College Sports

Final Four preview: A new experience for all but Michigan State’s Tom Izzo

Barry Brown on playing in All-Star game at Final Four, NBA Draft hopes

Departing Kansas State senior guard Barry Brown played in a college all-star basketball game at the Final Four in Minneapolis on Friday, April 5, 2019. He described the experience and what's next as he works to get picked in the NBA Draft.
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Departing Kansas State senior guard Barry Brown played in a college all-star basketball game at the Final Four in Minneapolis on Friday, April 5, 2019. He described the experience and what's next as he works to get picked in the NBA Draft.

The Final Four brings together four experienced teams but only one coach who has appeared in a Final Four. And Michigan State’s Tom Izzo is making his eighth trip to the national semifinals.

But he’s not claiming an advantage this weekend.

“My biggest advantage was tickets at hotels,” Izzo said. “Just getting my own family and their families. … We did have a serious meeting Monday and I said by them they’d better be done.

“So, if that’s my advantage, wow. I don’t think it made us a basket.”

The Spartans meet Texas Tech in the second game on Saturday in a battle of terrific defensive teams. In the opener, Virginia, the only top seed remaining, meets Auburn.

The winners meet on Monday for the national championship.

The Final Four

At Minneapolis

AUBURN vs. VIRGINIA

When/TV: 5:09 p.m. Central, CBS

Of note: The winner will appear in the national championship game for the first time. This is fifth-seeded Auburn’s first Final Four. Virginia lost in the national semifinals in 1981 and 1984. The top-seeded Cavaliers (33-3) rank first in KenPom’s defensive efficiency rankings and second in offensive efficiency. And they’ve had some good fortune, like rallying from three down with 5.9 seconds remaining to force overtime and defeat Purdue in the South Regional final. Auburn’s amazing run includes victories over college basketball’s winningest three programs: Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky. The Tigers (30-9) love the three-pointer and their 445 three-pointers (11.4 per game) are the second most in NCAA history. First? The team that won last year’s title, Villanova, at 464.

Line: Virginia by 6

Prediction: Virginia 69-65

TEXAS TECH vs. MICHIGAN STATE

When/TV: 8:49 p.m. Central, CBS

Of note: Tech makes its first Final Four appearance. Michigan State is back for the eighth time under coach Tom Izzo. The third-seeded Red Raiders (30-6) play a suffocating defense. They hounded Michigan and Gonzaga to win the West Regional, getting enough offense from Jarrett Culver, who averages 18.9 points, the same as Michigan State’s Cassius Winston. The No 2-seeded Spartans (32-6) defeated top-ranked Duke to capture the East Region. The teams are something of mirror images. Tech owns a 13.9-point scoring margin, Michigan State 13.2. The Spartans shoot 48 percent from the floor, the Red Raiders 47 percent. The teams each average about 12.5 turnovers. The matchup between the bigs, Xavier Tillman for Michigan State and Tariq Owens for Tech, could be a difference-maker.

Line: Michigan State by 2½

Prediction: Michigan State 62-61

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