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NCAA Championship Betting Preview: Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Virginia Cavaliers

Well, this one’s for all of the marbles Monday night in Minneapolis. The Virginia Cavaliers are slim 1-point favorites as they face the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the 2019 national championship game.

Virginia will certainly count themselves fortunate to have survived their semi-final against Auburn. A last-second shooting foul (which was the right call, by the way), saved them at the death. Kyle Guy made all three free throws to give the Cavs a 63-62 win after they nearly blew a 10-point lead in the last few minutes of the game. However, a few other controversial calls also went Virginia’s way late in that game.

Texas Tech, meanwhile, allowed a 13-point lead over Michigan State to get chiseled down to a single point before pulling away in the last couple of minutes and winning 61-51. After dominating this tournament with their defense, it was more of the same for the Red Raiders on Saturday, and they hope they have one more amazing defensive performance left in them against a Virginia, another team that has become known for being stout on the defensive end.

Can You Score?

As mentioned, Texas Tech’s defense has been nothing short of suffocating during the NCAA Tournament. In addition to blocking shots and protecting the basket, they’ve held four of their five opponents under 30% shooting from the perimeter. Even mighty Gonzaga was slowed down from the perimeter while a solid Michigan team shot an unfathomable 1 for 19 from the 3-point line in the Sweet 16, setting up an intriguing matchup against a Virginia team that has several good shooters.

The trio of Guy, Ty Jerome, and De’Andre Hunter are all shooting better than 40% from the perimeter. The Cavs don’t have a huge inside presence outside of the recent emergence of Mamadi Diakite or Hunter driving hard to the basket. However, they’re more than capable of lighting it up from outside. After a slow start in this tournament, Guy has made seven of his last 18 3-point attempts. Jerome, meanwhile, is shooting over 40% from deep during the tournament. This game could come down to how bothered those two are by Texas Tech’s perimeter defense.

More Stars Emerge

Jarrett Culver looked like one of the breakout stars of the tournament, but when he struggled against Michigan State, another Red Raider stepped up in his place. Matt Mooney, who played at South Dakota the past two seasons, scored 22 points in the national semi-final to follow up a 17-point performance against Gonzaga in the Elite Eight. He’s also a sharpshooter from outside who can give Texas Tech another reliable scorer in case Culver struggles again.

Of course, Virginia can also make it difficult for opposing teams with their pack-line defense. Outside of a red-hot Purdue team, they’ve stifled every team they’ve played in this tournament and had similar success against some of the top teams in the ACC this season. The Cavaliers are capable of throwing Culver and Mooney off their rhythm, which could be too much to overcome for a Texas Tech team without many proven, reliable scorers.

Tortoise and the Tortoise

This game could turn into a contest of what team can slow down the pace more. Both teams are keen to play slow and grind out a win. However, when all is said and done, Virginia has more players who are capable scorers. More importantly, the Cavaliers have been the best team in the country all season (outside of their two losses to Duke). Monday, look for Virginia to complete their turnaround from last year’s first-round humiliation to national champions. Bet on Virginia to win and cover against Texas Tech.

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