded to. That is a key thing to watch in this game for Raftery.
“In the Purdue game, Virginia was able to do a lot of things. Play big, play small and really mix it up down the stretch,” said Raftery. “The biggest thing with this is can Bruce Pearl talk his team into being patient in that they may have to guard for 30 seconds. When you have a quick-hitting team like they do, it will be interesting to see if he (Pearl) can sell that patience to them in the next couple of days.”
Another key in Saturday’s matchup will be how well Auburn’s shooting holds up against the Cavaliers’ defense. On the season, UVA has allowed opponents to shoot just 28.7% from deep on 22 attempts per game. That mark is nearly 10 percentage points lower than the Tigers have shot this season (37.9%) on eight fewer attempts. The kinds of shots that Auburn can get and how efficient they are with them will be massive in a game that is likely to slow down due to Virginia’s tendencies.