The Auburn Tigers and Virginia Cavaliers will square off in the first semifinal game on Saturday evening from Minneapolis. Virginia is the lone number one seed remaining in the NCAA Tournament, while Auburn is the lowest seed still left standing. Auburn will try to speed this game up and win it on offense, while Virginia is one of the top defensive teams in the country.
Virginia advanced to the Final Four after winning a thriller over Purdue by an 80-75 score in overtime. The Cavaliers were ACC regular-season champions this season, and have lost just three games. Auburn came back and upset number two Kentucky by a score of 77-71 in the Midwest Regional Final. The Tigers were the SEC Tournament Champions after finishing fourth in the regular season. Virginia is -5.5 over Auburn in this game.
Tigers Need to Stay Hot From Deep
If the Auburn Tigers are going to move on to the National Championship Game, then they are going to have to make shots from deep. Auburn set a new SEC record this season for most three-point field goals made, and they have been on fire in the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers are shooting close to 38 percent as a team from deep, and they made 17 three-pointers in their upset win over North Carolina.
Auburn is dealing with the loss of forward Chuma Okeke, who tore his ACL in the Sweet 16 victory. Okeke was averaging 12.0 points per game and was the best interior player on the team. Guards Jared Harper and Bryce Brown have been picking up the slack, and are hard to stop. Harper and Brown have combined for more than 200 made three-pointers this season, and are averaging 31 points per game.
Virginia Can Win With Defense
Virginia doesn’t have the firepower to keep up with the explosive Auburn offense, but they can get the job done with their defense. The Cavaliers lead all division one teams in points allowed per game and are holding opponents to just 58.4 points per game. Virginia did give up 14 made three-pointers to Purdue in the Regional Final and allowed Carsen Edwards to torch them for 42 points. If Virginia is going to win this game, then they are going to have to defend the three-point line much better.
Even though the Cavaliers aren’t known for their offense, they do have a talented trio of guards who can carry the team. Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and De’Andre Hunter have combined for more than 45 points per game this season, and have all hit big shots during their careers. Guy leads the team with 15.6 and shoots it better than 42 percent from deep. Jerome is dishing out close to 5 assists per game, and Hunter is making 52 percent of his shots from the floor. They aren’t a very flashy team, but the Cavaliers can score.
Virginia Wins Tight Game
The Virginia defense will find a way to slow down the Auburn offense, but this is going to be a very tight game. The Cavaliers don’t score enough points to blow anyone out, and this will come right down to the wire. Virginia should come away with the victory, but they aren’t going to cover 5.5 points. Take those points and bet on the Auburn Tigers +5.5 in this game.