Final Four by the numbers shows diversity and talent of teams left standing
The 2019 Final Four will be one of the more intriguing in recent memory. Three teams who began March Madness as #1 seeds will be home watching.
Virginia is the only survivor as a #1 seed. Texas Tech (# 3 seed), Michigan State (#2 seed) and underdog #5 seed Auburn are all more than capable of winning it all. If you crunch the numbers, you may be surprised by some of the trends.
Auburn, an uptempo and fast shooting squad, is the top scoring team among the finalists with a 79.4 point per game average. Michigan State is second producing 78.3 points. Defensive-minded teams in general, Texas Tech follows with 73.0 points on average and Virginia is next with 71.3 per game.
Field goal percentage, Michigan State tops the final four teams, hitting 48.4% from the floor. Virginia and Texas Tech are both converting 47.4 % of their shots. Auburn is successful 44% of the time from the field.
Three-point shooting is essential these days, and Virginia is the most consistent at 39.4% from behind the arc. Michigan State (38%), Auburn (37.5%), Texas Tech (36.5%) more than hold their own from long range.
The Final Four could down to total scoring opportunities and protecting the ball. Virginia is turning the ball over just nine times per game. Auburn and Texas Tech both lose the ball 12.3 times per outing while Michigan State with 13 turnovers each time on the floor is the worst of the four.
Points off of turnover are often vital, and Auburn converts 21.8 points off of opponents miscues because they are almost always in attack mode. Texas Tech gains 17.6 points off of opponents miscues, an impressive number for a much more deliberate team by comparison but the Red Raiders are more than willing to seek out easy buckets. Virginia scores 12.7 points off turnovers and Michigan State manages just 11.4 points.
The Auburn Tigers, as we just pointed out, leads the quartet in points per game and points off turnovers.
Virginia, the best long range shooting squad, grinds out down over 40 minutes and turns the ball over very seldom.
Michigan State is the best shooting team. Texas Tech in the middle of the pack in all categories.
Now let’s look at the key players who make these teams go.
Auburn will be without perhaps their best player, Chuma Okeke, who was the team’s third leading scorer (12.6 points) and top rebounder (6.8 boards). That will make it harder for them to matchup, especially when the game slows down. But the Tigers are red hot, winners of the SEC Tournament and Regional Champions against the odds.
Bryce Brown (6-3, 198, Sr.) is a complete player, averaging 16 points per game, hitting 44% from floor and draining 41% from arc. Jared Harper (5-11, 175 Jr.) is a sparkplug who tallies 15.4 points and dishes out 5.8 assists per game. He’s their best free throw shooter.
Samir Doughty, (6-4, 195) is, a slasher, a playmaker, who started his college career at VCU. He averages 7.2 points and nails 42. % from behind the arc.
Austin Wiley (6-11, 260, Jr.) is a physical, NBA-type presence in the paint. He collects 4.1 rebounds with 7.1 points while hitting 56.8% from field. Malik Dunbar (6-6, 230), who averages 6.6 points, will also need to play big in the Tigers’ frontcourt.
Anfernee McLemore (6-7, 220), averaging 6.6 points, is a great defensive player and a tough matchup.
Auburn is surging at the perfect time. They will be a tough out.
Many still feel Virginia will take the top prize even though they are not an intimidating top seed. It’s not going to be easy.
Head coach Tony Bennett has a 252-79 record overall, stressing defense and tempo control.
Kyle Guy (6-2, 175, Jr.) is consistent and an outstanding shooter, averaging 15.2 points on 44.6% from floor and 42.7% behind arc. He has not shot well in the tournament and yet the Cavaliers are still alive. If Guy heats up, look out.
De’Andre Hunter (6-7, 225) is consistent with 14.9 points, five rebounds, 51.8% from the field and 42.4% from long range. Ty Jerome (6-5, 195) has a high hoops IQ and recognizes quickly. His rusn the show with 13.3 points per game, 5.4 assists and 1.6 steals. He makes 40% from three.
Mamadi Diakite (6-9, 228), an African with a great vertical, is a good shot blocker who chips in 7.5 points on 55.7% from the field.
Braxton Key (6-8, 225, Jr.), who transferred to UVA after two seasons at Alabama, scores 5.8 points per outing on 43% from floor.
Jay Huff (7-1, 232, Soph.) brings great length as another shot blocker. He is a very level headed player (4.5 points, 61% from field, 46.7% behind arc). Another Cavs big, Jack Hall (6-10, 250, Sr.) is a team leader who hails from New Zealand where he played volleyball. Hall will bang on block.
Texas Tech makes the school’s first Final Four appearance. Head coach Chris Beard was influenced as an assistant under Bobby Knight at Texas Tech, serving 10 seasons on the staff. Assistant coach Glynn Cyprien, a New Orleans native, played at SUNO.
Jarrett Culver (6-6, 195) is the bell cow for the Red Raiders with 18.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game while hitting 47.6% from field. He was named Big 12 Player of the Year. The opposition must account for him. Great physical tools allow him to create off the dribble and make plays defending.
Davide Moretti (6-2, 175, Soph.) ended up in Lubbock from Bologna, Italy. Averaging 11.6 points on 50.2% from the floor, he is a very patient shooter.
Matt Mooney (6-3, 200), a transfer from South Dakota, adds 11 points per game as a nother Tech perimeter option.
Tariq Owens (6-10, 205) alters shots and stays active in the paint (8.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 61.3% FGs). Brandone Francis (6-5, 215), a wing from the Dominican Republic, is good off the bench or as starter.
Norense Odiase (6-8, 250) provides a big, physical and active presence around the basket (4.2 points, 58.5% shooting).
Michigan State, a team with great balance and a deep bench, has a strong tournament history including a pair of NCAA Championships. Fourty years ago led by Magic Johnson and Greg Kelser, the Spartans won their first title. Under current coaching legend Tom Izzo, MSU won it all in 2000 with Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson as theit top performers.
Cassius Winston (6-1, 195) is the Big Ten Player of the Year and the Spartans’ team leader. He averages 18.9 points and 7.6 assists, hitting 46.7% from the floor and 40.4% from behind arc. Winston is a great passer and natural shooter.
Joshua Langford (6-5, 210, Jr.), State’s top defender, can create his own shot (15 points, 3.6 rebs., 44.3% FG, 40.3% three-pointers).
Nick Ward (6-8, 245, Jr.) has an NBA body and plays like a willing bruiser. He can score it on the block (13.2 points, 58% FG). Xavier Tillman (6-8, 260), a sophomore who made great strides, is a solid defender and possesses a good shot from 10-12 feet (10.1 points, 7.3 rebs., 61.2 % FG).
Matt McQuaid (6-4, 200, Sr.), who averages 9.8 points and knocks down 42.2% from deep, is an outstanding perimeter defender and experienced hand.
Kenny Goins (6-7, 200) can get hot with a good shooting stroke. A rhythm shooter, he chips in 8.1 points per game while making hay on the boards with 9.0 rebounds per contest.
Aaron Henry (6-6, 218) may be a freshman but he’s a smart option for Izzo (5.9 points, 3.9 rebounds).
So there you have it, at least from a numbers perspective. We know what each team is capable of doing on average and at its best. As for who wins, your guess is as good as mine. It should be a great Final Four to watch.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…