While we write this article, some 11 hours are separating us until the climax of this NCAA season.
The Virginia Cavaliers and the Texas Tech Red Raiders are meeting in one of the most unexpected finals in the history of college basketball. And there were a lot of surprises over the course of time.
So who’s it gonna be? Tony Bennett or Chris Beard? Kyle Guy or Jarrett Culver, the Cavs or the Raiders?
To be honest, we don’t know. And that is the beauty of the whole thing. The experts are saying that they expect one of the tightest finals in the last several years and the most inefficient one too.
But who cares as long as we see some excitement and a fierce battle on the court.
Chris Beard, the Red Raiders’ coach, has huge respect for their next opponents. He sees Virginia as the toughest team in college basketball when talking about “mental strength.”
“Just so much respect for Virginia and how much mental toughness they have,” Beard said. “It just permeates out of the screen when you’re watching on the TV.”
He stated that the ultimate proof for that, are the Cavaliers’ close wins during the tournament. The shocking one against Auburn, when Kyle Guy kept his calm and sent them to the finals. Against Purdue after overtime, and in the Sweet 16 phase against Oregon Ducks, in a game which saw 102 points in total.
All this points to the fact that this team knows how to deal with pressure, and knows how to behave in clutch moments.
“We have to play our best, toughest, most focused, most urgent game of the year to be successful,” Beard stated when a reporter asked him how to defeat Virginia.
In just three years at Texas Tech, Beard made a respectable programme and set the foundations for a prosperous future with this season’s campaign.
His Red Raiders are the No.1 defense in the nation. For a long time, most of the people believed that Michigan State has the best D, but they were wrong. In fact, the Spartans felt what it is like playing against these guys.
Now, if the Red Raiders are the best defensive team, the Cavs are definitely right next to them. Virginia leads the nation in scoring defense, the one aspect of the game where Red Raiders aren’t No.1.
“Guys will have to make shots, tough shots, contested shots,” Tony Bennett said.
But the key for the win will be in small details, which aren’t often visible.
“It’s the little things (that are going to decide), the ability to take care of the ball, to get some offensive rebounds, whatever, those X factor things are going to happen.”
Of course, he didn’t neglect defense, and he probably described that in the shortest and best possible way.
“It’s going to be a war.”
His team worked very hard to come here. Everybody remembers their elimination from the previous season when UMBC Retrievers made one of the biggest sensations in the history of the tournament. They knocked out the No.1 Cavaliers and became the first ever No.16 to do such a thing.
Since then, Virginia has become a laughing stock for many rivals and their fans. But if they win tonight…well you know the old saying, “He who laughs last, laughs best.”
This is the first appearance in the national championship game for both sides. Virginia reached the Final Four twice before, back in 1981 and 1984. Texas Tech’s best result prior to this year was the Elite Eight in 2018.
They already made history by coming here, but that is not enough. Especially when you have a chance to become the NCAA champion, something most of the elite basketball players couldn’t do.
A “war” as Bennett stated, will begin at 9:20 PM local time in Minneapolis in front of more than 72 thousand spectators.
Nikola Velickovic is a sports journalist who loves to write and read on all sports. Nikola contributes both news updates and functions as a sports breaking news writer at WagerBop.