Four teams are left in the battle for college basketball’s ultimate prize. Xavier Basketball can provide some insight into this year’s Final Four in Minneapolis. Through close and far reaching connections to those still dancing.
Auburn Basketball is the only Final Four team that Xavier played this season. Xavier lost to Auburn in overtime 79-88 in last November’s Maui Invitational. That Maui matchup provides some insight into this Auburn Tigers team. Led primarily by Ryan Welage, Xavier outpaced Auburn in three-pointers. Leading despite Xavier having a rough year in that particular category.
The Xavier Musketeers outrebounded the Tigers 42-35. Xavier also took advantage of second chance points. The Musketeers had 18 second chance points compared to Auburn’s nine. Two things truly sunk the Musketeers in this game. Auburn scored 29 points off of turnovers and outscored Xavier 11-2 in overtime.
This will be Auburn’s first Final Four appearance in school history. A major achievement for a school often noted for football instead of basketball. Similar to Auburn, Texas Tech is often regarded as a football school. However, Texas Tech Basketball is in the midst of their best season yet. They will also participate in their first Final Four on Saturday.
Xavier has a far less direct connection to this Texas Tech team. The Musketeers recently faced one of Texas Tech’s cross-state Big 12 conference rivals. In a game that became pivotal to the outcome of this year’s National Invitation Tournament. Xavier lost in overtime 78-76 to Texas Basketball in the second round of the NIT. Texas ultimately went on to win the NIT championship.
Virginia Basketball faced former Xavier head coach Chris Mack a few times this season. With Virginia and Mack’s Louisville Basketball being ACC foes. People had reasons to be skeptical of the Virginia Cavaliers chances of advancing to Minneapolis. After losing in the first round of last year’s tournament to UMBC Basketball. Famously making Virginia the first NCAA Tournament No.1 seed to lose to a No.16 seed.
Now the Cavaliers are the only No.1 seed left standing this year. Utilizing the chip on their shoulder produced by their 2018 upset loss. While surprising those that were doubting their chances of making it this far. This will be Virginia’s first Final Four appearance since 1984. Back when Ralph Sampson was their big man on campus.
Similar to Texas Tech, Michigan State Basketball’s Xavier connection is through conference opponents. The Musketeers faced two Big Ten Conference teams last November. Xavier lost to Wisconsin Basketball in the Gavitt Games 68-77. While beating Illinois Basketball 83-74 in the Maui Invitational. Michigan State is the only team in the mix to recently appear in a Final Four, last appearing in 2015.